Attorneys clash over Planned Parenthood funding in Missouri

By Dave Andrusko

NRL News Today has run dozens of stories over the years about two of many fronts in the ongoing battle between Planned Parenthood and the state of Missouri. First, about whether the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services may revoke the license of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic, the state’s lone remaining abortion clinic, which DHSS accuses of many health violations. Second, whether the state must fund Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and other abortion providers.

The latest round in the latter dispute took place today in a 30-minute oral arguments before the Missouri Supreme Court.

Here is the gist of the dispute, argued before the seven-member court by Planned Parenthood attorney Chuck Hatfield and Solicitor General D. John Sauer.

“Planned Parenthood attorneys told the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday the state’s move to cut off funding to its affiliates was constitutionally flawed and violated a state law that allows Medicaid recipients to choose their own provider,” according to Jack Suntrup of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch [https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missouri-s-high-court-weighs-whether-planned-parenthood-can-receive/article_9ca02d18-c087-54ca-aec2-68cd67e2236d.html].

The state, argued that the Legislature “was in the clear when in 2018 it approved budget language that blocked Medicaid funding from going to ‘any abortion facility” and “any affiliate or associate thereof.’”

Sauer said “a previous General Assembly that approved the Medicaid reimbursement language cannot ‘tie the hands of its successor,’” Suntrup reported.

Sauer added, “A general statute cannot require the General Assembly to engage in … a specific act of appropriation in the future,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hatfield complained to reporters after the hearing, as he did before the judges, that he believed his client “was specifically targeted by Republican lawmakers.”

There’s been no shortage of preliminary administrative and legal back-and-forth leading up to today.

Once the Missouri Medicaid Audit and Compliance Unit told Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region that its reimbursement claims for 2019 were denied, “Planned Parenthood unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission, “according to Joe Harris of Courthouse News.

Planned Parenthood “then filed a petition for review in the St. Louis City Circuit Court, which ruled in the clinic’s favor and found the bill unconstitutional.”

The state then appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

“Planned Parenthood continues to use the courts to try to gain access to our tax dollars as well as override our pro-life laws that protect women and save babies,” said Susan Klein, executive director of Missouri Right to Life. “They try at every turn to override the state’s right to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”

As expected, the judges did not say when they would rule.