Iowa OKs Abortion Funding Limits, Ultrasound for Women

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2011   |   5:27PM   |   Des Moines, IA

Republicans and Democrats in the state House in legislature have agreed to a compromise that secures limits on taxpayer funding of abortions in the state and allows women a chance to see an ultrasound before an abortion.

A battle over whether taxpayers should be forced to pay, via Medicaid, for abortions done at University of Iowa Hospitals was threatening to hold up a deal between state House Republicans and state Senate Democrats on the state budget.

Senate Democrats wanted to keep current language allowing abortion funding in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or to save a mother’s life to stay in place while Republicans want to tighten the current funding limits to include only saving the life of the mother and cases when the unborn child will not survive. Republicans also wanted informed consent provisions in place that inform women of abortion risks and alternatives and allow an ultrasound to be shown to women before having an abortion.

Now, according to the Globe newspaper, Sen. Jack Hatch, the Democrat who was the co-leader of the House-Senate conference committee, said the compromise legislators reached makes it so the abortion funding limits in the state are consistent with those in federal law — limiting the exceptions to cases where the mother’s life is in danger, rape, incest, and “significant fetal deformities.” Otherwise, about 99 percent of abortions would not qualify for funding.

The Courier newspaper indicates the state health department will determine if any abortions involving disabled unborn children are funded.

The Globe also indicated that lawmakers agreed to one of the Republican proposals, saying they “agreed to make an appropriate standard of care whereby a woman would undergo an ultrasound 24 hours prior to an abortion procedure and would receive “informed consent” material to better understand all the options that include adoption, carrying the pregnancy to term and [abortion].”

The compromise language included a statement that “Iowans support reducing the number of abortions performed in our state.”

The paper quoted Gov. Terry Branstad as saying he is glad the impasse was resolved and that taxpayer funding of abortion has always been “a difficult and contentious issue.”

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat, opposed the informed consent proposal, according to the newspaper, while Rep. Matt Windschitl, a Republican, supports it.

“I do believe a child is a sacred gift from God,” he said, adding that Republicans are not likely to agree to water down their demands. “I do not believe that if we maneuver any more that the bill has enough support to pass.”

“In these traumatic situations it has to be a horrible decision to make, but in the interest of health — not only mentally but physically of a woman in one of these situations — we want to make sure a decision is not made in haste, that the mother understands all options available to her,” he added, according to Radio Iowa.

“I respect that the mother may not have wanted this to happen,” he said. “But at the same time, the child didn’t ask to be conceived and we have to respect that. We have to put both lives on the same level because I do believe life is a sacred gift from God.”

The Register shows figures from the state health department found five abortions done in 2010 to save the life of the mother, no abortions from incest since 2005 and just three resulting from rape. They also show 22 abortions done in cases where the unborn child would be born with supposedly severe physical disabilities.

Meanwhile, Bob Vander Plaats, head of the pro-family group Family Leader, upped the ante in the debate by saying he would ensure any Republicans who fold on the abortion funding debate would face primary election challenges.

“I think you will definitely see some primaries come out of this,” Vander Plaats told host Jan Mickelsen on Des Moines WHO radio Wednesday morning.