Parson signs law blocking payments to Planned Parenthood amid Senate GOP infighting

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday signed into law legislation blocking Medicaid dollars from going to Planned Parenthood, a longtime priority for Republicans even as abortion remains banned in the state.

The legislation bans any public funds, including Medicaid reimbursements, from going to the organization, abortion facilities, or their affiliates. But it has sparked fears that the measure would hurt those who use Planned Parenthood for a variety of health care services.

Parson, in a statement on Thursday, touted himself as “the strongest pro-life administration in Missouri history” and pointed to the state’s near-total ban on abortion.

“We’ve ended all elective abortions in this state, approved new support for mothers, expecting mothers, and children, and, with this bill, ensured that we are not sending taxpayer dollars to abortion providers for any purpose,” he said.

While it has been a priority for Republicans, the legislation has also widely been viewed inside the Capitol as a way to appease a hard-right faction of senators called the Missouri Freedom Caucus.

The group has vowed to block the renewal of a crucial series of taxes that fund Medicaid until Parson signed the bill and until lawmakers pass separate legislation to make it harder for Missourians to amend the state constitution.

Infighting among GOP senators threatens to blow up the General Assembly’s final two weeks of session and could force lawmakers into a special session. The Freedom Caucus spent roughly 40 hours halting debate in the chamber last week.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican and member of the Freedom Caucus, said he planned to let the bill re-authorizing the taxes, collectively known as the Federal Reimbursement Allowance or FRA, come up for debate following the governor’s commitment to signing the bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

“As far as me personally, I think that since the governor has publicly said that he’s going to sign that, I believe that the FRA will not have much resistance as it goes through the Senate,” he said.

Hoskins also said that he expects the Senate to take up a measure to overhaul the state’s initiative petition process either “immediately before or immediately after” senators debate the bill to renew the taxes for Medicaid.

The initiative petition legislation would make it harder for voters to amend the Missouri Constitution in part by weakening the voting power of urban areas.

One of the Freedom Caucus’ most vocal leaders, Sen. Bill Eigel, a Weldon Spring Republican, said that he would allow the FRA to go to a vote, but that he expected the measure to change the initiative petition process to be taken up not long after.

“I think that those two things, IP and FRA, are going to happen adjacently,” said Eigel, who is running for governor. “I would say that if we tried to do FRA, and push everything off until next week, probably not gonna let that, you know, I’m probably going to have a lot to say about that.”

Parson spokesperson Johnathan Shiflett said in an email last week Parson would “sign the bill on his own timeline according to our office’s standard procedures.”

“This deliberate dysfunction in the Missouri Senate is unfortunate for the people of Missouri and senators trying to do good work for the people back home in their districts,” he said.

Republicans have for years sought to block Planned Parenthood’s two affiliates in Missouri from receiving taxpayer dollars through the state’s Medicaid program. The Missouri Supreme Court struck down an effort to do it through the state budget in February — the second time the court did so in four years.

The GOP-controlled Senate approved the bill on a vote of 23 to 10 last month followed by the House, which voted 106 to 48.

While Republicans have framed the legislation as anti-abortion, Missouri already almost entirely bans the procedure under a law that went into effect in 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

Democrats have attacked Republicans for pushing the bill, saying that it targets the swath of health care services offered by Planned Parenthood for patients on Medicaid. Those services include cancer screenings, birth control, and testing for sexually transmitted infections or STIs.

Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, a St. Louis Democrat, last month pointed to the fact that maternal mortality rates are getting worse in Missouri, particularly for women of color.

A report last year found that Black women in Missouri were three times more likely to die within a year of pregnancy than white women.

“As a Black woman, I am afraid to have a child in the state of Missouri,” Bosley said.

This story has been updated after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill into law on Thursday.