(The Center Square) – The Missouri Senate is not returning to Jefferson City to consider a House bill that would defund Medicaid health care providers that directly or through affiliates offer abortion services.
Anti-abortion conservatives in both chambers are not pleased.
“I am incredibly disheartened and disappointed in the Senate neglecting to uphold their promise to Missourians that they will protect life at all levels,” said Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, after his House Bill 2 was dispatched Wednesday in a 109-45 House vote to the Senate, which recessed its special session Saturday.
“I just found out the Senate would adjourn without considering a defund of Planned Parenthood on HB 2,” tweeted Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring. “This is a disappointing day as many senators were not even asked for their opinion on adjournment.”
HB 2 states federal law cannot “infringe on the right of the people of Missouri to restrict public funds for abortion.” It essentially defunds Planned Parenthood, which is affiliated with Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis, Missouri’s only clinic that offers abortions.
HB 2 also prohibits Missouri businesses from requiring coronavirus vaccinations for employees or patrons and forbids disputing religious/health exemptions.
The special session was called to reach a compromise on a hospital tax extension that pays about one-third of Missouri’s $12 billion Medicaid program. Extending the Federal Reimbursement Allocation (FRA) will generate $1.28 billion in hospital taxes to draw $2.391 billion in federal Medicaid funding annually.
Lawmakers did not vote to extend the FRA during the regular session that ended May 14.
Conservatives opposed to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion sought prohibitions to be placed on public money for abortifacients, contraceptives and providers that directly, or through affiliates, offer abortion services.
Gov. Mike Parson called the special session on June 21, promising to cut $788 million from the budget on July 1 without an FRA extension.
The Senate convened June 23 and hotly debated anti-abortion measures for three days before adopting Senate Bill 1, an FRA extension that denies Medicaid spending for drugs and devices “used for … inducing an abortion.” The Saturday vote was 28-5.
The House convened Monday. On Wednesday, it sent SB 1 to Parson with little comment in a 140-13 vote. Parson signed the bill and it went into effect Thursday as part of the state’s $35.7 billion FY22 plan.
“With billions of dollars in jeopardy and millions of livelihoods at stake, the majority of legislators put narrow political interests aside and passed an FRA renewal bill that protects Missouri’s most vulnerable populations and builds on our Pro-Life principles,” the governor said. “To all those who helped get the FRA across the finish line: We appreciate your work.”
The House also revived the effort to defund Planned Parenthood in sending HB 2 to the Senate, hoping it would reassemble to adopt it by Friday. Those hopes, however, appear dashed, at least for now.
Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Carthage, in a joint statement adjourned the special session and pledged to work with the House “in the weeks and months to come to take definitive action to make these initial actions permanent.”
They said a Senate Interim Committee on Medicaid Accountability & Taxpayer Protection would study Missouri’s Medicaid program to ensure “continued protection of unborn life.”
Rowden told reporters it was a “tough decision” not to prolong the special session.
“We didn’t expect everyone to agree with us – and that’s OK,” he said. “Leaders lead even in tough moments, and that is exactly what Sen. Schatz and I did today.”