Protesters dressed as 'handmaids' from Hulu series object to Missouri budget bills
Complete with red capes and bonnets, a dozen "handmaids" strode into the Missouri Statehouse Wednesday in silent protest of part of a bill they think is targeting Planned Parenthood.
The protesters, dressed like characters from the "The Handmaid's Tale," a show on the Hulu streaming service, walked in lines through the Capitol rotunda and sat silently in House and Senate galleries.
M'Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, said the handmaids represent what happens when "politicians and governments try and substitute their judgment for those individuals' judgment."
In the show, handmaids are forced to bear children for government officials.
"And that's what 'The Handmaid's Tale' is all about — what happens when a government takes control over a certain segment of women's lives and tries to run them for their own purposes," Mead said.
Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, offered the language in April as amendments to two of the bills that make up Missouri's nearly $28 billion budget, sparking an intense debate with Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City. The language, which remains in the budget passed Wednesday by the House and Senate, prohibits any state money from spent on health services at any providers associated with an abortion facility.
"I simply do not want our tax dollars being spent providing for abortions, and that's what I seek to do with this amendment," Ross said on the floor in March.
Mead said the bill targets Planned Parenthood facilities that provide health services — like cancer screenings, birth control and exams — and are affiliated with an abortion provider. She said it would limit low-income women's access to those services.
In the March floor debate, Ross said abortion providers had set up a "shell game" to provide abortions while still benefiting from Medicaid reimbursements for other women's health services.
The federal Hyde Amendment prohibits federal tax money from being used to fund abortions unless the pregnancy results from rape or incest or threatens the mother's life. States can make their own decisions on whether to use state resources for abortion. Missouri does not use state funds for abortion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.