If you were listening to Jan Mickelson’s radio program on WHO during the 10 o’clock hour yesterday, you probably heard some troubling news. Mickelson and his guest, Bob Vander Plaats, were discussing plans in the Republican controlled Iowa House of Representatives to provide state funding for abortions.
As one would expect, this was a hot topic with Mickelson’s listeners. However there was just one problem – it wasn’t true.
The state legislature is desperate to pass a budget before the new fiscal year begins tomorrow. The issue that Mickelson and Vander Plaats were discussing on Wednesday morning dealt with the Health and Human Services budget. The Republican controlled House has twice passed a HHS budget, and in doing so, has stripped out money for Medicaid funded abortions in the cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities. Under the Republican version of the bill, Medicaid funded abortion would still be allowed if the mother’s life was in imminent danger or if the baby had already died in utero due to a natural miscarriage and needed to be removed.
Medicaid funded abortion for rape, incest, fetal abnormality and life of the mother have been happening in Iowa since 1978. Iowa Department of Human Services officials have claimed publically that federal law requires abortions to be covered by Medicaid in verified cases of incest, rape, or when the life of the mother is at risk.
As one would expect, the Democrat controlled Senate didn’t go along with the House version of the budget bill. Senate Democrats restored the abortion funding language when it approved its version of the bill. With the bill now back in the House, and hundreds of millions of federal matching funds in the balance, House Republicans are contemplating their next move.
As we saw earlier this year in the U.S. Congress, reducing or eliminating the funding for abortions or abortion providers like Planned Parenthood is something that Democrats simply will not do. In order to remove all funding for abortions in Iowa, Republicans will need to gain a majority in the Senate.
Vander Plaats and the same individuals who blocked and then made it impossible to pass the late term abortion ban, are now employing the same tactics in the final hours before the new fiscal year begins. Not passing the HHS budget could be costly for Iowa as it could mean that the state doesn’t qualify for Medicaid matching funds.
What is the more frustrating is that Vander Plaats and others are misleading the public. Are House Republicans happy that the Senate sent back the HHS budget with the abortion funding reinstated? Of course not. But their critics, including Vander Plaats, make it seem like it’s the House Republican leadership who added the funding back in, not Senate Democrats. They also fail to mention that House Republicans are not simply going to go along with the Senate’s wishes.
Instead, they are trying to add an informed consent requirement that would provide the woman seeking the abortion with information on her baby’s development, as well as a requirement that a woman be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound 24 hours before she has an abortion. Studies have shown that true informed consent and ultrasound requirements often save unborn babies’ lives. To suggest that House Republicans have folded on the abortion issue is nonsense. This is simply a case when one party can’t accomplish all that they want because they have to deal with another chamber that is controlled by the other party.
During Vander Plaats’ time on Mickelson’s show, he said that there is a lack of leadership in the House on this issue. He also claimed that he and his organization, The FAMiLY Leader, have been leading on the abortion issue the entire legislative session. Vander Plaats bemoaned the fact that it’s late June, and the legislature is still debating abortion. He’s upset that nothing has been done to stop Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the late term abortion doctor, from coming into Iowa. Yet, it was Vander Plaats, The FAMiLY Leader, and a few legislators who are to blame from this state of affairs.
If Vander Plaats wants to lament the lack of leadership on this issue, he needs to begin by looking in a mirror. Vander Plaats went on the radio to attack Republicans without even knowing what he was talking about. If you listen to the interview, he first said that he couldn’t believe that, in these difficult financial times, Republicans could find money to pay for abortions.
Vander Plaats was wrong. The government has already been funding these types of abortions though the HSS budget for decades. The only change this year is that Republicans tried to eliminate that funding, but the Democrat Senate will not go along.
Eventually, Vander Plaats figured out that he didn’t know what he was talking about and then said he couldn’t believe that the Republican controlled House wanted to “continue” to fund abortions.
Just like in the Carhart debate, Vander Plaats and those of the same ilk are impossible to debate on these issues because their position is constantly changing. Just look at Rep. Kim Pearson’s complete reversal on the late term abortion ban. One week she is saying that the she can’t support the bill because it still allows babies to be murdered before 20 weeks, but then she supported a similar bill that banned abortions after 18 weeks despite having previously said she’d never support a bill that only restricted abortion instead of banning it. Vander Plaats and his organization also seemed to be all over the map on this issue, depending on what particular day it was.
Also like happened in the late term abortion ban debate, it’s too bad that these people opt to “lead” by misinforming or confusing people. It’s also too bad that Vander Plaats and his supporters are again vilifying pro-life leaders in the House who are doing everything they can to reduce the actual number of abortions that occurs here in Iowa. It’s also unfortunate that they are only willing to “lead” when the ball is in the Republicans’ court, but are quiet as church mice when these issues are being debated in the Democrat controlled Senate. It’s the Senate where we need to apply pressure to advance pro-life legislation, not the Iowa House.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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