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GOP will renew effort to ban abortion funding

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 12:04 p.m. CDT

DES MOINES (AP) — House Republicans plan to try again to ban the rare use of public money to finance abortions for low-income women, lawmakers said.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said he and other House Republicans are holding preliminary talks on a proposal to prevent Medicaid reimbursement for any abortions. Last fiscal year, the state reimbursed 22 abortions at a cost of $19,402.

“One dollar spent on abortion services is one dollar too much,” Windschitl said Tuesday. “We want to make sure taxpayer dollars are not being used in a morally unconscionable way.”

State and federal laws now limit the abortion funding to low-income women who are rape or incest victims, whose lives will be in danger if they don’t get an abortion, or whose fetuses face severe deformities.

A similar effort delayed Iowa lawmakers during the end of the last legislative session, as Republicans tried to push a rule banning government-funded abortions. Republicans finally gave up on the effort under pressure to end the session. Last summer, House Republicans tried again, this time by sending a petition to the Iowa Department of Human Services that called for ending Medicaid payments for abortions. Agency director Chuck Palmer denied the petition.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, criticized the renewed effort to ban the abortion funding.

“We’ve all been comfortable with the present law as it conforms to the federal law, but it doesn’t satisfy the neo-conservatives. That doesn’t stop them from sending things over that aren’t legal,” said Hatch, chairman of the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, on Tuesday.

Hatch said he expects Republicans to try attaching their proposal to the Health and Human Services Appropriations budget. He said that would slow lawmakers on other issues, such as the effort to approve funding to help needy counties keep their mental health services running.

Asked about such efforts to restrict abortion, Gov. Terry Branstad said he is morally against the practice but would need to review Windschitl’s proposal before supporting it.

“The chances of getting this through the Senate are probably similar to what they were last year,” Branstad said Wednesday.

Of the 22 abortions funded by Medicaid dollars last fiscal year in Iowa, 15 were for severe fatal anomalies such as separation of the brain from the fetus. Two were for rape and five were to save the life of a mother.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, acknowledged Wednesday that Republicans feel an obligation to address abortion, but he would not say whether he would support Windschitl’s measure.

“House Republicans are always interested in having a conversation about protecting innocent life,” Paulsen said.

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