GOP-led Iowa Senate OKs bill to defund Planned Parenthood

AP News
Posted: Feb 02, 2017 4:58 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa would forego millions in federal dollars in order to stop contributing a small amount of state funding toward Planned Parenthood under a bill approved Thursday by the Republican-controlled Senate, and the lawmakers backing the legislation declined to say how Iowa would foot the bill.

The vote was 30-20 along party lines — a former Republican-turned-Independent also voted yes. It now heads to the GOP-led House, where it has support. Gov. Terry Branstad, also a Republican, has indicated he will back the effort.

It highlights a longstanding goal of Iowa Republicans to remove state funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading abortion provider. Previous attempts were halted by Democrats, who are now in the minority following the Nov. 8 election.

Other states have tried to exclude the organization from Medicaid family planning funding. Iowa has taken the unusual approach of giving up the federal money altogether instead of challenging current federal rules that allow Planned Parenthood to receive family planning money.

Representatives for the Iowa affiliate of Planned Parenthood have repeatedly said the bill would limit access in Iowa to quality reproductive health care.

"The Republican lawmakers who continue to advance this bill should be ashamed of themselves," said Rachel Lopez, a Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokeswoman, in a statement after the vote. "They are playing political games, with the lives of low-income Iowans at stake."

Under the legislation, Iowa would give up nearly $3 million in Medicaid money and create a state-run family planning program that excludes funding for organizations that perform abortions. No family planning money now funds abortions.

Iowa now contributes about $480,000, generating a $2.9 million federal match. Republican Sen. Amy Sinclair, the bill's floor manager, said quality health care would still be provided "in a way that is balanced with the needs and the concerns and the conscientious objections of those taxpayers that we represent who frankly, are offended to their very soul by the intentional and unnecessary termination of the life of another human being."

Sinclair's position as the sole female Republican in the chamber also received attention. Democratic Sen. Janet Petersen noted the bulk of the Republicans voting for the bill "have never gotten completely undressed, put on a paper gown, put their feet up in that stirrups for a pap smear."

"Iowa taxpayers have every right to be angry that we'll be giving up millions of dollars in federal funding to start another government program that will be paid for fully on the backs of Iowa taxpayers," she said.

The bill shifts all expenses to the state. Neither Sinclair nor the other Republicans would answer questions about how they would offset those costs, which will cost at least $3.4 million. The state must also spend $200,000 for administrative expenses tied to the state-run program, according to a fiscal note from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Branstad has confirmed he wants to tap into separate federal funding to pay for the state's new expenses. The governor, nominated to become the next U.S. ambassador to China, has recommended using grant money that typically goes to child and family services, an area of state government that helps needy kids and adults. The Iowa Department of Human Services says the recommendation would reduce funding for preventive programs that help keep at-risk youth out of the child welfare and juvenile justice system.