Iowa House passes bill halting Medicaid funding to abortion providers

Legislation makes exception for hospitals

DES MOINES – Iowa abortion providers would lose all Medicaid funding if they continue to offer the service under legislation approved by the House Wednesday.

The provision – which makes an exception for hospitals – was amended into the Health and Human Services bill on a near party-line vote, with Democrat Nancy Dunkel of Dubuque joining the majority Republicans.

“It concerns me how far your language goes,” said Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City. “It’s extreme.”

Specifically, the language prohibits any individual or organization in Iowa from receiving Medicaid money if it offers abortion services. Hospitals could still receive Medicaid dollars if they provide abortions, although they would not receive Medicaid reimbursements for abortions they perform.

Iowa law allows Medicaid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal abnormalities and when the life of the mother is threatened. The program paid for 22 such abortions in fiscal year 2012, which included five cases of rape.

The current exceptions are no longer satisfactory for Iowans, said Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, who argued in favor of the new restrictions.

“I’ve talked to my constituents. I’ve talked to people all over Iowa,” he said. “As more people have become involved in the discussion, they’ve come to the realization that life begins at conception.”

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said the new language won’t stop abortions, but it would push them underground “where they become unsafe.”

The overall bill appropriates $1.7 billion for a wide variety of programs ranging from child care subsidies to emergency services and nursing homes.It passed on a party-line vote of 52-46 after close to 4 hours of debate. It now heads back to the Senate where it’s expected to end up in a conference committee.

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