December 18, 2014

DHS director: abortion proposal would have put $2.1 billion in jeopardy

One of Governor Branstad’s top administrators has rejected a request from House Republicans to forbid taxpayer-financed abortions in cases of rape and incest.

Iowa Department of Human Services director Charles Palmer sent a letter to the House Republicans who made the request. Palmer said he respected their “deep feelings” on the issue,” but had to reject their attempt to force his agency to eliminate Medicaid funding of abortions in cases of rape or incest.

Palmer said such a move would “violate federal funding requirements” and would “jeopardize all” the money the State of Iowa gets from the federal government to cover Medicaid expenses. House Republicans had argued Iowa would only lose $6 million, but Palmer concluded over $2.1 billion in federal funding would be in jeopardy if he had granted the request.

The top Democrat in the Iowa House said he was “pleased Governor Branstad put the brakes on this latest attempt by House Republicans to deny health care options to women who are victims of rape or incest.” House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans should “put aside their social agenda” and focus on “putting Iowans back to work.”

In June, 41 Republicans in the Iowa House filed a petition to try to halt Medicaid funding for abortions in cases of rape or incest, saying it was a violation of state law to do use taxpayer dollars for such abortions. The petition gave DHS administrators a deadline of August 10 for a decision.

Republicans tried in each of the past two years to pass new abortion limits through the Iowa legislature, but Democrats in the Iowa Senate rejected those efforts.