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Iowa Gov. Likely To Sign Measure Granting Him Authority To Decide Medicaid Coverage for Abortions

Iowa Gov. Likely To Sign Measure Granting Him Authority To Decide Medicaid Coverage for Abortions

June 11, 2013 — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Friday said he likely will sign into law legislation that would give him the authority over whether the state's Medicaid program covers abortions on a case-by-case basis, the Des Moines Register reports (Obradovich, Des Moines Register, 6/7).

Currently, the state's Medicaid program reimburses providers for a small number of abortions per year in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities or to protect a woman's life. The Iowa Department of Human Services last year spent about $20,000 to cover 22 abortions (Lucey, AP/Huffington Post, 6/7).

Branstad said that while he is a "pro-lifer," he would comply with federal guidelines on the state's use of Medicaid funding, which require the state to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest and to save a woman's life (Des Moines Register, 6/7). He said he would consider in a "thoughtful way" abortions sought in the case of severe fetal abnormalities (AP/Huffington Post, 6/7).

Branstad added, "[A]s I understand it, the decision is not whether there's an abortion or not," but "whether the state is going to approve funding, which is a decision that takes place after the fact" (Des Moines Register, 6/7).

The changes were negotiated as part of a larger health care bill that includes a Democratic proposal to expand the state's Medicaid program and the Republican proposal to give Branstad authority over Medicaid abortion coverage decisions, which they hope will reduce public funding for abortion.

Reaction

Elizabeth Nash -- state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute -- said the proposal "is completely out of the norm of how Medicaid would work in any state." She added, "This idea that the governor or someone in the governor's office would be reviewing medical documents to determine reimbursement is just -- I don't even know how to describe it."

Jill June -- president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland -- also expressed concern, noting that it "creates a great unknown" for women seeking abortions since it would move reimbursement "out of a regulated democratic process to a unilateral decision by the governor." She added, "You won't know what to rely on determining whether or not you're going to have the kind of financial support you thought you would have if you looked at the rules and regulation."

However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D) said, "From my perspective the authorization coming from the governor, [or] coming from the Iowa Department of Human Services is in essence the same" (AP/Huffington Post, 6/7).