September 2, 2014

Expanding state-financed pregnancy prevention

A senate committee has approved legislation that would make more women, and even some men, eligible for state money to help prevent pregnancies.

The state currently provides “family planning services” — like “the pill” — for low income women between the ages of 13 and 44. The bill would allow low income women to remain eligible until they reach the age of 55. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, supports extending those services to women over the age of 44 who can still become pregnant. 

 “The tendency for high-risk pregnancies and complications increases and so by having access to family planning services I think we’ll find that families will avoid these unintended pregnancies that could result in complications and difficulties for these families and for these women in particular,” Bolkcom says.

Senator David Hartsuch, a Republican from Bettendorf who is a physician, agrees it make sense to cover older women. But Hartsuch says in a tight budget year, it doesn’t make sense to expand this program.

“There is a blip, shall we say, in the older group. If we look at unintended pregnancies, it actually exists in the younger age and also the older age as well, so I can understand the expansion into the 55-year-old age bracket,” Hartsuch says. “But again I would question whether the additional cost of doing this expansion is going to be wise in light of the fact that we’ve got these other priorities, shall we say, within the Medicaid population.”

The bill which passed the Senate Human Resources Committee this afternoon does not provide any money for the expanded pregnancy prevention effort. The bill would stipulate that low-income men would be eligible for “pregnancy prevention services” which might include vasectomies.

Advocates of the bill, wearing hot pink t-shirts, watched as the bill was adopted in committee. Amanda Kimber Kelinson, a regional organizer for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, was among them.

“So many people in Iowa are losing their jobs and subsequently losing insurance and we want to be able to provide for them while they’re in that tough spot,” Kelinson says. “…You know, being a person that recently got out of college there was a point that I was working without health insurance and had it not been for family planning I would not have been able to cover my reproductive health care, so I’ve benefitted from this and I see the need for it.”

In addition to covering contraceptives, the program as it currently stands also covers annual reproductive health exams for women who are under the age of 44.