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Planned Parenthood wins funding battle in Missouri Supreme Court Tuesday

January 22, 2002
By: Tiffany Ellis
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Planned Parenthood won a major victory Tuesday from Missouri's Supreme Court.

But one leading anti-abortion lawmaker vowed the legal battle to provide state funds to the organization was not yet over -- that lawmakers themselves may bring the issue back to the courts.

The Supreme Court decision overturned a lower-court ruling which had upheld legislative efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving funds for family-planning services.

The issue goes back to the administration of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan which had awarded family-planning funds to Planned Parenthood.

That angered anti-abortion lawmakers who argued that amounted to an indirect subsidy of abortion because the private organization had facilities that performed or counseled abortion.

As a result, the legislature added language to the family planning appropriation that was intended to block Planned Parenthood from getting any further funds.

Because of distrust that the administration would comply with the restrictions and doubts that Attorney General Jay Nixon would enforce them, anti-abortion lawmakers demanded that Nixon agree to hire a private lawyer to defend the appropriation restriction against Planned Parenthood.

That led to Nixon representing the Health Department's decision to award funds to Planned Parenthood and a private attorney hired by Nixon arguing against Planned Parenthood funding.

But Tuesday, the court held the use of a private attorney improper because it led to the state suing the state. The court said Nixon had to pick one side or the other.

Nixon immediately did -- announcing at a Tuesday news conference that he will uphold the contracts with Planned Parenthood.

The decision concludes a three year court battle involving the state Attorney General's office, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, and former Health Department Director Maureen Dempsey.

In addition to upholding state funding of abortions, the decision will moot two similar lawsuits now pending in federal courts.

But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County, vowed that the issue is far from finished.

Klarich said there has been discussion about the GOP-controlled Senate, if not the entire legislature, suing in its own name to uphold the appropriation restriction.

Nixon, however, said the legislature needs to take a more direct approach.

"This is not an issue that will be brought to resolution through the courts," he said. "If the legislature does not want to fund family planning, they need to put a big zero next to it in the budget."

Klarich suggested making it a ballot issue.

"The only remedy that we have is to pass legislation that includes a list of what services are and are not allowed and submit it directly to the people," said Klarich.