Missouri, Planned Parenthood argue in court over funding

FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2019, file photo, Planned Parenthood supporters dressed In "The Handmaid's Tale" costumes stand in silence in St. Louis before the fourth day of hearings between Planned Parenthood and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Government funding for Missouri Planned Parenthood clinics is at stake in a lawsuit set to be argued before the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dec. 10. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Government funding for Missouri Planned Parenthood clinics is at stake in a lawsuit argued before the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

State attorneys asked Supreme Court judges to back the Republican-led Legislature's decision to block funding from Planned Parenthood. The Attorney General's Office appealed to the high court after a lower court in June ruled the move was unconstitutional.

Solicitor General John Sauer told judges that lawmakers acted within their budgeting authority in stripping Planned Parenthood funding, despite Planned Parenthood's claims that legislators violated the state Constitution in how they tweaked the state spending plan.

“The arguments they make are not rooted in the plain text of the Missouri Constitution," Sauer said of Planned Parenthood's complaints.

Republican lawmakers in Missouri for years have sought to stop any taxpayer money from going to Planned Parenthood, even clinics that do not provide abortions.

But legislators struggled with “loopholes" that allowed Planned Parenthood clinics that provide other healthcare to continue receiving funding. Abortion opponents finally succeeded in the fiscal year that ended in June by blocking money to any facility affiliated with others that perform abortions.

Lawmakers were able to stop money from going to Planned Parenthood by forgoing some federal funding to avoid requirements that the clinics be reimbursed if low-income patients go there for birth control, cancer screenings and other preventative care. Missouri instead now uses state money to pay for those services.

Planned Parenthood argues that some of its chapters provide preventative health care and not abortion and shouldn't be financially penalized.