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Court throws out Planned Parenthood suit

February 03, 1999

By: Pervaiz Shallwani and Clayton Bellamy

State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan and abortion right's supporters have lost a major battle on the abortion front.

The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Wednesday, threw out Planned Parenthood's lawsuit seeking a share of state family funds.

"Planned Parenthood was blown out of the water by this ruling," said Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County. "This is Carnahan's Titanic. He just hit his iceberg."

Anti-abortionist legislators cut Planned Parenthood's funding because it aids in performing abortions.

"A woman has a right to an abortion, but they certainly don't have the right to have the state pay for it," said Senate Republican leader Steve Ehlmann, St. Louis County.

Ehlamnn said the legislature is not opposed to funding Planned Parenthood if it stops performing abortions.

"I believe the intent is to fund people who do family planning, not those who do family planning and abortions."

The decision stems from a series of laws passed that say organizations performing abortions can not receive state funds. The laws were each declared unconstitutional when brought before the District Court.

Due to an injunction Planned Parenthood has been able to continue receiving funds.

Klarich and Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, believe the state should demand Planned Parenthood to repay the funds they have received since the injunction.

Planned Parenthood, however, gave a different interpretation of the ruling. Spokeswoman Erika Fox said the organization was happy with the decision. Fox stated if Planned Parenthood keeps its abortion services separated from its family planning services, the private non-for-profit organization will continue to receive state funds.

"This decision says we must be given a chance to show that we can separate our abortion services from our family planning services," Fox said. She believes how the decision is implemented will come down to how the state Department of Health determines the extent of separation.

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said for many smaller communities, including Boone County, Planned Parenthood is the only family planning provider.

"Now we will have to re-evaluate who will provide the family planning service," Graham said. Planned Parenthood is the largest agency providing family services in the state.

Fellow Rep. Vicki Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, also expressed the importance Planned Parenthood plays in those seeking family planning.

"I am very concerned that this may result in reduced access to family planning services for women and men," she said.

"Even with a network of family providers, we are not able to meet the needs for family services. In order to meet the needs of the state, we need to use all the resources we have available including Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood was one of the biggest contributors to Carnahan's 1992 gubernatorial campaign. Unlike his predecessor, John Ashcroft, Carnahan made it a priority to set aside money in the state's yearly budget for family planning.

Carnahan's office did not have immediate comment.

At this point, there is no indication that Planned Parenthood plans to appeal the matter.