JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate passed legislation to end state payments to abortion clinics Monday night.
On a 30-3 vote, the Senate gave final approval to a bill that would keep state money away from Planned Parenthood and similar organizations.
Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, said he believes this bill will be found unconstitutional just like similar bills in 1996 and 1997.
"I know this is a deliberate plan to keep funds from one clinic because of their political views," Jacob, a pro-choice advocate, said.
The last two years the legislature has drafted bills that a federal judge later found unconstitutional. The judge said each proposal unfairly kept funds from clinics because they performed abortions.
The current Senate version of the bill has a three-tiered set of provisions on family planning funds. If a judge finds one provision invalid the next would automatically become law.
The first two sections specifically exclude clinics that provide or promote abortions. The third provision incorporates a House proposal that would create a system of state-owned and state-contracted family planning organizations. By law these state funded organizations couldn't perform abortions.
Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist, said the bill, which he helped write, has a better chance at passing judicial review this year.
"I think the key issue is that the law will be defended," Lee said.
This year the Attorney General's office will appoint and pay outside council to defend the proposal if it becomes law. In 1997 legislators criticized Attorney General Jay Nixon, saying that he was protecting the views of the governor and the Missouri Health Department instead of the law.
Both the governor and officials Health Department have said they oppose attempts to limit access to family planning.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood said the potential loss of funds would keep poor women from recieving adequate family planning. An official from the Health Department said Planned Parenthood received $765,672 from the state in fiscal year 1997.
Currently the state reimburses clinics based on the number of patients they see and the procedures they perform. Abortion is not one of the services the state directly pays for.
A lobbyist for Planned Parenthood said he hadn't conferred with lawyers about the bill's constitutionality but he said the language has only subtly changed from last year.
"We had always hoped the general assembly would reject the House proposal" because its so punitive and irresponsible, said Erika Fox, the legislative director for Planned Parenthood.
Members of the House and Senate will have to reevaluate this bill because they passed different versions. When they come to a compromise, it will move to the governor's desk.
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