ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Missouri has rejected millions of dollars in federal funds in order to implement a measure that restricts abortion there even further. The state wants to keep public funding from clinics or hospitals that offer abortions. The only exception - to save the life of the mother. No exceptions for rape, incest or severe fetal anomalies. From St. Louis Public Radio, Durrie Bouscaren reports.
DURRIE BOUSCAREN, BYLINE: After three years and two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, things were finally looking up for Robin Utz and her husband. They were going to have a little girl.
ROBIN UTZ: Everything was looking fantastic. She was measuring one day ahead. I had a friend that had a home Doppler that she gave me, and I would listen to the baby's heartbeat just to hear it.
BOUSCAREN: She goes in for her 20-week ultrasound. But as the appointment drags on, the nurse gets quiet and says she needs to bring in the doctor.
UTZ: And I don't know what the diagnosis is, right? I just know that it's not good.
BOUSCAREN: Their daughter had developed a fatal complication.
UTZ: Her kidneys weren't working, and so there was therefore no amniotic fluid. And without amniotic fluid she would never develop lungs. And I was asked what her chances were, and she said there weren't any.
BOUSCAREN: Utz and her husband had just a few hours to make a decision - terminate the pregnancy or wait until she gave birth. Doctors warned her that the baby would likely be stillborn.
UTZ: Allowing her to be born to immediately suffer and to go through the trauma of childbirth only to immediately not be able to be held by us necessarily, but to go into, you know, a NICU or an incubator and be held alive just to die? It was so inhumane.
BOUSCAREN: Utz terminated her pregnancy at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Generally, abortions done in hospitals are for higher risk procedures, when a mother's life is in danger or there's a severe fetal anomaly, like in Utz's case. But now Barnes and other hospitals face the choice between continuing to provide abortions and getting paid to provide family planning services to Medicaid patients due to a new Missouri rule.
Abortion is already the state's most regulated medical procedure, and existing law bars Medicaid from covering most abortions. But last year, after the release of videos purporting to show the sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood, a Missouri representative named Robert Ross moved to cut all public funding to the organization.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ROBERT ROSS: A simple amendment that stops your taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions.
BOUSCAREN: This is easier said than done. The state for years has accepted $8 million in Medicaid funds from the federal government to pay for family planning for low-income women. But the Fed's rules say a patient must be able to choose their own provider. That's out the window with Ross' amendment, so Missouri is setting up its own program, rejecting all federal money and then only allowing patients to go to facilities that don't provide abortions except to save the life of the mother. Several House Democrats questioned Ross on the floor, including Representative Michael Butler of St. Louis.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MICHAEL BUTLER: If women have complications through pregnancy and they're low-income, they don't have a primary doctor, where do they go?
ROSS: Gentlemen, it's real simple. Either you agree with my amendment, you're going to go forward...
BUTLER: Your amendment is taking - your amendment is...
ROSS: ...Or you don't agree with it...
BOUSCAREN: The measure passed. Ross has not returned repeated requests for comment. Deanna Wallace, an attorney for Americans United for Life, says more states could follow suit, especially if it survives a legal challenge.
DEANNA WALLACE: The hospital is a place of healing, not a place where life is supposed to be purposely ended. And that is what an abortion does. If a hospital is going to choose to provide abortions, then they are willingly submitting to that law.
BOUSCAREN: And this is snaring more than just Planned Parenthood. The state has sent about 500 letters to hospitals, OB-GYNs and clinics with the qualifications to terminate a pregnancy, including Barnes. In this letter is a form that requires providers to attest that they do not provide abortions. If they don't sign, they may forego state funding and their patients may have to find another doctor. For NPR News, I'm Durrie Bouscaren in St. Louis.
SHAPIRO: This story is part of a partnership with NPR, St. Louis Public Radio and Kaiser Health News.
(SOUNDBITE OF KOPAS SONG, "BUDAPEST BLUES")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.