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JEFFERSON CITY — Planned Parenthood attorneys told the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday the state's move to cut off funding to its affiliates was constitutionally flawed and violated a state law that allows Medicaid recipients to choose their own provider.

The state, meanwhile, argued the GOP-controlled Legislature was in the clear when in 2018 it approved budget language that blocked Medicaid funding from going to "any abortion facility" and "any affiliate or associate thereof."

Planned Parenthood's attorney argued the language runs counter to a state law that requires the state's Medicaid program pay for patient family planning services, not including most abortions.

Solicitor General D. John Sauer, arguing the state's position, said a previous General Assembly that approved the Medicaid reimbursement language cannot "tie the hands of its successor."

"A general statute cannot require the General Assembly to engage in ... a specific act of appropriation in the future," Sauer said.

Planned Parenthood attorney Chuck Hatfield said the state's budget language amounted to impermissible lawmaking through the budget process.

He used a hypothetical in which the Legislature approved a drug treatment court law, but later decided to fund only certain treatment courts.

"By doing that, they change the statute," Hatfield said. "That's exactly what they've done here."

The seven-member court issued no ruling on Tuesday.

Lower courts have split on this case. The Administrative Hearing Commission sided with the state. Planned Parenthood appealed to the St. Louis Circuit Court, which sided with Planned Parenthood in June. The state then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The arguments represented the latest skirmish between the abortion provider and the state.

The Department of Health and Senior Services has sought to shut down Planned Parenthood's St. Louis abortion clinic while state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Parson approved earlier this year a ban on most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. Both cases await court decisions.

Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6184

@JackSuntrup on Twitter

jsuntrup@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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