Iowa groups oppose abortion emergency rules request

GOP lawmakers seeking to halt state funding for abortions in rape, incest cases

DES MOINES — Two Iowa-based groups filed objections Monday to a petition brought by 41 Republican legislators that seeks emergency rules from the state Department of Human Services to stop government-funded abortions for victims of rape or incest.

The petition contends that rules permitting Medicaid-funded abortions of 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that are physically or mentally deformed, or those conceived in cases of rape or incest, are illegal and should be rescinded.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 from the GOP members of the Iowa House, which calls for the human services agency to forego notice and public participation in rewriting the administrative rules governing abortion coverage under Iowa Medicaid

The objections filed by officials with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa urge the department 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.

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.

“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 runaround that violates Iowa law about how administrative agencies can make rules,” he added. “Iowa law is very clear about when emergency rule making is allowed and when it’s inappropriate.”

According to state human services officials, the law permits federal funds to be used for abortions to save the life of the mother or for rape or incest.In Iowa, department officials said, 22 Medicaid-funded abortions were performed in fiscal 2012, which ended Saturday. 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.