Gov. Blunt yanks health screening money from Planned Parenthood

Monday, March 19, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Gov. Matt Blunt said Monday he has yanked funding for two Planned Parenthood clinics that were providing free health screenings for poor women through a state program.

The governor made the announcement at a Springfield visit to a health center. At Blunt's request, the state Department of Health and Senior Services has ended the contracts with two Planned Parenthood programs in Springfield and Joplin. Two other area organizations -- Jordan Valley Community Health Center and Ozark TriCounty Health Care -- will begin offering the screenings for breast and cervical cancer, Blunt's office said.

"Patients should not have to go to an abortion clinic to access lifesaving tests," Blunt said in a written statement.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri said the clinics that participated in the program have never provided abortions.

The state health department could not immediately say how much money it was providing to the two Planned Parenthood clinics. It also could not immediately say when exactly it ended the contracts, but the clinics will be able to offer the free screenings for 30 days from that date.

The clinics were the only Planned Parenthood programs that took part in the statewide program.

"Governor Blunt's sudden decision to cut a 15-year partnership to prevent cancer in southwest Missouri is a shocking, misguided act driven by political ideology rather than sound health care delivery," Kellie Rohrbaugh, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri, said in a written statement.

Overall, the screening program receives about $3 million in federal money and $70,000 in state funding, with the state share mainly for operational expenses, Blunt's office said.

Republican officials and Planned Parenthood have fought for years over funding.

In August, Planned Parenthood affiliates won a roughly $900,000 victory when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled they did not have to repay family planning funds received against the will of the Legislature.

The 4-3 ruling capped a legal dispute that spanned several years as anti-abortion lawmakers tried to prevent state grants for family planning and other women's health services from going to affiliates of abortion providers.

After gaining control of the Legislature, Republicans eliminated the family planning grants from the 2004 budget and have kept them out.

Blunt also proposed increasing the funding for the health screening program by $500,000.

The Show Me Healthy Women program provided screenings to nearly 8,000 women last year, and Blunt's budget proposal could expand that by 1,225, his office said.

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