Opinion: Missouri Republicans Are Holding Elderly and Disabled People Hostage to Ban Birth Control

There is a perilous battle in Missouri over the Republican dominated legislature’s failure to renew a crucial medical provider tax that funds a major portion of the state’s health coverage program for low-income residents. The failure prompted Missouri’s Republican Governor Mike Parson’s to threaten lawmakers that Medicaid budget cuts were coming if they did not renew the tax.

Prior to this year, 2021, the Missouri General Assembly had never failed to renew the tax during its regular session.

The tax in question is collected from nursing homes, hospitals, and pharmacies generating roughly $1.6 billion a year” allowing the state to “bring in roughly $3 billion annually in federal funding.That $3 billion is returned to the facilities for providing treatment to low-income elderly and disabled residents who are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program.

So, a sane reasonable person might wonder: Why is the Republican dominated legislature holding up a critical tax threatening cuts to low-income people’s healthcare?

Obviously it can’t be Missouri Democrats; Democrats always oppose cutting healthcare funding for anyone, much less low-income elderly and disabled people. There must be something extremely important to Republicans to threaten low income residents’ access to critical healthcare besides their typical disregard for living, breathing human beings.

If Democrats aren’t holding up renewing the tax, and the Republican Governor is demanding it be renewed, the culprits have to be Republicans with a nefarious motive. That is precisely the case.

Missouri Republicans, like most Republicans across America, are Hell bent on controlling women based on their un-biblical embrace of a 1968 Papal encyclical. And if they are unable to control Missouri women, then low income elderly and disabled residents will pay the price.

The holdup on renewing the tax is being led by Senators Paul Wieland and Bob Onder, both Republicans who are unwilling to allow the renewal unless there are bans on certain “artificial” birth control methods. And if they can’t ban Medicaid from covering those contraceptive measures, then there will be cuts to healthcare for low-income elderly and disabled people. This is a hostage scenario driven by placing a religious objection over the health and welfare of the elderly and disabled.

The Republicans say they really want to renew the tax, but only if their hostage demands to ban birth control are met. Missouri’s governor told reporters last week:

“The clock’s ticking on us. If there’s not some sort of agreement where we have a solution, and it doesn’t happen before July 1, there’s not going to be choices. We’re going to have to start withholding [from the budget] July 1. “ 

The budget is sitting on the governor’s desk waiting for Republicans to act before July 1, and it includes “increased funding for homes for the developmentally disabled, higher Medicaid payments to nursing homes and expanded mental health services.” But unless Republicans get to ban coverage for birth control, the budget will face significant cuts.

It is noteworthy to mention that the federal government requires states to cover family planning services, and it requires all insurance plans to cover birth control. However, Republicans bowing to the whims of evangelical malcontents, and a 1968 Catholic prohibition on unnatural birth control, could not care less what the federal government requires. They will punish low-income elderly and disabled people if they are prohibited from controlling women’s reproductive health.

One Republican, Senator Eric Burlison, justified banning the birth control saying:

You want to force people who have a moral objection to that, you want to force them to have their taxpayer money pay for it? That’s the question,”

There are two problems with Mr. Burlison’s statement and both involve gross misinformation; or in street parlance he is lying.

First, the tax in question is not collected from taxpayers.That particular tax being held hostage on religious grounds comes from hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies. And it is returned to them from federal funding. It is not a burden on the taxpayers. Mr.Burlison is a Republican so it is no revelation that he is lying to justify holding healthcare for low income elderly and disabled people hostage to control women’s reproductive health.

Second, it is not a “moral objection” from taxpayers. It is a religious objection from theocracy-driven Republicans who embrace a 1968 Catholic prohibition on what they regard as “unnatural” birth control.

Again, because Burlison is a Republican he is lying. He won’t say Republicans want to control women’s reproductive rights or choice on religious grounds because it is a mainstay policy of his religious right cohort. And those so-called people of faith have zero morals if they are willing to punish low income elderly and disabled Missouri residents if they are prohibited from enacting a 1968 Catholic prohibition on American women using “unnatural” forms of birth control.

What makes this hostage scenario all the more disgusting is it has absolutely nothing to do with being “pro-life” or abortion. However, it is precisely the same argument that allowed so-called religious business owners to withhold birth control from their employees’ insurance coverage in the case of Hobby Lobby. They too are in thrall of an old Catholic man’s claim that using “artificial” birth control is tantamount to abortion, and therefore murder.

What is happening in Missouri – holding healthcare hostage to control women’s reproductive rights – is happening across the country in Republican led states.

Very few, if any, of these primarily Republican men are medical professionals by any measure. But they are very happy to make healthcare and family planning decisions for women based on an old Catholic man’s 1968 edict with no biblical basis. And to ensure that they can legally control women’s reproductive rights and choices they are threatening low income elderly and disabled peoples’ health and well-being. These men have no morals – they are Republican monsters forcing their religious beliefs on their constituents.

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