The 2011 Iowa Legislature removed taxpayer funding for all abortions from the Health and Human Services budget, except for in the case of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Despite this agreement, Iowa taxpayers have footed the bill for seven abortions in the case of “fetal anomalies” during fiscal year 2012, according to documents obtained by TheIowaRepublican.com. The total cost was $2,717.75.
Funding of these abortions is clearly at odds with the agreement reached through the legislature last year. Although state law required that abortions for “fetal anomalies” would no longer be covered, the Iowa Administrative Code was never altered. The code states, under rule 441, 78.1 (17), payment for an abortion is made if “the physician certifies that the fetus is physically deformed, mentally deficient or afflicted with a congenital illness and the physician states the medical indication for determining the fetal condition.”
House Republicans fought hard on the life issue last session. A compromise was finally reached that stripped state funding for certain types of abortions. That was less than what many of them hoped for. Now, they are discovering that even the compromise approved by both the House and the Senate has not been enacted.
“The 2011 legislative agreement and intent was clear – tax dollars would only be used for abortions to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest,” said Representative Dawn Pettingill. “From what I know of our Governor, he will jump on correcting this horrible breach of trust between DHS and our citizens before it happens again.”
So far, that has not happened. The Governor’s office has not taken steps to alter the Administrative Code to make it comply with the 2011 agreements passed by the Iowa Legislature. In their response to legislators’ questions, as well as those from TheIowaRepublican.com, Governor Branstad’s office released a two-page explanation of why these seven abortions were paid for using taxpayer money. The document points out that Iowa Administrative Code has not changed.
Which leads us to the key question. Why wasn’t it changed? Governor Branstad’s office did not respond to that question from TheIowaRepublican.com. Spokesman Tim Albrecht directed us back to the two-page memo.
“I just really feel that the House Caucus was misled,” said Representative Tom Shaw. “I’m not pointing fingers at any one person, but somehow there was a breakdown and the language that got put into the Health and Human Services bill was so vague that it confirmed my suspicions that somehow the agreement would not be adhered to and there would be ways to get around it.”
“My thought is, somebody needs to be held accountable,” said House Representative Glen Massie. “Who authorized it? If there are ambiguities in our language, what are they? Because we have time to correct it in this year’s budget.”
However, the 2012 legislative session will soon come to a close, and the loophole remains. Tom Shaw, Glen Massie and Kim Pearson have tried to pass legislation banning all abortions in Iowa. Those efforts have failed. They have also tried to strip state funding for all abortions. Those efforts have also come up short.
“I think of it simply in black and white, that it’s immoral what we’re doing,” said Representative Shaw. “Not only abortion, but taxpayer funded abortions. I know there are several members of our caucus that are so upset that they didn’t even change the administrative rule and that we have to go to them and demand, why haven’t you?”
“I believe there should have been more communication and cooperation with the legislature, especially with the House and House leadership, so that this didn’t just come to light at the fullest extent during the session,” said Representative Dwayne Alons. ”I think we should have known ahead of time.”
Governor Branstad said during the 2010 campaign that he was pro-life, with the only exceptions being rape, incest and life of the mother. However, the state continues to pay for abortions that go beyond those exceptions despite the legislature removing funding for those abortions. In their memo, Branstad’s office accepts responsibility for these continued payments:
“Iowa Medicaid Enterprises utilizes a contractor for medical services. The medical director and the review team are medical professionals working as contractors for an outside vendor scrutinizing reimbursement. The responsibility of all Medicaid contractors and the Iowa Medicaid Enterprises rests with the Department of Human Services, and ultimately, the Office of the Governor.”
Dawn Pettingill, who is the vice-chair for the House Administrative Rules Committee, is hopeful that Branstad will take steps to make the Iowa Administrative Code in line with the agreement passed by the legislature last year.
“Considering the Governor now knows that through the neglect of one of his departments, at least seven abortions were unlawfully paid for with the taxpayers’ money, I fully expect him to direct his department to immediately get emergency rules in place to honor Iowa law regarding taxpayer funded abortions,” Pettingill said.
Iowa taxpayers have paid for a total of 10 abortions in fiscal year 2012, which runs from July 2011-June 2012. Along with the $2717.75 for “fetal anomaly” abortions, three more were covered via the “life of the mother” exception. The total cost of these was $845.96. The federal government covered $513.58 of that expense.
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