Abortion stand-off threatens Iowa budget deal

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2011 12:49 PM
Abortion stand-off threatens Iowa budget deal

By Kay Henderson

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - An impasse over a proposed new abortion restriction in Iowa threatens to derail efforts to complete work on the state's $5.99 billion budget on Thursday, one day before the new state fiscal year begins.

House Republicans have proposed a new limit on Medicaid-financed abortions to ensure no taxpayer dollars are used to pay for the procedure in Iowa, not even in cases when a patient's life is at risk.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal said the proposal is too extreme.

"They want to say that a woman who has been raped, the abortion will not be covered," Gronstal says.

Under the GOP plan, abortions in cases of incest wouldn't be covered either, or abortions to deal with a miscarriage.

Under rules which have been in force since 1978, Medicaid has covered abortions when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, when there are profound fetal deformities, when the mother's life is in danger, or when an abortion is necessary because of a miscarriage.

Rusty Martin, a spokesman for Democrats in the Iowa Senate, said 20 to 22 abortions a year on average are covered under these circumstances.

Rep. Matt Windschitl said his fellow Republicans in the Iowa House believe strongly that no taxpayer dollars should be used to pay for any abortion, regardless of the circumstances, and they're willing to stand their ground on the issue even if it means the state budget plan isn't finalized in time.

"It doesn't mean that's what we want to do. That's not what we want to do. We want to reach resolution for Iowans. We want to take care of their priorities, but at the same time you have to make sure that you're taking care of all the priorities. You can't just negate one issue to try and get the other one done," Windschitl said.

Rep. Dave Heaton, a Republican, has been leading a 10-member committee which has been struggling to reach a compromise on the issue. He says it's now in the hands of the governor and top legislative leaders.

Senator Gronstal told reporters the only thing that stands in the way of adjournment is the stalemate over abortion.

"That is the only issue left that separates us," he said.

(Writing and reporting by Kay Henderson; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan)