I wrote last week that the Planned Parenthood showboating of state Senator Kurt Schaefer and his pals in the legislature was going to be costly to Missouri taxpayers. The observation was prompted by a explicit warning from the Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services that cutting Planned Parenthood funding from Medicaid funds would be illegal and, implicitly, actionable. I speculated that few Missourians would be happy to have to foot the bill for a losing lawsuit, especially when incurred in an obvious attempt to further Schaefer’s political career – he is running for Attorney General and has been on a crusade to endear himself to the powerful anti-abortion contingent in the GOP.
The good news? Schaefer and pals decided not to risk an illegal maneuver.
The bad news? They decided not to wait for a lawsuit but to force Missouri taxpayers to shoulder the charges up front:
Missouri lawmakers passed a budget last week that spends millions in state money to block Planned Parenthood from accessing federal funding.
The plan puts Missouri alongside at least a dozen other states in a national effort to strip public money from the country’s largest abortion provider. The federal government says states don’t have the authority to steer Medicaid funding away from Planned Parenthood, and courts have blocked some of those efforts. But Missouri’s budget writers say eliminating federal dollars from women’s health programs means federal restrictions no longer apply.
The Legislature rejected more than $8.3 million in federal Medicaid funding the state was slated to receive for family planning, sexually transmitted disease testing and pelvic exams at county health departments, other clinics and Planned Parenthood. They replaced it with money from Missouri’s general revenues, leaving the total unchanged at $10.8 million, and stipulated that none of it could go to organizations that provide abortions, as Planned Parenthood does.
And it isn’t just taxpayers who will feel the burn from Schaefer’s finagling, but women who rely on Planned Parenthood’s services. Although Schaefer contends that women can get the same services elsewhere, evidence exists to show that that the “county health departments, rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers,” that he insists are alternatives to Planned Parenthood, don’t really fill the bill:
Texas’ decision to exclude Planned Parenthood from family planning programs resulted in over 30 percent fewer claims for long-acting and injectable contraceptives among low-income patients using the Women’s Health Program, according to a study published in February in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found claims for short-term hormonal contraceptives did not significantly change.
Texas is the only other state to shortchange its citizens in this way – but surely not the last since many red states seem to be eager to inflict pain on the most vulnerable in order to satisfy the demands of anti-abortion, anti-gay hysterics, gun-religionists or free market ideologues.