- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Medicaid program will be banned from spending money with any facility that performs elective abortions under a new law that takes effect July 1.

Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall, the main sponsor of Senate Bill 2238 (http://bit.ly/26fKvWN ), said Wednesday that the bill is aimed at blocking state tax dollars from going to Planned Parenthood. The organization’s only Mississippi clinic doesn’t do abortions but refers patients to other places abortion is available.

Mississippi Medicaid records show the program has spent $439 total with Planned Parenthood since July 2013. The organization’s clinic in Hattiesburg offers pap smears, birth control and other health services.

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider.

“Any dollar they get is one dollar too many of state taxpayer money,” Fillingane said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood says that since last July, politicians in 24 states have either enacted or proposed measures to take public money away from the organization. Some have been blocked by courts or put on hold over litigation, and a defunding bill in Virginia was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

In Mississippi, Democratic Sen. Deborah Dawkins of Pass Christian said the Republican-led House and Senate should have focused on bigger issues, such as education, instead of arguing about a minuscule amount of money going to Planned Parenthood.

“If this is such a minor sum, why are we wasting all this time on it?” Dawkins said Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill Tuesday. It says Medicaid cannot spend money with any facility that provides elective abortions, or with any entity affiliated with an abortion provider. Mississippi law, for years, has already prohibited the use of tax dollars to pay for most abortions.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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