The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Iowa

February 19, 2014

Unusual Iowa abortion rule has surprising result

DES MOINES — While many states passed sweeping abortion laws last year, the Iowa General Assembly endorsed just one — a perplexing measure befitting one of the few legislatures under divided control.

The GOP-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate, in a compromise, put Gov. Terry Branstad in charge of signing off on any payments for publicly funded abortions. Republicans believed the added scrutiny might be a brake on abortions under Medicaid. Democrats noted the measure applied only to reimbursements, not approval ahead of time.

But about seven months after the new rule took effect, the consequences have surprised everyone, and illustrated the trickiness of bipartisan lawmaking on the issue. Branstad, a Republican and abortion opponent, hasn’t approved any payments. But the few patients who were eligible for Medicaid-funded abortions received them anyway.

That’s because the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics — where most of these procedures have been done in past years — simply decided not to bill the state for the 15 it had performed as of mid-February.

Those on all sides of the issue are now pondering what the work-around means for them and the larger abortion battle.

Abortion rights advocates aren’t happy even though patients lost no access.

“At its heart it’s very deceitful. The governor gets to say he never approved any Medicaid payments because no one ever asked him to. He’s never presented with the bill,” said Jill June, longtime president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Conservative Republicans see something gained.

“The ultimate goal is to make sure taxpayer dollars are not being used for a purpose that people find morally unconscionable,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl.

Branstad, who is running for re-election, was spared some difficult decisions. Denying payments could have put him in violation of federal guidelines that require Medicaid to fund abortions in some cases.

“This was a compromise that was worked out by the legislature. It’s not something we recommended,” Branstad said, when asked for his thoughts on the outcome.

University spokesman Tom Moore said the state-owned hospital system decided to absorb the $27,500 cost of the procedures to stay out of the “politics of this matter.”

Iowa’s Medicaid program typically covers only a small number of abortions each year. Federal guidelines require the state to pay in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. Iowa’s program also covers some cases of fetal deformity.

Conservatives have tried to pass tougher restrictions on abortions, but have been stymied in the Senate. But last spring the political environment enabled some creative deal making. The policy change was included in a dense health care bill that included accepting additional federal dollars to expand low-income health care in the state, a key priority for Democrats.

Democrats reluctantly agreed to give the governor power over reimbursements –— a provision unique to Iowa. It now seems moot.

“I think what’s important is that the women that need these important health care services are getting them and there’s no barrier to them,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom.

The University of Iowa Hospital system is owned by the university, which is a state department.

 

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Iowa
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    April 19, 2014

  • U of I burn center sees jump in ammonia burns

    The University of Iowa Burn Treatment Center is reporting a higher-than-normal number of patients suffering from anhydrous ammonia burns.

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    April 19, 2014

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  • Prosecutor says 6 felon voting cases will proceed

    A prosecutor pursuing several cases against felons charged with voting illegally says an Iowa Supreme Court ruling shouldn't impact them.Assistant Black Hawk County Attorney Linda Fangman said Thursday the prosecutions will "proceed as is," despite Tuesday's ruling suggesting that not all felons lose their voting rights. She's handling felony election misconduct cases against six offenders accused of voting in the 2012 election even though they lost their rights. A seventh may plead guilty Monday.

    April 18, 2014

  • Iowa's unemployment rate climbs to 4.5 percent

    Iowa's unemployment rate climbed to 4.5 percent in March as more people entered the labor force.

    Iowa Workforce Development announced Friday the rate was up from 4.4 percent in February. It compared to a 4.8 percent unemployment rate in March 2013.

    April 18, 2014

  • Branstad signs school radon bill into law

    The Iowa Department of Education must gather information from schools about whether they are testing for radon gas under a bill Gov. Terry Branstad has signed into law.

    Branstad signed the bill Thursday to require school districts to tell the department about radon testing by the end of this year. The department must then report to the Legislature by January.

    April 17, 2014

  • Gaming commission rejects Cedar Rapids casino

    The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rejected a proposed $164 million Cedar Rapids casino Thursday, saying it would hurt existing casinos.

    Supporters of the Cedar Crossing Casino development have said it would give an economic boost to Cedar Rapids and the region. They also argued it would be a catalyst for development in an area ravaged by a 2008 flood, create jobs and generate millions for tax revenue and charities.

    April 17, 2014

  • Iowa Senate race suddenly more competitive

    A catchy political ad and a gotcha video have raised Republican hopes of capturing the Senate seat in Iowa, a prospect that would greatly enhance the party's chances of regaining control of the Senate.

    Republicans are adding the seat, held for three decades by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, to their list of winnable races in the November midterm elections.

    April 17, 2014

  • Iowa board boss cites pressure from administration

    The chairman of the state's Public Employment Relations Board says aides to Gov. Terry Branstad pressured the board to hire a friend of the administration.

    The Des Moines Register reports that the pressure was part of the administration's effort to stack the deck against public employee complaints.

    April 17, 2014

  • Davenport officials arrest 4 in child abuse case

    Authorities say they have arrested four women in connection to possible child sex abuse and pornography at a Davenport trailer park.

    The Scott County Sheriff's Office says the women were taken into custody Wednesday. They are all charged with felony counts of child endangerment.

    April 16, 2014

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