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Conflict of interest

Abortion | Missouri bill takes those who earn money on abortion out of the sex-ed business

Issue: "Crossing borders," June 23, 2007

The unusual pro-life bill that survived a Democratic filibuster attempt to reach the Missouri governor's desk in late May was actually born outside an abortion clinic. In the summer of 2005, Mary Maschmeier, a longtime sidewalk counselor, was standing outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on Forest Park Avenue in St. Louis when she saw a yellow school bus drive up, filled with kids.

"I stopped the driver and asked him why he was bringing children to the clinic," Maschmeier said. The driver said the kids were from the local Boys and Girls Club. He was delivering them to Planned Parenthood for a sex-ed class, part of the club's summer program, he said.

Maschmeier knew that Planned Parenthood also provided sex education classes in local public schools. That's when it hit her: In allowing an organization that makes money terminating pregnancies to teach kids how not to get pregnant, the state of Missouri was allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. "That's when I realized, hey, we need to work on this," she said.

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Missouri abortionists performed 8,350 terminations in the state in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those, girls ages 15 to 19 had 1,284 abortions; girls under age 15 had 52.

Nationally, girls in both age groups had 130,732 abortions in 2003. But that number does not account for abortions in five jurisdictions: California, New York, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia. In 2000, those regions reported 416,040 abortions to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research arm, but not to the CDC.

The Guttmacher report did not break down state reporting by age group, but a separate report noted that the average cost of an abortion in 2001 was $487. That means that aborting the children of girls from young teen through age 19 produces at least $63.7 million in annual revenue for abortionists nationwide-not including revenue from regions that account for nearly a third of all terminations performed in the United States, but where age-group breakdown remains unreported.

To have groups that perform abortions teaching kids sex education is "clearly a conflict of interest," Maschmeier said. She contacted Sen. Chuck Gross, a St. Charles County Republican, who worked with other legislators to pass HB1055, a pro-life measure that in part prohibits any provider of abortion services from providing either direct instruction or curriculum for sex education in public schools.

In Missouri, that means Planned Parenthood. Only three abortion clinics operate in the state, and all of them are affiliated with the national group. "This legislation will sever the relationship between Planned Parenthood and our public schools," said Missouri Family Network president Kerry Messer.

HB1055 also formalizes and funds the "Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Public Awareness Program," enables schools to emphasize abstinence, and requires any clinic performing second- and third-trimester abortions to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center. An "alert" on Planned Parenthood's website warns that upgrade costs associated with the latter provision will "force the closure of abortion services in Kansas City and Columbia."

The bill's abstinence language, along with the ban on abortion-affiliated sex-ed instructors, "encountered huge, huge opposition during floor debate," said Rep. Therese Sanders (R), HB1055's primary House sponsor. Opponents insisted that no one was going to receive information about contraceptives, she said: "'Ignorance is not a form of birth control!' was one of their sound-bites."

Planned Parenthood's alert claims the bill "will remove the requirement of comprehensive, medically accurate sex education from public schools." But the bill's final language directs schools to present students with "the latest medically factual information regarding both the possible side effects and health benefits of all forms of contraception, including the success and failure rates" for pregnancy and STDs.

Paula Gianino, CEO of Planned Parenthood's St. Louis region, told WORLD her group is reviewing HB1055 and "will soon make a decision on whether to file suit against all or part of the law." Republican Gov. Matt Blunt is expected to sign HB1055 in the coming weeks, making Missouri "the first state in the nation to put a wall of separation between public schools and abortion providers," said Messer. "We hope other states will do the same."

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