Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Pushes Pro-Life Provision That Would De-Fund Planned Parenthood

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 11, 2016   |   12:25PM   |   Des Moines, IA

Iowa political leaders plan to introduce new efforts to de-fund abortion this year in response to pro-life advocates’ persistent calls for an end to taxpayer funding of abortion groups.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told the WCF Courier that he is working with legislators on a proposal that would end state funding for groups that do abortions, including Planned Parenthood.

“What we’re looking at is trying to provide for the services without providing the funding to groups that provide abortions,” Branstad said in an interview. “We are working with the Legislature and we’ve had several meetings with the legislators on that and are working on language that is very similar to language that Sen. Joni Ernst proposed at the national level.”

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Branstad ordered a review of all state taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood in August after the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos showing top abortion officials discussing the harvesting and sale of aborted babies’ body parts.

At the time, he said: “We are to look at the contracts and see what our rights and responsibilities are. I want to protect the interests of the taxpayers.”

However, on Sept. 29, the governor said the state didn’t have the legal authority to de-fund them and he wouldn’t be pursuing it further. Gov. Branstad explained, “The attorney general’s office has notified us that we don’t have reasons; they haven’t violated their responsibilities under the grants that they have received from the state.”

Amid public concern about taxpayer funding of abortion, Branstad said he is renewing efforts to de-fund abortion groups in Iowa this year.

The local news report continues:

At the state level, Branstad said he is looking to redirect funds for family planning, pregnancy prevention, abstinence and other services to state and county health departments, community health centers, hospitals and physicians officers to provide important women’s health services. The language — which Branstad said is similar to provisions adopted in other states — would not name Planned Parenthood but the effect would be to defund any abortion-services provider.

“A governor cannot unilaterally say we’re going to terminate this contract with Planned Parenthood. Every governor that has tried has lost in court, so I’ve said I’m not going to do that,” Branstad said. “But I’m very willing to work with the Legislature and come up with a better way to fund programs to help needy women that need family planning or pregnancy prevention, but that can be done through groups that don’t provide abortions.”

Iowa officials say no state money goes for abortion services. But GOP lawmakers want to halt any government money going even indirectly to Planned Parenthood organizations in Iowa — something Branstad has said he supports but would not break the law or invite legal action by arbitrarily denying the private provider government grant money without a legal cause of action.

Branstad also has faced pressure from pro-life leaders in other states. In October, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged Branstad to reconsider and completely de-fund the abortion giant. In a letter he said: “The first video that surfaced showed a Planned Parenthood Federation of America director describing how some Planned Parenthood affiliates are contacting companies to sell organs and tissues harvested from aborted babies. Since then, nine more videos have been released which show in detail Planned Parenthood’s abhorrent practices and disregard for human life.”

Jindal went on to tell the Iowa governor about what he did in Louisiana. He said, “At my direction, (the Department of Health and Hospitals) notified Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of the termination of their Medicaid contract with the state of Louisiana, for cause. He added, “I encourage you to watch these videos and to take similar action in your state as well.”

As LifeNews previously reported, a public opinion poll that was conducted in Iowa shows that the majority of the state’s residents support de-funding Planned Parenthood and sending government funding to legitimate health care clinics instead. The survey was commissioned by the pro-life legal group Alliance Defending Freedom and found that 69 percent of Iowans agree that taxpayers should not subsidize groups like Planned Parenthood.

Bransted’s decision comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s veto of federal legislation that would de-fund Planned Parenthood. The abortion group does about 330,000 abortions and receives about $550 million in taxpayer dollars every year.

Following Obama’s veto, House Republican leaders will push for a veto override vote on January 26. That vote would come just days after more than half a million Americans are expected to march for life in the nation’s capital and solemnly mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which has resulted in the deaths of 57 million unborn babies since 1973.

Both the House and Senate would need a two-third vote (67%) to override Obama’s expected veto. The House passed the bill in October on a 55% vote margin with virtually every Democrat voting against it.

The bill would block, for one year, most federal payments to Planned Parenthood. At least 89% of federal funding of Planned Parenthood would be blocked by this bill. The bill would repeal a number of major components of the Obamacare health law, including two of the major provisions that will lead to rationing of lifesaving care — the “Independent Payment Advisory Board” and the “excess benefits tax.”