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Department of Health Director's decision to stop family planning money called to question

November 30, 1999
By: Hollie Maloney
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The state's appointed attorney in the recent suit banning Planned Parenthood from receiving family planning money, said the Health Department Director is holding women hostage.

"She's holding hostage people entitled to the funds," Jordan Cherrick, the attorney, said.

His reactions come after the director, Maureen Dempsey, decided to stop reimbursing all 96 family planning providers in the state -- not just Planned Parenthood.

The ongoing controversy is over whether or not taxpayer money should go to organizations that provide abortions. Anti-abortion lawmakers passed a law in 1999 blocking organizations that provide or recommend abortions from receiving family planning funds.

The recent decision from Cole County Circuit Court Judge Byron Kinder banned Planned Parenthood from receiving the money because the organization didn't "separate" the family planning arm from the abortion arm.

Cherrick said Kinder's ruling only affected Planned Parenthood. The other providers, he said, are complying with the law and the funding freeze is not required.

Nanci Gonder, spokesperson for the department, said the department halted payment because the contract it sent to Planned Parenthood is the same one the department sent to all the providers.

"Because the judge called into question the definitions in the contract, then that calls into question all of our contracts," she said.

Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County, calls the decision to halt reimbursment nauseating.

"They've (the department) said we're not going to let anyone get the money if we're not going to get our way," said Klarich, a top anti-abortion lawmaker. "The Governor and his appointment (Maureen Dempsey) show contempt for women by depriving women legitimate family planning."

Patty Skain, spokesperson for Missouri Right to Life, said it was a political move only.

"A person really concerned with women wouldn't cut off agencies not involved in the lawsuit," she said.

In defense of the department, Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, said he wished the judge would have gone further in clarifying the law.

"It (the judgment) does put into question who can and cannot receive funding," he said. Maxwell was one of the senators who tried to filibuster the law last spring.

Gonder said the department is only responding to the direction of the courts. She said the department tried to get a hold on the enforcement of the judgment from Kinder, but he denied it. The department will ask the Missouri Court of Appeals next, she said.