Lawmakers seek disclosure of funding for abortion providers

By Jamie Hausman

JEFFERSON CITY – Planned Parenthood and other groups offering family planning services would be required to disclose details of their federal financing under a measure heard by the House Children Committee Wednesday.

But there’s an interesting complication to the issue — Planned Parenthood says it already is doing what the proposed law would require.

The measure would require detailed financial reports to the state Health Department by organizations receiving federal family planning funds.

The bill covers organizations that get money from a federal program that covers contraceptive services, supplies and information.

“What is being asked for in the bill is already public information, so I don’t believe this bill will have an impact on Planned Parenthood,” said Michelle Trupiano, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood in Missouri.

The bill’s sponsor — Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia and chair of the House Judiciary Committee — acknowledged that the information required by his bill already is being reported.

But to the committee he proposed adding a provision that would require the information be included in the Missouri Accountability Portal, which posts on the internet information about state finances.

During the committee hearing, Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, questioned whether the organizations receiving the federal funds were, directly or indirectly, using the money to support doctors and nurses involve in performing abortions.

“The purpose of this bill is to provide accountability of these funds,” Cox said. “[They are] supposed to be used for rent, electric bills … not abortions. This will make the whole process open and accessible so taxpayers know where their money goes.”

A lobbyist from the anti-abortion organization Campaign Life Missouri, Samuel Lee, spoke in favor of the bill and said how this money is distributed is public information and should be accessible.

“It does not prohibit anyone from getting the money, ” Lee said. “It’s a transparency issue. Who’s getting it? What is it for?”

Susan Klein, with Missouri Right to Life, agreed with Lee, citing her reason for support as a need for transparency.

A lobbyist for the Missouri Family Health Council, Scott Penman, said use of the federal funds goes to specific categories of services, such as birth control pills, and only goes to certain facilities that provide those services. Abortions are not included in the list of services, he said.

Penman said none of the funds are currently being used for abortion.

The Missouri Family Health Council has been a grantee of the federal dollars since 1989. This organization’s board makes the final determination on who is funded by the federal funds.

Connie Cunningham, the Director of the Missouri Family Health Council, said she wasn’t sure what the purpose of the bill was because the council’s reports are already accessible and transparent.

“We’ve been around a long time, and this is the only medical home for many individuals,” Cunningham said. “We deliver good health care … and right now there just seems to be huge anti-Planned Parenthood sentiment muddying the water between family planning and abortion services.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.