Iowa may absorb $3 million cost of cutting Planned Parenthood funds

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Republican lawmakers said Monday they want the state to foot the bill for a new family planning program that excludes funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that would mean forgoing millions in federal Medicaid funding for the state.
Key GOP lawmakers confirmed they plan to use state money to fund the estimated $3 million state-run program, which would allow Iowa to remove state funding for Planned Parenthood, the state’s leading provider of abortions as well as other family planning services.
The decision to replace the federal money with state funding follows a mid-year budget shortfall of $117 million with additional reductions expected for state departments in the 2018 fiscal year.
“We know we have to make a lot of tough decisions on the budget,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford. “But that’s something that has consistently been a priority of our caucus. Making sure we can fund it is a part of that.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood has been a Republican priority in many states, but few Legislatures have tried to forgo Medicaid money altogether, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.
Even before the Iowa Legislature’s move, no state money paid for abortion services. Republicans, however, contend that no taxpayer dollars should go to Planned Parenthood because of the abortion services it performs with other funding.
Democrats criticized the Republican move, first reported by the Bleeding Heartland blog. Democrats said that funds needed for the new program will force the Department of Human Services to cut funding for other vital programs.
“It’s just fiscally a backward concept. It’s at odds with the Republicans’ own budgeting principles,” said Rep. Chris Hall, a Sioux City Democrat and member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Funding shortfalls have led to cuts in the current Human Services Department budget, and targets for the fiscal year beginning in July would reduce the agency’s budget by an additional $28 million.
Agency spokeswoman Amy McCoy said the department would make funding decisions after lawmakers decide on a budget.
The plan by Republican lawmakers to find that money within the state budget strays from Branstad’s original suggestion of funding the new program by tapping into a federal grant that pays for aid to vulnerable children, adults and families.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, said lawmakers didn’t want to fund the family planning program by cutting money to important federally funded programs and that the Department of Human Services could manage the reduction.
“Every department has a tight budget this year,” Schneider said. “DHS is no different.”
Erin Davison-Rippey, a representative for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, criticized the Legislature’s decision.
“When you look at Iowa’s budget overall, there is no extra money,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate that they would be considering taking money from so many important services that our state is already committed to, in order to pursue this political agenda.”