By Kay Henderson
DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa Republican legislators backed down from proposed abortion restrictions on Thursday in a deal that cleared the way to complete a $5.99 billion state budget hours before the new fiscal year begins.
House Republicans had proposed new restrictions to prevent all taxpayer-funded abortions at the University of Iowa. The compromise maintained funding, while requiring hospital staff to inform pregnant women of other options such as adoption and give them an opportunity to see an ultrasound.
The debate over abortion restrictions was the last issue to resolve before legislators could complete action on next year's state budget plan. Governor Terry Branstad expressed relief.
"Here it is, the last day of the fiscal year," Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said. "And it looks like they're going to get done."
The agreement was approved by the House and the Senate as part of a larger spending bill and both adjourned.
Under rules in place for 33 years, Medicaid patients in Iowa who are the victims of rape or incest, who have had a miscarriage, who have a profoundly deformed fetus or who find their lives endangered by the pregnancy have been able to obtain a taxpayer-funded abortion at the University of Iowa.
Republican Representative Matt Windschitl said requiring hospital staff to inform women of other options and give them an opportunity for an ultrasound were huge steps.
"If you look at the statistical figures, women who view an ultrasound before an abortion, the majority of the time they choose to continue the pregnancy and to actually bring that child into the world," Windschitl said.
Windschitl had said his fellow state House Republicans had believed strongly that no taxpayer dollars should be used to pay for any abortion, regardless of the circumstances, and they were willing to stand their ground even if it meant a delay in the state budget.
(Writing and reporting by Kay Henderson; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, David Bailey and Greg McCune)