The House has given initial approval to a bill that would increase the amount available in tax credits for pregnancy resource centers from $2-million a year to $2.5-million beginning in fiscal year 2015.
The centers offer doctor services, counseling on alternatives to abortion, and assistance with finances, budgeting and long-term support to women primarily between the ages of 16 and 24 who are dealing with unexpected pregnancies. Proponents say the centers keep those women from having to get such support from the state and so represent a good use of state tax dollars.
The centers have been criticized, however, by supporters of abortion rights, who say some centers present deceptive information regarding abortion. Those who oppose the bill say the state should not support such activities with tax credits.
Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) raised that issue to the bill sponsor, Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington).
“Most of them do wonderful work,” says Montecillo, “I just want to make sure women are getting good and accurate medical information so they can carry their children to term safely.”
Engler says he shares her concern.
“Most of the bills that your members are going to focus on from that area are going to get killed. That’s just the reality,” Engler tells Montecillo. “I’d like to work with you on coming up with something … maybe not legislative … that we can put out and say, ‘This is what you can do. You are getting tax credits from the State of Missouri, therefore you need to have some responsibility of doing things.”
Engler says the award of tax credits to those organizations and whether they are presenting accurate information becomes an issue of upholding the State Constitution in his mind.
Another favorable vote would send that measure to the Senate.
The bill is HB 1132.