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St. Louis Planned Parenthood receives $9 million gift from billionaire donor

The Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis remains open as shown on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
Bill Greenblatt
The Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis is the last remaining clinic in Missouri that offers abortions. Mackenzie Scott this week announced a $9 million gift to Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, which operates the clinic.

Billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott has donated $9 million to Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, the largest one-time donation the organization has ever received.

Scott’s donation is part of a $275 million dollar gift to Planned Parenthood’s national office and 21 affiliates across the country. She is also making donations to dozens of other charities.

Scott has focused on giving to nonprofits that “have a strong record of serving under-supported needs,” she wrote in an online post.

Planned Parenthood officials said the unprecedented donation came at a vital time.

“As a leading sexual and reproductive health care provider caught between two realities — a red and blue state — our patients face some of the most complicated landscapes when accessing the care they need,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The gift comes with no strings attached, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at St. Louis' Planned Parenthood affiliate.

"There really are no stipulations other that we continue to be ourselves in this moment and continue to meet this unprecedented time with bold action," she said.

The donation is sorely needed as the Missouri legislature has voted to pull Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood clinics, McNicholas said.

The gift comes as state lawmakers weigh additional restrictions to abortion access in Missouri, including a bill that would punish those who help a person have an abortion. There is one clinic that provides abortions remaining in the state, in the Central West End in St. Louis. The Republican-led legislature in 2019 passed a law that outlaws the procedure after eight weeks, although a panel of federal judges upheld an earlier decision that put the law on holdwhile it's being challenged in court.

This year, the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The state in 2019 passed a law that would prohibit the procedure as soon as the high court strikes down the 1973 decision.

“This gift empowers our boots-on-the-ground teams,” Rodriguez said. “We commit to rebuilding a future where abortion, birth control, STI testing and treatments, and all reproductive health care is accessible and affordable, no matter what.”

After Scott divorced Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, she pledged to give away the majority of her fortune to charity.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.