Iowa Senate Planned Parenthood

The Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott, an ELCA Lutheran pastor in Des Moines, argues with a supporter of Senate File 2 at a senate subcommittee hearing on the bill, which proposes removing the Iowa Family Planning waiver and would create a state-run organization denying funding for health providers that offer abortion services at the State Capitol in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. 

Women in the Quad-Cities find themselves with significantly fewer options for health care, as Iowa's GOP-run Legislature achieved its ultimate goal by shuttering the region's Planned Parenthood clinic. And Iowa didn't even try to fake it by rolling out some half-baked list of alleged alternatives.

The Bettendorf clinic was among four that will close in Iowa after the state banned spending Medicaid for any procedure there, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced late last week. The organization and its supporters were aghast. The pro-life movement rejoiced.

And, per usual, it is impoverished women who will pay more than their share of the bill.

Medicaid, mind you, provides health care for the poorest Iowans. It's already foundering in Iowa since last year's privatization. President Donald Trump has targeted Medicaid for deep cuts in his draft budget. Hospitals and physicians typically admit Medicaid recipients out of ethical duty or legal mandate. There's little or no money to be made in serving Medicaid patients. In fact, patients with insurance often end up making up the difference, multiple studies have concluded.

Yet, it's these patients to whom Planned Parenthood brought otherwise out-of-reach gynecological care. They're a population with an abnormally high risk for sexually transmitted diseases. They're less likely to receive regular gynecological exams. They're at substantially greater risk for unwanted pregnancy.

Women across the socio-economic strata relied on Planned Parenthood. But, suddenly, those in the lower tiers are destined to have fewer options.

To these women, Iowa just said, "Tough."

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Medicaid — in Iowa or anywhere else — doesn't pay for a single abortion, under federal law. No, the Legislature's play here was to structurally hamstring Planned Parenthood while maintaining legal deniability in a constitutional challenge. And, of course, lawmakers hoped to score political points. They refused to back down no matter how many warnings they heard from physicians and social workers; partisan dogma superseded reason or constitutional right.

The timing was especially astounding, as the lawmakers spent this year's session hacking and slashing to plug budgetary holes. Defunding Planned Parenthood will cost Iowa $3 million in federal funds this year. Another $3.3 million will be spent creating a state-run program to, feasibly, make up for the self-inflicted shortfall of women's health care providers.

It's that yet-to-be drafted list that's at the heart of the matter. Four clinics across the state are closing. Many states that have tried similar attacks on a woman's access to health care at least attempted to compile other options. Not in Iowa. Lawmakers just did it blind and directed the state Health Department to force reality into their partisan narrative somewhere down the line.

About 4,000 women have received treatment at Planned Parenthood in Bettendorf over the past three years, the organization's officials say. Representatives with the national Planned Parenthood organization love to parrot statistics that abortions constitute just 3 percent of its procedures. Opponents counter that revenue from abortions make up more than 10 percent of the organization's revenue.

Either way, the vast majority of care received by thousands of women in the Quad-Cities was dealing with women's health outside of abortion. These women suddenly find themselves without access to their provider. They're without the guarantee of a comforting, non-judgmental place in which to grapple with some of life's most personal decisions. They're victims of an anachronistic worldview that treats a woman's body as something over which to lord.

This editorial appeared in the May 26 edition of the Quad-City Times, another Lee Enterprises publication.

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