Missouri special session on Medicaid funding begins

SUMMER BALLENTINE
Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators on Wednesday returned to the Capitol to work out a deal on a critical piece of Medicaid funding that's entangled in a fight over family planning services. 

Republican Gov. Mike Parson called the last-minute special session after threatening to cut $722 million from the state budget July 1 if lawmakers don't reup a tax on hospitals and other medical providers. Money from the tax is used to bring in more federal Medicaid funding. 

The tax expires Sept. 30.

Lawmakers didn't renew the tax during regular session after it became tied to an effort to ban Medicaid coverage of some contraceptives and block government funding for Planned Parenthood. 

Lawmakers can address those issues now, although some senators on Wednesday proposed setting aside those disagreements and focusing only on the hospital tax. 

Parson's call gives the GOP-led Legislature the opportunity to block Medicaid payments for abortion medications, as well as intrauterine devices and the morning-after pill "when those are used to induce an abortion." 

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, on Wednesday told reporters that emergency contraception and IUDs do not cause abortions. 

"No matter how hard politicians want you to believe birth control and emergency contraception are abortion-inducing medications, they are not," McNicholas said. "It is simple science. Birth control and emergency contraception prevent pregnancy while abortion medications end them."

Lawmakers also could pass a bill to exclude facilities that provide abortions from getting money from the state's family planning services for low-income women. 

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said those organizations currently don't get any state funding from that program.