No Tax Dollars For Abortion

The Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA) is a little-known, but incredibly important part of Missouri’ state budget. Last year, more than $4 billion of state revenue came through the FRA, with about $1.6 billion of that being taxes paid by Missouri hospitals, ambulances, nursing homes and other health care providers. The rest of the money came from the federal government. Our FRA program is set to expire in September, and we should have renewed it during this year’s legislative session. Unless we act quickly, Missouri’s 2022 state budget will face a huge shortfall, and thousands of low-income children, pregnant women and disabled Missourians could go without health care coverage.

For years, the FRA program has been renewed with little discussion. That changed this year due to a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court. In the past, we have attached language to the state budget that said no taxpayer money could be used to pay for abortions. I am unwavering on this. The Missouri Supreme Court, however, said we could not legislate through the budget. Because of this change, we had to find another way to make sure the prohibition remained in place. The FRA seemed like the best choice, since it deals with Medicaid funding.

As you might imagine, there is always quite a bit of pushback against any pro-life legislation, and that was certainly true this year. For the first time since the program began in 1992, the Senate couldn’t come to an agreement on renewing the FRA during the regular session. The situation had not improved much by the time the governor called us back to the Capitol for an extra session to pass an FRA bill.

When the Senate came back into session on June 23, we took up three separate pieces of legislation. One bill renewed the FRA, but also included language prohibiting specific abortifacient drugs and devices, and banned Medicaid reimbursements to any facility that performs abortions, which in Missouri only means Planned Parenthood. We were also presented a “clean FRA” bill, with no pro-life language. The third bill contained just the pro-life provisions. The discussions and debates over these three measures were intense, and sometimes emotional. There seemed to be no consensus in sight, as members of the minority party were just as committed to the clean FRA bill as the pro-life majority was determined to protect innocent life.

In my case, I didn’t care how we did it, but the end result absolutely had to prohibit ANY taxpayer dollars going to fund abortions, or medications that cause abortion. This is even more important now, with a new administration in Washington, D.C.  Already, we’ve heard the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from funding abortions, might not be part of next year’s federal budget. We absolutely must take steps NOW to protect innocent lives, as well as our taxpayer dollars.

For a time, it seemed like compromise would not be found. However, with the women of the Senate leading the way, compromise language was agreed to that prohibited taxpayer funding of abortions, and any abortifacient drugs used for the purpose of abortion. The bill simply and plainly prohibits spending state money for “abortions or any abortifacient drug or device that is used for the purpose of inducing an abortion.” I believe this language accomplishes what we need to do, and I am grateful for my colleagues, especially the women of the Senate, for working together to get it approved.

Senate Bill 1 was accepted, without changes, by the House of Representatives and the bill now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature. With his approval, the FRA will be renewed and a potential budget crisis has been averted.

On a final note, I’m very disappointed our attempt to defund Planned Parenthood through this process failed. I was all for it, and voted to include this language in the bill. We had conflicting legal opinions on the legality of singling out Planned Parenthood in the FRA bill, since the organization offers services other than abortion. Several who voted against this measure have always been pro-life, but they expressed concerns that Missouri could lose billions in federal funding if the legislation was struck down. They were not willing to risk potential harm to the elderly, those with disabilities, etc. Unfortunately, as with most policy issues, we are dealing with many unknowns. Because of this, the governor’s office met with the majority caucus and promised to make immediate changes through the rule-making process to help us achieve our goal of defunding Planned Parenthood, an approach that has succeeded in Texas and Arkansas. I look forward to seeing what progress we can make following those state’s examples.

 

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.  

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