Funding dispute

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The legal battle over nearly $670,000 in state grants that were made a few years ago to Planned Parenthood isn't over yet. But the latest ruling by a circuit court judge maintains that the money must be repaid, since there is a prohibition on giving state money to abortion providers or their affiliates. A ruling last month by Ray County Circuit Judge Werner Moentmann is likely to be appealed, say Planned Parenthood officials.

At issue is whether the prohibition should apply in the case of two grants made in 2000 and in 2003. Planned Parenthood argues that it had a binding contract with the state to provide services, fulfilled its end of the bargain and, therefore, should not be required to give the grants back -- plus 9 percent interest ordered by Judge Moentmann.

Many legislators and other state officials have long opposed giving taxpayers' dollars to any group that performs or advocates abortions. The ensuing lawsuits over these grants have, in a way, been a test of that state policy.

Meanwhile, another public funding source for abortion services has developed. It is the Missouri Foundation for Health, a creation of Attorney General Jay Nixon's that has at its disposal former assets of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri valued at about $1 billion.

Recent grants by the foundation have included funds for abortion-related agencies. A similar foundation based on BC-BS assets from operations in western Missouri also has been established. MFH should be careful with its grants lest it be pulled into the same controversy as Planned Parenthood.

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