The Mo. Supreme Court is hearing an appeal to block funding for Planned Parenthood

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri attorney general’s office defended the Republican-led Legislature’s latest attempt in a years-long battle Block tax money stopped from going to Planned Parenthood during arguments before the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office appealed after a lower court judge found that was the case unconstitutional Lawmakers must determine in 2022 that Planned Parenthood would receive zero dollars for providing family planning services to Medicaid patients, even though other health care providers are reimbursed for similar treatments.

Attorney General Josh Divine told Supreme Court justices that creating a state budget is a core competence of the legislature. Divine said if the Supreme Court rules in Planned Parenthood’s favor in this case, it would “undo the appropriation process that has been used for decades.”

Chuck Hatfield, Planned Parenthood’s attorney, told the judges that’s “not the case.” He said the case was “one in a long line of discussions about the legislative power” to run a budget without trampling on constitutional rights and state laws.

Missouri banned almost all abortions when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled overthrew Roe v. calf in June 2022. And until then, the state’s Medicaid program had not covered abortion costs.

However, the state previously reimbursed Planned Parenthood for other medical procedures for low-income patients. The group said in March 2022when it sued the state to stop Missouri from providing reimbursement for birth control, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, and other non-abortion-related treatments.

Abortion opponents in Missouri have been trying to prevent taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood for years. But lawmakers struggled with “loopholes” that allowed Planned Parenthood clinics that provide other health services to continue receiving funding.

Lawmakers were able to prevent funding from going to Planned Parenthood in the 2019 fiscal year by forgoing federal funding to avoid the requirement to reimburse clinics when low-income patients go there for contraception, cancer screenings and other preventative care. Missouri instead used state funds to pay for these services.

But the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the legislature violated the Constitution by making the policy change through the state budget, forcing the state to reimburse Planned Parenthood for health care for Medicaid patients.

“There has never been an argument that the Legislature can constitutionally restrict Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood if they want to, they just have to go through the appropriate processes,” Divine said during Wednesday’s argument.

Missouri Supreme Court justices did not indicate when they would rule on the latest defunding effort.

On Wednesday, the judge heard the Supreme Court’s first arguments Ginger Gooch, who was appointed by Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in October. With Gooch and newly appointed Justice Kelly Broniec, women have a majority on the state Supreme Court for the first time in history.

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