Branstad pushes plan to defund Planned Parenthood in final address


DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad urged Iowa legislators on Tuesday to defund Planned Parenthood and prohibit public workers from bargaining for their health insurance, positions expected to create tension with Democrats unable to stop such efforts.

Branstad made the remarks during his annual Condition of the State address at the Iowa Capitol. The Republican governor kept the remarks on abortion brief, but its inclusion in the roughly 30-minute speech also signified what he may push during his remaining time in office. Branstad is expected to resign soon to become the next ambassador to China, but the timing is dependent on the U.S. Senate confirmation process.

“This budget … redirects family planning money to organizations that focus on providing health care for women and eliminates taxpayer funding for organizations that perform abortions,” he said before receiving a standing ovation from Republicans. Democrats remained seated.

Republicans have complete control of the Iowa Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years. No state taxpayer money is currently used on abortions, but their focus on eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood highlights a longstanding ideological effort that’s been stopped by Democrats over the years.

Republicans with control in other statehouses around the country have passed legislation in recent years aimed at abortion restrictions, and similar action is expected in Iowa this session.

Other states that pulled the plug on using state dollars toward Planned Parenthood ran into legal challenges over federal funding, but Iowa Republicans are seeking a somewhat different course.

They plan to stop accepting federal Medicaid money that goes toward family planning services and instead replace it with state money for some of those services. It’s unclear how much a new state program would cost, though the issue may evolve if the new Republican Congress and President-elect Donald Trump change how Medicaid federal dollars are distributed.