JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- An anti-abortion group is opposing a ballot measure to increase tobacco taxes because of concerns that some of the money could be used for abortion services.
Missouri Right To Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, said Friday the ballot measure does not contain legal protections to prevent the money from being used for such things as abortion counseling or referrals.
"I'm sure some good health programs come out of this. Unfortunately, there will be some health initiatives and health programs that in fact will subsidize the destruction of life," said Patty Skain, executive director of Missouri Right To Life.
The proposal, which will appear as Proposition A on the Nov. 5 ballot, would raise Missouri's cigarette tax to 72 cents a pack from the current 17 cents, and would raise other state tobacco taxes by 20 percent.
Much of the nearly $343 million expected to be generated annually would go toward health care programs. Gov. Bob Holden is among the measure's supporters.
Skain said a portion of the 43 percent of the tax earmarked for health care could be used for family planning services, including abortion services. She said money designated for life sciences could be used for research using fetuses.
"We don't feel there are enough safeguards," Skain said.
Citizens for a Healthy Missouri, which is backing the tax, was surprised by the allegations from the anti-abortion group.
"I am stunned," said Brad Ketcher, a spokesman for the coalition of urban business groups, health care organizations and the state hospital association. "This proposition is about improving health care in the state. It's abortion neutral."
'Don't quite understand'
Other anti-abortion groups, such as the Missouri Catholic Conference and Campaign Life Missouri, say they are skeptical about the Missouri Right To Life arguments.
"We don't quite understand the rationale," said Larry Weber, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference. "It seems to me there are many beneficial aspects to Proposition A."
Still, Right To Life plans a campaign against the proposal in its newsletter and will distribute thousands of fliers statewide. The group said it reaches an estimated 80,000 households in Missouri.
Also opposing Proposition A is the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association and a group calling itself Missourians Against Unfair Taxes, which is backed by big tobacco companies.