Family planning program change could open doors to UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint St. Luke's
UnityPoint St. Luke's

A change in Iowa’s family planning program could restore state funding to UnityPoint Health hospitals and clinics.

The Health and Human Services budget, passed by the state Legislature in the last days of the session, would allow clinics and hospitals to sign up for the program individually if they are a part of a nonprofit health care system — which includes facilities affiliated with UnityPoint Health.

If signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, the budget would require an affiliated provider to submit paperwork confirming it provides family planning services “but does not perform abortions or maintain or operate as a facility where abortions are performed.”

The $3 million Family Planning Program was created by legislators this past July to funnel state funds to women’s health care clinics that don’t perform abortions.

Although no state money previously had been directed toward abortion services, Iowa rejected federal funding for health care providers that offered family planning services — such as birth control, exams and sexually transmitted infection testing — for low-income Iowans.

Planned Parenthood, which had benefited from the federal dollars, lost $2 million from its budget. The organization closed four of its 12 clinics — in Bettendorf, Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City — as a result.

UnityPoint Health was blocked out as well. According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, the health system was not eligible to participate in the state’s new program because some providers perform abortions in certain situations.


However, UnityPoint officials pushed back, saying the state shouldn’t exclude the majority of the system’s hospitals and clinics that do not provide abortion services.

“As a large organization, encompassing many providers and different levels of care, we appreciate partnerships with federal and state programs and insurance companies that allow us to provide the necessary access, services and quality,” Teresa Thoensen, UnityPoint Health spokeswoman, said in an email Friday. “The state of Iowa’s recent change in the Family Planning Program language was an essential component to ensure continuation of care to our patients and communities.”

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which has providers that also perform limited abortions, remains barred from the Family Planning Program. UIHC has not appealed the state decision.

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