Abortions up 25 percent after Iowa GOP replaced family planning program

Who could have predicted it, other than anyone familiar with reproductive health care?

Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad eliminated Iowa’s successful Medicaid Family Planning Waiver in 2017 and created a new state program that excluded abortion providers. The move forced Planned Parenthood to close four of its Iowa clinics around the state and dramatically decreased the number of Iowans receiving birth control and other reproductive services.

Preliminary data from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicate that Iowans had 25 percent more abortions in 2019 than in the previous year.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2020

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2020 session on January 13 with 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. Eleven senators are women (six Democrats and five Republicans), up from six women in the chamber before the 2018 elections.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. A few committees have new Republican leaders. On the Democratic side, Eric Giddens now represents the Senate district where Jeff Danielson resigned last year.

A few words about demographics: all current state senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first. No Asian American has served in the Iowa Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths (a Democrat and a Republican) and two Taylors (both Democrats). As for first names, there are three Marks, three Zachs, and two men each named Dan, Jim, Tim, and Tom.

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Law denying Planned Parenthood sex ed funding on hold for now

A new state law denying sex education funding to Planned Parenthood will likely be found unconstitutional, a Polk County District Court has determined.

Judge Joseph Seidlin issued a temporary injunction to block new statutory restrictions on Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s access to government sex education grants. His order, enclosed in full below, found Planned Parenthood would suffer “irreparable harm” if the law took effect. State agencies are due to announce fiscal year 2020 recipients for the Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Services Program (CAPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) on May 31.

In addition, the court’s order stated Planned Parenthood was “likely to succeed on the merits of its equal protection claim” under the Iowa Constitution, since the law contains an exemption for a “nonprofit health care delivery system” that provides abortions in some locations.

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Four reasons the GOP attack on trans Iowans won't hold up in court

Republicans slipped a couple of nasty surprises into the health and human services budget on the penultimate day of the Iowa legislature’s 2019 session. One of the new provisions in House File 766 would amend the Iowa Civil Rights Act to deprive transgender and intersex Iowans of access to surgery through Medicaid or other public health insurance programs.

Governor Kim Reynolds should strike this language because denying health care to people in need is reprehensible.

If she lacks the empathy to comprehend why punching down on a marginalized group is wrong, the governor should use her item veto power for a pragmatic reason: the Iowa Supreme Court is unlikely to let this discriminatory act stand.

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Iowa Republicans choose not to look for overspending on Medicaid prescriptions

The Iowa Department of Human Services will not audit a practice that could be inflating costs for Medicaid prescription drug payments by millions of dollars a year.

State Representative John Forbes raised concerns after finding discrepancies on bills for some prescriptions his Urbandale pharmacy filled for patients served by Amerigroup, one of Iowa’s Medicaid managed-care providers. Earlier this month, House members unanimously approved Forbes’ amendment to the health and human services budget, instructing DHS to “audit all prescription drug benefit claims managed by a pharmacy benefit manager under the Medicaid program.”

However, House and Senate Republicans dropped that section from the final version of House File 766.

State Senator Mark Costello, who floor managed the health and human services budget in the upper chamber, claimed Iowa’s Medicaid director Michael Randol and an Amerigroup representative had told him the audit was unnecessary.

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