June 6, 2013

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Iowa, Latest News

Iowa Bill would give Governor the right to deny Medicaid reimbursements to poor women

BY NORA CAPLAN-BRICKER

The 2014 budget for Iowa’s Department of Human Services is sitting on Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s desk right now, awaiting his signature, and buried within the bill is an amendment that would give his pen an extraordinary power: the right to deny Medicaid reimbursements to poor women who’ve had medically necessary abortions.

By U.S. law, Medicaid covers abortions in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life. Iowa also uses state dollars to cover cases where the fetus is too deformed to survive. But under this proposed amendment, women will only be covered by Medicaid “upon receipt of approval from the office of the governor … for each abortion performed under the program.” Simply put, when a low-income woman gets an abortion to save her own life, or because she doesn’t want to give birth to the child of her rapist (whether he be a stranger or, say, her father), the governor gets to decide—case by case—whether public funds cover that abortion or whether she has to pay for it out of her own pocket (if the clinic declines to swallow the cost).

There’s no precedent for this in any other state, according to Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. And, she pointed out, it certainly doesn’t exist for any other medical procedure. “I can’t think of another health care procedure where a governor would say, ‘I need to approve all of the gastric bypasses in my state that are paid for with public dollars,’” she said.

And yet, the unprecedented amendment has received scant attention. So far, local papers like the Des Moines Register have mostly referenced the anti-abortion provision at the bottom of longer stories about the state budget. The only outlet to give it a prominent headline has been the reproductive-justice watchdog site RH Reality Check.

“It is discriminatory against women and it is misogyny,” said Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which is headquartered in Des Moines. And, if this measure is successful at limiting abortion access, the larger anti-abortion network is bound to notice it. “You can bet that you’ll see this popping up in other states,” June warned.

 

Read the rest at New Republic here.