JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri’s Alternatives to Abortion program is taking a cut in next year’s appropriations budget, but pro-life groups are not complaining.
Kerry Messer, lobbyist for Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, said that while the governor’s recommended budget amount is lower for FY2012, it is in line with the money actually spent last year.
The program is also being helped by the fact that its funding has been transferred, at the request of several pro-life agencies, from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to the Office of Administration.
Messer explained that pregnancy resource centers and agencies that benefit from the program have met with resistance ever since the program’s inception 16 years ago.
“There are some bureaucrats in the department that have drug their feet and treated the program as though there was a bias against agencies such as crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes,” Messer said.
“Under current department administration, additional restrictive rules and regulations have created unnecessary and unreasonable access to program dollars by pro-life agencies.
“As a result, even though the governor has continued to recommend funding the program, many of those funds cannot be accessed.”
Marsha Middleton, chief executive officer of Alliance for Life of Missouri, gave two examples of how her organization has run into those regulations.
One restriction is that clients cannot be put into a program unless they are at or below 28 weeks of pregnancy.
“We know from our experience that women are vulnerable to abortion through the entire pregnancy,” she said. “We know there are late-term abortion providers, and circumstances can change that make women think they have to have an abortion.
“Another area that’s been hard for us is that we are restricted to one case management visit per day. Oftentimes, the clients have transportation issues. Once we get someone into a facility, we try to provide as many things as we can while she’s with us. It may be difficult for her to get back.”
Middleton said that if a client is seen by more than one person – a nurse for medical issues and a client services director for rent, housing and life issues, for instance – the agency can only charge for one of those services.
Alliance For Life is one of several groups that contract with the Alternatives to Abortion program and it has the greatest number sites. Among them are an adoption agency, a maternity home, and a number of crisis resource centers.
Reps. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, House budget chair, Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, chair of the Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services, and Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, chair of the Appropriations Committee for General Administration, all endorsed the transfer.
“I support the pregnancy resource centers and believe the program needed to be protected from bureaucrats,” Flanigan commented.
The House of Representatives approved the measure, and it was expected to be approved by the Senate.
BARBARA SHOUN/contributing writer