Republicans on a key House committee have voted to change the existing state policy which allows the use of state Medicaid dollars to pay for abortions in cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy.

The G.O.P. proposal would only allow Medicaid dollars to spent on abortions to save the mother’s life and would forbid state spending to abort pregnancies caused by rape or incest. 

Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says he understands the mental trauma women who’ve been raped by a relative, an acquaintance or a stranger experience. “But it was the consensus of our (Republican) side of the subcommittee that the fetus inside the woman is also a human being,” Heaton says, “an innocent human being who had no say in how they were created.” 

Representative Lisa Heddens, a Democrat from Ames, questions how the policy might impact young victims of rape or incest.  “You know, someone who has been abused — maybe 13, 14 years old — who is going to go through not only the physical but the mental trauma,” Heddens says. 

The proposed abortion restriction is included in a budget document which outlines the House Republicans’ spending plan for the Department of Human Services.  Heaton says up to 145 staffers in the agency would be cut under the plan that has won initial approval from the House Appropriations Committee.

“This is not a final result. This is not a proposal by me to see where I want to end up on this,” Heaton says. “This is a bill that’s going to open up negotiations with the senate that both the House and Senate could agree on and send to the governor.”

Republicans control the debate agenda in the Iowa House and Democrats control the Senate — and Heaton isn’t ready to say what his ultimate spending target may be.  “Now, if you were to buy a car, you wouldn’t tell ’em what you were going to pay. You’d make an offer,” Heaton says. “This is an offer.”

Heaton is chairman of the budget subcommittee that comes up with an initial draft for spending in the Department of Human Services.