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Missouri Supreme Court denies attempt to defund Planned Parenthood
© WikiMedia (Charlotte Cooper)
Missouri Supreme Court denies attempt to defund Planned Parenthood

The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled 6-1 that a provision in the state’s appropriations bill that deprived Planned Parenthood of millions of dollars for medical services reimbursements, is unconstitutional.

The suit challenged House Bill 2011, which was the Department of Social Services appropriations bill for 2019. The law states that “No funds shall be expended to any abortion facility as defined in Section 188.015, or any affiliate or associate thereof.” Shortly after the passage of the appropriations bill, the Missouri Medicaid Audit and Compliance Unit informed Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region that their reimbursement claim for 2019 was denied due to its status as the state’s lone abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission and then filed a petition for review in the St. Louis City Circuit Court. That court ruled in favor of the clinic, finding that the funding provision was unconstitutional.

The ruling Tuesday affirmed the holding of the lower court and severed the provision at issue from the rest of the bill. The court held that “(w)hen the meaning of the general law is clear, there is no need for ‘guidance’ in an appropriation bill,” and that the addition in question to the bill “is a naked attempt to use HB2011 both to appropriate funds for various purposes and to amend” other sections of state law. Ultimately the court determined that the move was “a clear and unmistakable violation of the proscription in article III, section 23 of the Missouri Constitution against bills with multiple subjects.”

Judge Zel Fischer was the sole dissent and held that the provision was instead constitutional. Fischer said that “I still do not agree that § 23 is violated because § 23 expressly allows appropriation bills to embrace an unlimited amount of subjects, so long as they relate to the appropriation of money,” and that by “disregarding the constitution’s plain language in favor of policy considerations, the principal opinion sets a dangerous precedent in which I cannot acquiesce.”

Missouri has long been a battleground state for the issue of abortion. Last year Missouri unsuccessfully attempted to become the only US state not to have an abortion care provider by denying Planned Parenthood’s abortion provider license in 2019 because of alleged safety concerns for patients.