Lawmakers have placed their dubious stamp on women’s reproductive health care, creating new barriers to family planning and mandating nearly all pregnancies continue to term. Absent, however, are government policies that signal Iowa families remain a priority.
The disconnect began in earnest in 2017 with a Republican plan to forego federal family planning funding to create a state-run program that could exclude abortion providers. Faced with revenue shortfalls and a tightening state budget, then-Gov. Terry Branstad recommended raiding a fund intended to keep Iowa children off welfare and out of the juvenile justice system.
This year, lawmakers passed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law in hope of sparking a lengthy and expensive court battle. They debated limiting funds for sex education. Other reproductive health laws remain in legal limbo while taxpayers pick up the tab and the budget is slashed.
Key losers in this monetary tug-of-war are educational institutions, and the Iowa families they serve. Universities and community colleges are preparing tuition hikes and considering program closures. Stagnant wages make in-state academic talent ripe for poaching.
While inadequate K-12 funding continues, lawmakers dealt another blow to school districts by refusing extend the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) sales tax. The one-cent tax, earmarked for infrastructure and property tax relief, sunsets in 2029, but many local districts borrow against the money. By not extending the tax, lawmakers hindered districts’ ability to access funding, and increased the possibility of local tax hikes.
Although nearly 25 percent of Iowa third-graders did not meet reading proficiency standards, lawmakers couldn’t find funding for a summer literacy program, which they ultimately scrapped.
Iowa continues to have one of the lowest eligibility levels for child care assistance. Child care providers are woefully reimbursed, resulting in an infant and toddler child care crisis and ever-widening child care deserts.
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Likewise, mental health providers also suffer from low reimbursement rates, contributing to Iowa’s dismal ranking for such services, especially for children.
Lawmakers chose to bar local jurisdictions from raising the minimum wage, and saw fit to pass tax cuts that give nearly half of all benefits to the state’s top earners.
From collective bargaining rights to workers’ compensation benefits, the current Legislature has turned longstanding, bipartisan state labor policy upside-down. All of which results in a more fragile safety net for working families.
An underfunded and understaffed child welfare system contributed to the despicable deaths of two teens adopted out of the state’s foster care system. Other teens who escaped horrific circumstances testified at the Statehouse. Legislative response was a last-minute, meager requirement for families to document doctor visits.
Lawmakers cannot brandish “pro-life” credentials while crafting family planning and abortion restrictions, and then cast such compassionate sentiments aside after Iowans are born.
The past two years have been one bill after another supposedly aimed at protecting and caring for the unborn. Perhaps, in the next two, post-birth Iowans will be afforded similar consideration.
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