Iowa will not pay for abortions or contraceptives for rape victims

Iowa will not pay for abortions or contraceptives for rape victims

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has suspended its practice of paying for emergency contraception — and in rare cases, abortions — for victims of sexual assault, a decision that has drawn criticism from some victim advocates.

Federal regulations and state laws require Iowa to pay for many of the expenses of sexual assault victims who seek medical help, such as fees for forensic examinations and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Under former attorney general, Democrat Tom Miller, the Iowa Victims Compensation Fund also paid for Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill, and other treatments to prevent pregnancy.

A spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Brenna Bird, who rejected Miller’s bid for an 11th term in November, told the Des Moines Register those payments are now on hold as part of a victim services review.

“As part of his top-down and bottom-up audit of victim assistance, Attorney General Bird is carefully assessing whether this is an appropriate use of public funds,” Bird’s press secretary Alyssa Brouillet said. , in a press release. “Until this review is complete, payment of these pending claims will be delayed.”

Advocates for victims were caught off guard by the hiatus. Ruth Richardson, CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in a statement that the decision was “deplorable and reprehensible.”

Bird’s decision comes as access to the most commonly used method of abortion in the United States is shrouded in uncertainty following conflicting court rulings on Friday on the legality of the abortion drug mifepristone. For now, the drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 appeared to remain at least immediately available following separate rulings in quick succession.

FILE – Iowa Republican Attorney General candidate Brenna Bird speaks at an Iowa Republican Party night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has, at least for now, ended its longstanding practice of paying for emergency contraception and, in rare cases, abortion, for victims of sexual assault. A spokeswoman for Bird, who was elected in November, told the Des Moines Register the pause was part of a review of victim services. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ordered a halt to federal approval of mifepristone. But that decision came almost at the same time U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice in Washington, DC, appointed by former President Barack Obama, essentially ordered otherwise.

The extraordinary timing of the competing orders exposed the high stakes surrounding the drug nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and restricts access to abortion nationwide. President Joe Biden has said his administration will fight the Texas decision.

In Iowa, money for the victims’ compensation fund comes from fines and penalties paid by convicted felons. For victims of sexual assault, state law requires the fund to pay “the cost of a medical examination of a victim for the purpose of gathering evidence and the cost of treating a victim for the purpose of to prevent venereal disease”, but makes no mention of contraception or risk of pregnancy.

Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, who served as director of the victim assistance division under Miller, said Iowa’s longstanding policy has been to include the cost of emergency contraception in expenses covered by the fund. She said that in rare cases, the fund has paid for abortions for rape victims.

“I am concerned for victims of sexual assault who, without notice, now find themselves either unable to access necessary treatment and services or are now forced to pay out of pocket for these services, when it has been done. through no fault of their own,” she said.

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