DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds gave her approval Friday evening to two emotionally charged measures that surfaced only in the final hours of this year’s legislative session — one exempting Medicaid from covering transgender medical procedures and another banishing Planned Parenthood from being involved in state sex education programs in public schools.
Those provisions are included in a sweeping nearly $2 billion budget that funds state departments covering health care, public health, veterans affairs and aging Iowans in fiscal 2020.
When lawmakers debated that budget, most disagreement was not over funding amounts but rather over the hot-button policies also included in House File 766.
One such provision states that state and local governments are not required to cover gender reassignment surgery under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
Republican lawmakers previously passed legislation banning the use of public funds for gender reassignment surgery sought by transgender individuals. But that was struck down by Iowa courts, which cited the state’s Civil Rights Act that includes transgender individuals as a protected class.
The new measure puts into state law that the Civil Rights Act does not require government bodies to cover the surgery.
“This narrow provision simply clarifies that Iowa’s Civil Rights Act does not require taxpayer dollars to pay for sex reassignment and other similar surgeries. This returns us to what had been the state’s position for years,” Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett said in a statement.
The new law, however, likely also will be challenged in court.
Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, executive director of One Iowa Action, in a statement described the provision as “cruel and outdated language that enshrines discrimination in Iowa law.”
One Iowa Action is a nonprofit organization that advocates for lesbian. gay, bisexual and transgender Iowans.
“By signing this cruel legislation into law, Gov. Reynolds has told every transgender Iowan that they are second-hand citizens and unwelcome in our state,” Hoffman-Zinnel said. “Make no mistake, this law threatens people’s lives. It also won’t stand up to legal muster, and will stick taxpayers with the bill for ensuing lawsuits. Today is a shameful day to be an Iowan.”
The budget bill Reynolds signed into law also contains a provision barring Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from being state contractors for the personal responsibility and sexual risk avoidance grant programs.
Statehouse Republicans in previous years stripped other funding to Planned Parenthood over their objections that the women’s reproductive health care provider performs abortions.
Statehouse Democrats, during debate of the budget bill, decried the lack of a funding boost or new policies to address continued issues with the private management of the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program.
They said the Planned Parenthood restriction would actually lead to more unplanned pregnancies, and Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines appealed to Reynolds to veto those two items.
“Senate Democrats remain committed to expanding civil rights for Iowans, supporting policies that will result in fewer unplanned pregnancies and abortion, and making Medicaid accountable, affordable and sustainable again,” the caucus said in a statement Friday.
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In the Corridor, the Iowa City, Linn-Mar, College Community, Solon and Marion Independent districts said they do not work with Planned Parenthood to provide sex education. The Cedar Rapids, Clear Creek Amana, and Mount Vernon district have either not responded or not provided an answer.
Molly Duffy of The Gazette contributed to this report.
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