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House gives initial approval to stop state funding for programs that subsidize abortion services

April 23, 2003
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB481

JEFFERSON CITY - A day after Gov. Bob Holden announced he would block any legislation that would interfere with a woman's right to get an abortion, the Missouri House gave initial approval to a bill that would stop state funding for programs that subsidize abortion services.

The move comes on the same day that the Senate approved the Health Department budget, which includes cuts of $3.6 million to family planning programs and $700,000 to alternatives to abortion programs.

House legislators intend to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood -- an effort courts have rejected in past years.

"I do not want my state tax dollars... to fund abortions. And a strong majority of Missourians feel that same way," said Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Jackson County.

He said the language of the bill is similar to what has been used in past appropriations bills to restrict funding for abortions. By putting the language into statute, it would no longer have to be added to appropriations bills.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, said the elimination of Planned Parenthood funding would take away medical services that many Missouri women depend on.

"I hate to see Missouri women going without primary health care, which is what Planned Parenthood furnishes for many women who don't have access to pap smears, mammograms, STD checks and contraception in any other place," she said.

Wilson said Missouri law already prohibits state funding for abortion services and suspects this bill is an attempt to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood's medical services.

Pratt, a member of the House Health Committee, said Planned Parenthood could continue to receive state funding if it dropped its abortion services and offered only its medical services.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said he had concerns that the bill's wording, which would prohibit funding of research that could develop abortion drugs, is too broad.

"You might have a public entity that is doing research and some taxpayer out there believes that that research could lead to a better morning after pill, and they bring suit," Harris said.

Pratt said Harris's scenario is unlikely since similar language has been used in appropriations bills and such research has not generated lawsuits in the past.

Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau and the bill's sponsor, said he believes the bill has the two-thirds vote in the House that would be necessary to override a veto by the governor.

The bill faces another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.