Debating state abortion policy
July 3rd, 2012 by Ric Hanson
State officials have until August 10th to decide how to respond to an attempt to stop government-paid abortions in cases of rape or incest. Last month 41 Republican legislators who oppose abortion asked the Iowa Department of Human Services to rewrite its rules which currently allow tax dollars to pay for some abortions. Abortions are covered under Medicaid if the woman’s the victim of rape or incest, if her life is endangered by the pregnancy, or if a fetal abnormality leads doctors to conclude the baby would not survive past birth. This week several groups have filed a response. Jill June is president and C-E-O of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “This would re-victimize a woman who’s already been through the trauma of a violent crime or who’s facing a pregnancy that’s incompatible with life of the fetus and to withhold health care from her in these circumstances really is heartless,” June says.
This spring a group of Republican lawmakers made a similar attempt to prevent Medicaid patients who’re victims of rape or incest from getting a state-paid abortion. Democrats who prevailed said such a move would jeopardize federal reimbursement to the state and June raises the same argument now. “Iowa law clearly provides that women who are facing a pregnancy as the result of rape or incest or gross fetal anomaly have access to health care, paid by the Medicaid program,” June says, “so this really doesn’t make sense because the law in Iowa and the federal law all agree that this is the right thing to do.” Critics on the other side argue cases of rape or incest aren’t the fault of the fetus, but the fetus gets the death penalty if the mother opts for an abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union argues opponents of abortion are asking the Iowa Department of Human services to make a “procedural run-around that violates Iowa law” about how agencies can make rules. June agrees. “We don’t understand what basis they are making this complaint,” June says. Officials in the Department of Human Services can either dismiss the petition filed by Republican legislators, or start drafting emergency rules to implement the policy abortion opponents seek.