# Family Planning

New abortion restrictions could stall in the Iowa House

Iowa Republicans vowed late last year to pass new abortion restrictions modeled on a Nebraska statute which in effect bans the procedure after the 20th week of gestation. Abortions are already illegal in Iowa after the sixth month of pregnancy except if a doctor believes the procedure could “preserve the life or health” of the pregnant woman. The new bill, House File 5, asserts that an “unborn child” can experience pain after the 20th week of gestation and bans abortions after that time unless “The pregnant woman has a condition which the physician deems a medical emergency” or “It is necessary to preserve the life of the unborn child.”

Very few abortions are performed in Iowa after the 20th week of pregnancy. In 2006 just nine out of more than 6,700 abortions occurred at the 21th week of gestation or later. Of the 5,829 abortions performed in Iowa in 2009, only six were induced after the 20th week. However, Republicans want to prevent Dr. LeRoy Carhart from opening a clinic in Council Bluffs to serve women seeking abortions after 20 weeks. Carhart had worked with Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas for more than a decade but moved to Omaha after Tiller’s assassination in 2009. The new Nebraska law prompted Carhart to close his Omaha clinic. Last month he began working at a Maryland clinic.

Iowa House Republican leaders have expressed confidence about passing new abortion restrictions. They have a 60 to 40 majority with no pro-choice members of their caucus. I believe this legislation could pass the Iowa Senate, because unlike the 1980s and 1990s, there are no longer any pro-choice Republicans to cancel out the votes of Democrats supporting more restrictions on reproductive rights. Governor Terry Branstad would be eager to sign any anti-choice bill.

However, Craig Robinson reported yesterday that House File 5 lacks the votes to clear the Iowa House Human Resources Committee. Two of the most conservative first-term GOP legislators, Kim Pearson and Glen Massie, serve on that committee and oppose the bill, presumably because it would not go far enough to restrict abortions. Without their support, Republicans can count on only 10 votes in the 21-member committee. According to Robinson, Iowa Right to Life, the Iowa Catholic Conference, and the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition all support House File 5. But the FAMiLY LEADER organization led by Bob Vander Plaats and others from the Iowa Family Policy Center oppose the bill.

Pearson and Massie will face tremendous pressure to change their position. I wouldn’t be surprised if they vote for House File 5 after all. But if they resist carrots or sticks Republican leaders wave at them, the bill could be dead for the 2011 session.

Speaking of reproductive rights, no one in the House Republican caucus seems to realize that the family planning spending cuts in House File 45, which passed the chamber on January 19, would likely increase the number of early abortions performed in Iowa. It’s sadly typical for anti-choice politicians to oppose effective means to prevent unintended pregnancies.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth posted a good rundown on the GOP split over this bill.

No-brainer: Planned Parenthood PAC endorses Culver

To no one’s surprise, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s political arm, called the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC, endorsed Governor Chet Culver’s re-election bid today. Planned Parenthood’s PAC (at that time called the Freedom Fund) supported Culver during the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary and in that year’s general election against Jim Nussle, and the PAC’s statement issued today explains the decision to back him again:

“Governor Chet Culver has done more to reduce the need for abortion and increase access for women’s health care than his opponent ever will,” said Jill June, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “During the primary debates, Terry Branstad has made it clear that he would cut basic health care services to more than 50,000 Iowan women by choosing to cut Planned Parenthood as a service provider.”

PAC chair Phyllis Peters cited Governor Culver’s record. “Governor Culver has strongly supported the health care needs of women in many different ways. He has supported vaccine coverage for the HPV vaccine, the only vaccine to prevent cervical cancer; funded the state match to the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver to provide contraception to low income women; supported medically accurate sexuality education in our schools; and supported extending the age a woman can qualify for family planning services. Women in Iowa can count on Governor Culver to listen, understand and respond to the very real health needs of women.”

In the primary campaign candidate Terry Branstad indicated that he would support an Iowa law similar to one just passed in Oklahoma, which would require an invasive sonogram for women who seek abortions. Unlike sonograms currently used in Iowa, this would require a sonogram where a probe is inserted in the woman to show the image of the fetus, even for victims of rape and incest.

“Terry Branstad believes in using intimidation tactics to prevent women from their legal rights. That’s not what Iowan’s believe or want in our state,” said Jill June. “The Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC is speaking out against these tactics of discrimination and intimidation, as we show our support for Governor Culver.”

Branstad generally avoids mentioning Planned Parenthood by name, but this spring he repeatedly said Iowa “should not provide funding for organizations that provide abortion services.” That wording left the misleading impression that state funding pays for abortions, but no government money pays for any abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. Most of the state funding to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland covers contraception and is matched on a 9:1 basis by the federal government through the Medicaid family planning program. (That is, every dollar from the state budget is matched by $9 from Medicaid.)

It’s outrageous that Branstad, the former president of a medical school, would support an Oklahoma abortion law that lets the government dictate how some doctors should care for their patients and even how they should talk to their patients. So much for government not getting between you and your doctor.

Culver slammed the Oklahoma approach in this statement his campaign released today:

“I am so pleased to receive the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC. I’ve worked very hard in my first term to maintain and improve family planning and women’s rights in the state of Iowa and I am proud to have their support in this election.  By contrast, Terry Branstad doesn’t trust the women of Iowa to make their own health care decisions.

“What’s ironic is that the women and men of Iowa cannot trust Branstad on health care. When he was at Des Moines University, he supported mandates. When he was campaigning  in the Republican primary, he opposed mandates. Iowans can only guess as to his position tomorrow. What is clear is that he thinks requirements such as allowing adult children to continue to be insured on their parents’ policy or prohibiting people from being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions is too intrusive but forcing victims to have invasive procedures is all right.

“Branstad even campaigned on enacting a law similar to the one passed in Oklahoma. The law requires a woman to have an invasive and expensive sonogram, for no medical reason, prior to receiving some services, forcing women who are victims of rape or incest to re-live these horrifying violent crimes. Well, I believe that is wrong.

“Terry Branstad is out of touch on this issue. He even refused to comment on the endorsement today because he knows that he’s on the wrong side of women’s issues.

“I have worked hard to invest in a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her health care and I will continue that investment.”

Click here for background on Branstad’s inconsistent stand regarding a proposed individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

No doubt we’ll hear more this fall about Branstad opposing reproductive rights, because it fits Culver’s message about Branstad pushing failed ideas of the past.

Continue Reading...

Don't believe everything Republicans tell you about spending cuts

Yesterday the Iowa House State Government Committee voted down a Republican plan to cut state spending by $290 million in the coming year. State Representative and gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants offered the plan as an amendment to the government reorganization bill. He said his party was trying to “work in a bipartisan way” and make “tough decisions” to balance the budget for the coming year. All twelve Democrats on the House State Government Committee voted against the GOP amendment, while the nine Republicans voted for it. Later the same day, the committee approved the reorganization bill on a 20-1 vote, with only Rants opposed.

We are sure to hear more from Rants and other Republicans about how big, bad Democrats rejected their good ideas for spending cuts. A closer look reveals funny math in the Republican “plan.”

The biggest line item is “$92.3 million, end all state benefits to adult illegal immigrants.” The Iowa House Republican caucus claims this number comes from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The implication is that the state of Iowa hands out $92.3 million in cash to illegal immigrants.

But that’s not the case. From a report by the Legislative Services Agency on “Undocumented Immigrants’ Cost to the State” (pdf file):

The only government services that illegal immigrants are eligible for are elementary and secondary public education and emergency health care.1 Most citizens do not gain direct benefits from a majority of government spending. Instead, government programs are intended to benefit society as a whole through maintenance of a healthy economy, satisfying public health and safety concerns, providing basic infrastructure, etc. Although undocumented immigrants do not receive most direct benefits, the total benefit of State spending is assumed to accrue to undocumented immigrants at the same rate as legal residents.

The LSA divides total spending from the state general fund by the state’s total population to calculate roughly how much in “benefits” each Iowa resident receives annually. This isn’t a cash payment from the state to residents; it represents each individual’s share of benefit from the state paying for schools, roads, and so on.

Iowa House Republicans arrived at the $92.3 million figure by dividing total general fund expenditures by the number of undocumented immigrants currently estimated to be living in Iowa. They call the remainder “benefits” that illegal immigrants receive. But there’s no magic wand we can wave to make immigrants stop benefiting indirectly from what state government does. The same LSA report noted:

Undocumented immigrants qualify for few services at the State level, and those for which they do qualify are largely mandated by federal law or the Courts. Therefore, decreasing undocumented immigrant eligibility for State spending does not appear to be a viable policy option. Additionally, if the assumption that undocumented immigrants accrue benefits even without receiving direct services is considered valid, attempting to reduce direct State expenditures on undocumented immigrants would have a minimal effect.

By the way, proof of citizenship and identification are already required for Iowans participating in Medicaid and HAWK-I (the children’s health insurance program).

Scoring points against undocumented immigrants may be good for Rants politically, but that won’t help the state of Iowa save $92.3 million in the coming year. That one item represents nearly a third of the Republican-proposed spending cuts.

I’ve posted the full list of cuts after the jump. Some ideas may have merit, but most of them reflect skewed Republican priorities for state government. GOP legislators want to save $45 million by reducing access to pre-school for four-year-olds. They also want to invest less in renewable energy production and energy efficiency measures by eliminating the Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence, which would $25 million. Many Republicans never liked the core curriculum, so it’s no surprise they’d like to save some money by delaying its implications. The Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll in November indicated that Iowans support higher spending on renewable energy research and development and are divided over whether to cut funds for expanded free pre-school.

Some of the smaller Republican-backed cuts would please conservative interests. The religious right would love to eliminate the family planning waiver. Rants has always been a good friend to tobacco companies, who would love to see the state scrap the “Just Eliminate Lies” anti-smoking campaign. There’s also $4 million saved by cutting “taxpayer-funded lobbyists,” which sounds great until you realize that would leave corporate groups unchallenged as they lobby for bills that might counter the public interest. Anyway, last year taxpayer money for lobbying totaled about $1.8 million, and a lot of that didn’t come from the state general fund. Municipalities, county agencies and associations like the League of Cities hire lobbyists too.

Continue Reading...

Obama's concessions on the stimulus bill make no sense (updated)

Just as I’d feared, President Barack Obama is moving toward the Republican position in an effort to pass a “bipartisan” economic stimulus bill.

At the request of the president, the overall price tag will be in the $800 billion range, even though many economists believe we need at least $1 trillion to kick-start the economy.

Also, House Democrats were under pressure to reduce planned spending on mass transit and other infrastructure projects to make room for tax cuts to appease Republicans–even though the tax cut provisions are unlikely to create the jobs we need.

Yesterday Obama personally urged Democrats to remove contraception funding for poor women from the stimulus bill in order to appease Republican critics.

Trouble is, the top two House Republicans have already told their caucus to vote against the stimulus bill when it comes to the floor.

Today Obama met privately with Republican Congressional leaders to discuss the stimulus further. As you’d expect, Republicans keep finding things to complain about, like a few billion dollars for “neighborhood stabilization activities.”

How many more times will the president cave to GOP demands before he realizes that Republicans have already decided to vote against the bill?

He doesn’t need Republican votes to pass this bill.

No matter how many concessions he makes, he won’t get a significant number of Republican votes in favor of the bill.

All he’ll get is a watered-down stimulus bill and a talking point that he tried to work with the other side. Republicans will get the political credit for opposing the stimulus if it turns out to be ineffective.

Obama should stop worrying about bipartisanship and work toward getting Congress to pass the best bill for fixing the economy.

I’m with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert:

When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles.

This is the party that preached fiscal discipline and then cut taxes in time of war. This is the party that still wants to put the torch to Social Security and Medicare. This is a party that, given a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, would choose Ronald Reagan in a heartbeat.

Why is anyone still listening?

Instead of wasting time meeting with Republicans who are not negotiating with him in good faith, Obama could try to get his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on board with the administration’s alleged “no lobbyist” policy.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that last week Obama agreed to delay bankruptcy reform in a fruitless effort to bring over Republicans on the stimulus bill:

Many Democrats, including Obama, have long-supported the strategy of empowering bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of primary mortgages to prevent foreclosures. But White House officials have said they don’t want the bankruptcy provision in the stimulus bill for fear of alienating Republicans, most of whom oppose the change.

Obama should worry more about the substance of legislation and less about whether he can claim a victory for bipartisanship.

SECOND UPDATE: TomP sees the glass half full, arguing that Obama is not compromising further on “core values.”

THIRD UPDATE: As usual, Natasha Chart says it very well:

Some Democrats have fallen prey to the delusion that politics is a gentlemen’s parlor game in which they’re being judged on style, as opposed to a set of deadly serious struggles in which they’re being judged on their results.

It’s a stupid belief that will lead its holders to no good end in the future, just as it has not in the past.

Though likely, long before they suffer any consequence for their foolishness, some young family with crappy jobs, a child or children that they can barely feed already, and no insurance is going to find themselves in a jam this year that these bozos could prevent by funding family planning for low-income households.

Continue Reading...

Healthy Families Project: Reducing Unintended Pregnancies Through Education & Smart Fiscal Policy

(Thanks for this diary. I would love to read similar contributions from others who worked hard to pass one or more bills during this year's legislative session. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa faces a crisis in family planning care for low-income and uninsured women and families. Throughout the state, more than 170,000 women qualify for assistance for family planning care, but have little to no access to the services they need. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Family Planning Council of Iowa, and other family planning agencies have worked long and hard to cover these women, but still about 100,000 are left without coverage. 


The fact is that Iowa has ranked relatively low compared to other states in access to contraceptives and other family planning care. Iowa currently ranks 48th in the U.S. in access to contraceptives. Roughly half of Iowa’s counties do not have a family planning clinic that serves low-income women, and unintended pregnancies are the unfortunate result. 


Though Medicaid programs exist to cover low-income women, the current program leaves many without the care they need. This is why Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa began the Healthy Families project —  a multi-year program to increase education, outreach, and access to family planning care for those who qualify for assistance, but are not being served. 


The Healthy Families project conducted a door-to-door canvass to educate Iowans on this problem, and recruit supporters throughout the state. During the caucus, Healthy Families staff helped more than 960 activists submit resolutions at their precinct caucuses. 


In the 2008, as part of expanding access to contraceptives and family planning services, supporters of the project attended legislative forums. The forums were an excellent opportunity for constituents to share their opinions with their legislators. Activists attended more than 61 candidate forums, made about 945 phone calls to legislators, and sent 1,200 e-mails on the need for family planning access.


The response from legislators was the creation of a state fund for family planning assistance. The rationale behind this fund is grounded in smart fiscal policy: the state can save more than $3 for every $1 invested in pregnancy prevention. Currently, the state bears the costs of unintended pregnancies through social service programs and Medicaid expenditures. Unintended teen pregnancies cost the state more than $47 million alone.  Through prevention, unintended pregnancies can be reduced, and the drain on state resources can be alleviated.


The family planning line item was initially included in Gov. Chet Culver’s proposed budget, though the Legislature chose to create their own budget for the state based on prior-year receipts. Through the budgeting process, a line item for $750,000 was proposed in the Health and Human Services budget. When the issue came to debate on the floor of the Senate, a contentious anti-abortion debate, with numerous anti-choice amendments proceeded. The family planning line item already included language that would restrict use of funds for abortions, but anti-choice legislators, spurred by the Iowa Right to Life organization, equated anything related to family planning to “abortion.”


Subsequent attempts to subvert the new line item failed, including redirecting funds that were intended for prevention to so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” — centers that use intimidation and inaccurate medical information to pressure pregnant women. This was especially troubling since the line item was intended to be an investment in prevention, not an additional program to treat the problem after it occurs. The Senate did pass the line item, however including a $200,000 line item for “pregnancy counseling and support services.”


House leadership, seeking to avoid a lengthy, contentious abortion debate instead chose to remove the line item and additional $200K line. This strategy was not to kill the family planning line item, but rather to use the “conference committee” process to approve the measure. In conference, the family planning line item was restored, and the language for the additional $200K line item was made less restrictive. Both chambers approved the Health and Human Services budget, and the state fund was made law.


This is a tremendous victory for women and families in Iowa. This first step toward decreasing the shortfall of service to eligible women was a bold commitment by the Legislature. The Healthy Families project and its nearly 7,000 statewide supporters celebrated this victory. The project will continue to push forward on family planning care for women and families in Iowa, and will continue its efforts through education and outreach.

Continue Reading...

McCain doesn't know whether condoms prevent the spread of AIDS

John McCain somehow manages to maintain an image as a moderate, even as he panders to the right wing of the Republican Party.

Watch him try to evade the question of whether using condoms can prevent the spread of AIDS:

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

  Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

  Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

  Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

  Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

  Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

  Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

  Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Make sure your Republican and independent friends know that McCain supports George Bush’s policies on contraception.

By the way, “Coburn” refers to Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the most nutty and mean-spirited Republican members of Congress. Also, he’s not above citing junk science to back up his political views.

Continue Reading...

Culver rejects funds restricted to abstinence-only sex ed

I didn’t see this in the news, but just got an e-mail from the Iowa Planned Parenthood Action Network:

Thank You Governor Culver!

Dear [desmoinesdem],

Governor Culver recently announced that he will be “turning back” Federal funds that are restricted for “abstinence only” sexual and reproductive health education.

This action is a rejection of “abstinence only” in favor of comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education which includes abstinence.

Comprehensive sex education also includes birth control, sexually transmitted infections and other good sexual health practices that “abstinence only” neglects.  

Governor Culver’s rejection of the funds comes from the fact that “abstinence only” programs DO NOT WORK because they leave out information about what to do once you are sexually active.

Help us congratulate Governor Culver on his bold and strong leadership on returning Federal “abstinence only” funds!

Good for him. Taking the money would have been the politically easy route. Instead, he showed leadership on this issue.

If you want to sign up for Planned Parenthood action alerts, go here:


Continue Reading...