The Missouri General Assembly has reconvened for a special session this week to reauthorize the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA), the provider tax that finances much of our state’s Medicaid program and brings billions of dollars of federal matching funds to Missouri. Passage of this critical tax was once routine and uncontroversial. Some policymakers, however, now view the FRA as a bargaining chip to pursue other agendas. This small group of legislators is using the necessity of passing the FRA as leverage in their desire to limit family planning by inappropriately conflating emergency contraceptives and other forms of birth control with abortions. Imposing these limits will restrict common contraceptive options for Missouri’s lowest income individuals. While the proposed language is not yet final, limiting access to reproductive health options flies in the face of medical guidelines, equity considerations, and public opinion. Put simply – contraception is an essential part of women’s health care, and it should not be held hostage during the approval process for a must-renew tax program.
In addition to being commonly accepted best practice by the medical community, access to contraception has strong public support. We conducted extensive polling as part of our work launching The Right Time, an initiative that is empowering individuals to take control of their health by improving information about, and removing barriers to, contraceptive services. These polls show that more than 70% of residents, regardless of gender, age, income, education, race, or political party, support doing more to help women avoid unintended pregnancy. This is consistent with nationwide polls showing 86% of adults support access to the full range of contraceptive options.
We must prioritize policies that are consistent with scientific evidence, medical judgment, and lived experience. Access to the full range of contraceptive care translates directly to Missouri women’s abilities to attain their educational, social, and economic goals. It is unconscionable that in 2021, despite scientific evidence and near universal public support, access to these basic services for women remains under threat by our legislature.