Lawsuit questions state's $700,000 paid to Planned Parenthood

Sunday, December 12, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Arguments are scheduled Monday in a case questioning the legality of state payments to Planned Parenthood under a now-defunct program that provided family planning and health services for poor women in Missouri.

St. Charles County businessman Daniel Shipley has sued the Missouri Department of Health and Planned Parenthood. Ray County Circuit Judge Werner Moentmann will hear the case as a special judge in Cole County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit seeks to force Planned Parenthood to pay the state nearly $700,000 that its agencies in Kansas City and St. Louis received under an old state program that served low-income women who didn't qualify for Medicaid.

The services were restricted to family planning and gynecological services. But Shipley, who opposes abortion, maintains the state Health Department should not have allowed Planned Parenthood to participate in the program because it has affiliated abortion clinics.

The legislature voted in 1998 to bar any state family-planning money from directly or indirectly subsidizing abortion operations.

Planned Parenthood long has maintained that none of the state money was used for abortions. It says it spun off its abortion clinics as a separate corporation in response to the 1998 law and a similar federal mandate.

The agency says that it also spent more money on the women covered under the state program than the state's $150-a-person subsidy.

Abortion opponents have tried repeatedly in court to block Planned Parenthood from participating in the state program, which the Legislature ended more than a year ago. Tens of thousands of Missouri women benefited from the program at its peak.

Two years ago, the Missouri Supreme Court killed off a similar suit that had been launched at the behest of the Legislature against Planned Parenthood and the state Health Department.

Paula Gianino, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said Friday that the suit is "frivolous and a wasteful use of the taxpayers' dollars" since the matter has been fought in court before.

"Planned Parenthood met all the standards that the state required to participate in the program," she said. "This is part of the continued harassment and attacks against Planned Parenthood's good name."

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