By Aidan Pittman

Missouri News Network

Abortion was once again on the mind of Missouri lawmakers Wednesday as a bill that would prohibit state funding towards abortion providers and their affiliates was heard by the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.

HB 2634, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is another effort by Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood in Missouri. In February, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that an effort to use budget bills to deny Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood was illegal.

This latest attempt comes as the legislature considers extending the state Federal Reimbursement Allowance program which provides federal funds for reimbursement of medical expenses covered by Medicaid programs. Some conservative senators oppose renewing it unless restrictions to abortion providers and affiliates, such as Planned Parenthood, are in place.

Through the reimbursement program, which must be extended by this fall, the federal government provides billions of dollars to the state to reimburse Medicaid participants for health costs.

Abortions were banned in Missouri immediately following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision that the constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions in Missouri, but its affiliates provide abortions in states where it is legal.

The bill passed out of the House last month in a 104-49 vote.

Committee member Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, criticized the bill for prohibiting patients from receiving general health care from their provider of choice. Planned Parenthood, for example, provides many other health services for which it seeks reimbursement from the state Medicaid system.

“We’ve talked at length in this committee about how difficult it can be to get into a health care provider throughout the state,” Arthur said. “There are long wait times and our health care safety net is already pretty strained.”

Arthur also responded to Smith’s hopes that the bill would not face litigation, saying it would be inevitable.

“There will definitely be litigation,” Arthur said, “and there have been favorable rulings to Planned Parenthood in other states as it’s related to trying to prevent Medicaid funding from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for their services.”

Witnesses during testimony only spoke in favor of the bill, including Susan Klein, representing Missouri Right to Life. Klein mentioned that court rulings have said such defunding attempts must be addressed in statute, which the bill would do.

After testimony, the bill passed out of committee in a 5-1 vote, with Arthur being the sole dissenter.

A similar Senate bill, SB 1168, was put aside by the Senate in February after Democrats offered a series of amendments, indicating they were prepared to filibuster.