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Groups challenge petition to halt government-funded abortions in Iowa

Groups challenge petition to halt government-funded abortions in Iowa

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DES MOINES | Two groups filed objections Monday to a petition brought by 41 Republican legislators seeking emergency rules to stop government-funded abortions for victims of rape or incest.

The petition brought by the GOP members of the Iowa House contends that rules allowing for abortions paid by Medicaid for fetuses that are physically or mentally deformed or those conceived in cases of rape or incest are illegal and should be rescinded. The state has until Aug. 10 to respond to the request for emergency rulemaking.

The objections filed by officials with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa urge the state Department of Human Services to reject the petition, which they say demands that women qualified for Medicaid be denied reimbursement for abortions resulting from rape, incest, or a devastating fetal health diagnosis.

“The lack of compassion for a woman who has already been through the trauma of rape or incest is reprehensible. Forcing her to continue a pregnancy as a result of a violent crime simply because she doesn’t have the financial resources to pay for an abortion is cruel,” Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement. “Rape and incest do not discriminate based upon a woman’s financial situation, and our laws shouldn’t either.”

She said the petition should be denied because the proposed rule change would violate federal Medicaid laws, misconstrues relevant state laws and likely would jeopardize Iowa’s share of $1.2 billion in federal Medicaid funds the state receives annually.

“It is unconscionable that these lawmakers, blinded by their ideological views to ban abortion, would rather jeopardize all of Iowa’s Medicaid funding than reimburse a victim of rape or incest for abortion,” June added in her statement. She noted that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Women’s Law Center and the ACLU of Iowa joined her group in objecting to the petition’s demand that the department forgo notice and public participation before rewriting the administrative rules governing abortion coverage under Iowa Medicaid.

“The petitioners ask the department to withhold medical coverage from women who have been raped or whose pregnancy has taken a catastrophic turn,” ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Ben Stone said in a statement. “It doesn't get more mean-spirited than that.”

“Their petition asks the department for a procedural run-around that violates Iowa law about how administrative agencies can make rules,” he added. “Iowa law is very clear about when emergency rulemaking is allowed, and when it’s inappropriate.”

According to DHS officials, federal law permits federal funds to be used for abortions to save the life of the mother or for rape or incest. In Iowa, 22 Medicaid-paid abortions were performed in fiscal 2012, which ended Saturday, according to DHS officials. Of those, 15 were for severe fetal anomalies, five were performed to save the life of the mother and two were for situations that involved rape. There were no requests for Medicaid payments to abort a pregnancy caused by incest.


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