JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Bob Holden on Wednesday criticized legislative efforts to restrict state funding for family planning, making what his administration called his strongest statement on the issue since taking office.
"Here in Missouri, we face what seems to be an endless struggle to protect women from government officials who want to make women's health choices for them," Holden told more than 80 abortion rights supporters at the Capitol. "This is unacceptable."
The Legislature's anti-abortion majority has tried for years to prohibit family planning money from going to Planned Parenthood -- the state's largest abortion provider -- by inserting restrictive language in the funding bill for the state Department of Health.
Since 1999, the budget has included language barring the money from going to organizations that share a name, facility, expenses, employees or equipment with an affiliated abortion provider. The provision is aimed at Planned Parenthood.
Last week, Holden answered "yes" when asked whether he supported funding for Planned Parenthood, but Wednesday's comments provided additional insight into his position.
"I find it appalling that through actions such as this, legislators would deny woman the primary health care services and family planning services they need," Holden said. "I am tired of people ... demonizing family planning to score political points."
Although the 1999 language is still being challenged in court, the House last week reaffirmed its position in a budget bill that heads next for the Senate for consideration.
Holden signed the spending bill last year with reservations. Asked whether he would sign a similar bill this year, Holden said: "We will see what the language looks like when it gets to my desk."
Samuel Lee, a lobbyist for St. Louis-based Campaign Life Missouri, said he was not surprised by the governor's support of Planned Parenthood.
"We would just hope that he would uphold the will of the Legislature if and when they pass the same language that they passed last year," Lee said.
Also passed by the House last week was a measure that would take money from the Missouri attorney general's budget if he loses court cases involving the state ban on family planning money from going to Planned Parenthood.