Iowans aren't buying the Republican case against Planned Parenthood funding

Iowa Republican lawmakers have been trying to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services for years. Since they acquired the power to make their vision a reality, the issue has attracted much more public attention and news coverage. At the statehouse and in media availabilities, Republicans have repeated talking points about “access” and not wanting to “subsidize” abortion providers.

The latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register indicates they aren’t convincing anyone.

William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register on February 13,

Seventy-seven percent of adult Iowans surveyed favor continued state funding for non-abortive services at Planned Parenthood, up 3 percentage points from February 2016. Eighteen percent do not support that funding going to Planned Parenthood and 5 percent are not sure.

The poll found 62 percent of Republicans believe non-abortion funding should continue, as do 62 percent of evangelical Christians. […]

The poll shows 81 percent of Iowa women and 73 percent of men back continued public funding for Planned Parenthood. All Iowa age groups supported continued funding, including 87 percent support among Iowans under 35 years old. Support is strong in both urban and rural Iowa, with 83 percent of city dwellers supporting continued funding compared with 67 percent of rural residents.

Selzer’s poll of 802 Iowans was in the field from February 6 through 9, a few days after the Iowa Senate approved Senate File 2 along party lines.

As Planned Parenthood funding has become a more salient issue, Iowans have not gravitated toward the Republican position. On the contrary, the GOP stance had marginally more support in last year’s survey:

The Iowa Poll shows that 74 percent of Iowa adults want the state to continue paying Planned Parenthood for health services other than abortion. Just 22 percent oppose such payments. Even among Republicans, a slight majority support continuing the payments. […]

The Iowa Poll shows that Republicans are split on the issue, with 51 percent favoring continued state financing of non-abortion services at Planned Parenthood and 48 percent saying it should be ended. Among Democrats, 94 percent favor continued funding, while just 4 percent oppose it. Political independents favor state financing of such services by 75 percent to 19 percent.

Seventy-eight percent of women want continued state financing of non-abortion services at Planned Parenthood, compared to 70 percent of men, the poll shows. Young people are more likely than their elders to favor it. Eighty-four percent of Iowa adults younger than 35 support continued funding, compared to 60 percent of people 65 or older.

Anti-abortion activists like Danny Carroll, who lobbies for the FAMiLY Leader group led by Bob Vander Plaats, claim recent GOP election victories validate their position: “Last November the voters spoke loud and clear: They do not want their tax dollars spent on any organization that subsidizes abortion.”

In fact, few if any Iowa GOP candidates highlighted plans to defund Planned Parentood. I didn’t see any television commercial for any state House or Senate race mention the issue, nor did I see any candidates in competitive districts include such a promise in their direct mail. If someone has evidence to the contrary, please send it to me; my e-mail address is near the lower right corner of this page.

Available evidence suggests that most Iowans, even most Republicans, understand it’s foolish to take money away from an organization that has provided quality, affordable family planning services for decades.

I wonder how much higher support for Planned Parenthood would be if more Iowans knew creating a fully state-run family planning program will cost ten times more, and that Republicans have yet to identify a reliable funding stream for this $3 million a year expense.

Leading the Democratic opposition to this bill on the Senate floor February 2, State Senator Janet Petersen told her colleagues,

We know the Iowa Family Planning Waiver works.

It has helped reduce abortions and Medicaid costs in Iowa.

The Iowa Family Planning Network is inexpensive for taxpayers.

Iowa’s Family Planning Network program has saved Iowa taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars. […]

I questioned several bill sponsors about how their new program would “increase access.” Not one senator could answer the question.

Iowa women aren’t buying your “increased access” talking point.

That is because SF 2 DOES NOT “INCREASE ACCESS” to providers.


In fact it will force thousands of Iowa women to leave a provider they chose and go to a provider selected by 29 politicians.

It will disqualify many of Iowa’s most qualified health specialists from serving Iowa women in the program.

Providers aren’t magically going to fall out of the sky for this new program.

Unfortunately, Republicans won’t drop this bill over small matters like what their constituents want, or the lack of sufficient providers to meet demand for Planned Parenthood’s range of services, or even the horrific consequences of a similar policy in Texas. To the victor goes the spoils.

An Iowa House subcommittee advanced Senate File 2 on February 13, with Republicans Kevin Koester and Shannon Lundgren supporting the bill and Democrat Beth Wessel-Kroeschell opposing it. You can watch testimony and lawmakers’ remarks during the hourlong meeting here.

The GOP holds 59 of the 100 Iowa House seats. To my knowledge, State Representatives Ashley Hinson and Bobby Kaufmann are the only Republicans to say publicly that they might vote against defunding Planned Parenthood. I welcome tips about other possible defectors, but this bill will eventually reach Governor Terry Branstad, and he will sign it.

Then during the appropriations process, Republicans will figure out how to pay the up-front costs of a new family planning program. The Branstad administration favors taking $3 million a year from the federal Social Services Block Grant, incurring hidden costs as those dollars would no longer be available for vulnerable children and disabled adults.

It’s an unpopular disaster in the making. After hundreds of people came to the statehouse to back Planned Parenthood, and the new Des Moines Register poll revealed widespread passive support for the organization, Republicans can’t say no one warned them.

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