John Sauer argued on behalf of the state, asking the court to back the Republican-led Legislature’s 2018 decision to deny funding to all Planned Parenthood facilities but not other providers that care for the state’s Medicaid population.
State lawmakers have repeatedly tried to stop taxpayer dollars from going to any of the 12 Planned Parenthood facilities, even though only one provides abortion services. The attorney general’s office appealed to the Supreme Court after a St. Louis Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood in July.
Despite the ongoing battle over the licensing of the lone abortion provider in the state, Planned Parenthood attorney Charles Hatfield said this case is actually about the powers of the state Legislature.
“I don’t think this case has anything to do with abortion or family planning or anything,” Hatfield said. “I think it has to do with the power of the Legislature to change the law in appropriations bills.”
The primary function of an appropriations bill is to dole out state funding, but Hatfield argued that the 2018 funding bill violated the Missouri Constitution because it made a change to state policy.
“The state still continues, to this day, to pay family planning and physician services for Medicaid patients,” Hatfield said. “They pay that to hospitals, they pay that to doctors, they pay it to all sorts of providers, but in this most recent bill they said they won’t pay it to Planned Parenthood.”
Sauer argued that the Legislature acted within the parameters of its authority.
“What the text of the constitution actually says in this context, for single subject clause, is no bill shall contain more than one subject except general appropriations bills, which may embrace multiple subjects,” Sauer said. “They may embrace the various subjects and accounts for which monies are appropriated.”
This particular case deals with eight Planned Parenthood facilities in the St. Louis region. However, the court’s decision will set a precedent for federal funding for all 12 clinics throughout the state.
In a motion from Planned Parenthood’s attorneys, the Missouri Supreme Court expedited the oral arguments to be heard this year. They urged the court to do this so it could be in a position to make a ruling during the next legislative session.
“They’re going to do it again,” Hatsfield said. “They did it [in fiscal] '19; they did it in '20. I fully expect they’ll do the same thing in the next appropriations bill.”
Planned Parenthood said it has continued to offer free and reduced-cost health care to all patients despite the lack of funding and at the risk of not being reimbursed.
Missouri Right to Life, a group that opposes abortion rights, did not provide comment on the case.
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A previous version of this story misstated the number of Planned Parenthood facilities this case directly impacted.