The Missouri General Assembly adopted legislation during this year's session which will dramatically increase funding for alternatives to abortion programs. The authorization for enhanced funding for abortion
alternatives efforts was included in a bill which overhauled the state's major public assistance program.
The bill adopted by the Missouri Legislature, Senate Bill 24, was known as the "Strengthening Missouri Families Act." It was sponsored by Senator David Sater
of Cassville, and handled in the House by Representative Diane Franklin
The legislation revised Missouri's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. That form of public assistance is most commonly referred to as welfare benefits, and used to go by the name Aid to Families of Dependent Children (AFDC).
The most widely reported change contained in the bill was a provision that scaled back the period of time in which a person can receive TANF assistance. The bill reduced the lifetime limit for recipients of TANF benefits from 60 to 45 months.
A lesser noted section of the bill established that 2% of block grant funds received from the federal government for TANF assistance shall be dedicated to the state's alternatives to abortion services and public awareness programs.
That means that approximately $4.3 million in new annual funding will be available for alternatives to abortion programs. Sam Lee, director of Campaign Life, observes that that amount is twice the level of funding ever appropriated by the state for abortion alternatives services. $2.1 million in state funds were allocated to these programs in the current year's budget, and in the budget approved for the coming fiscal year which begins in July. Lee was a major advocate for the enhanced pro-life funding.
The Missouri Senate approved the "Strengthening Missouri Families Act" by a vote of 25-8. The House endorsed the measure on a vote of 115-44. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill on April 30th. However, both chambers of the General Assembly voted to override Nixon's veto in early May, and Senate Bill 24 will become law later this year.
The Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Services
Program was first established in 1997. It covers a range of pregnancy support services offered to qualifying pregnant women and their children up to one year after the birth of the child. The state customarily contracts with pregnancy resource centers and other maternal health providers to deliver the services.
Services financed by the program include prenatal, medical, and mental health care; child care, newborn, and infant care; food, clothing, and pregnancy related supplies; parenting training; housing and utilities; transportation; and educational services. During the 2014 fiscal year, services were provided to a total of 1,511 women and their children.