Iowa House Republicans advance a bill to cut qualifications for running a program giving anti-abortion centers millions in funds
Iowa House Republicans advance a bill to cut qualifications for running a program giving anti-abortion centers millions in funds
Iowa House Republicans advance a bill to cut qualifications for running a program giving anti-abortion centers millions in funds 1
Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a baby in a photo shared to her official Twitter, June 8, 2023.
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In 2022, Republicans in the Iowa Legislature pushed through a bill creating the More Options for Maternal Support (MOMS) program, which would use tax dollars to fund privately run anti-abortion centers — which call themselves “pregnancy resource centers” — across the state. Gov. Kim Reynolds touted the program as an important part of her anti-abortion agenda.

The program was scheduled to begin distributing the $2 million allocated for it so far on July 1, 2023. But it still hasn’t launched because the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cannot find a qualified nonprofit to administer the program. The law that created the program requires it be administered by a nonprofit located in Iowa that has “systems and processes in place that have been used for at least three years to successfully manage a statewide network of subcontractors providing pregnancy support services.”

A bill advancing in the Iowa House addresses that failure to find a qualified third-party to administer and provide oversight for the program by eliminating that layer of oversight and administration.

HF 2057 would allow the HHS to hire an organization without experience successfully running a network of subcontractors to administer the program, and would eliminate the requirement that HHS publish the criteria for a program administrator and centers that would be its subcontractors. It would also give HHS the option of directly administering the MOMS program.

On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Iowa House Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill on a 2-1 vote.

“I do not think that it is a good idea to continue spending taxpayer dollars on programs that, first of all, are not moving forward because we cannot find an administrator that’s qualified, but also does not meet the needs in a genuine, completely honest way that every single Iowan deserves,” Rep. Heather Matson, a Democrat from Ankeny, said.

Matson, the only Democrat on the subcommittee, cast the lone vote against it.

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Pregnancy resource centers are more commonly known as “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs). The American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists describes the centers as “facilities that represent themselves as legitimate reproductive health care clinics providing care for pregnant people but actually aim to dissuade people from accessing certain types of reproductive health care, including abortion care and even contraceptive options.”

“Staff members at these unregulated and often nonmedical facilities have no legal obligation to provide pregnant people with accurate information and are not subject to HIPAA or required by law to maintain client confidentiality. Many CPCs are affiliated with national organizations that provide funding, support, and training to advance a broadscale antiabortion agenda.”

The Crisis Pregnancy Center Map project identifies 42 CPCs across Iowa. According to Iowa Right to Life, there are 55 anti-abortion centers in the state that would likely be eligible for funding under the MOMS program.

“I’m interested in moving this bill forward to increase the discussion among a broader group of our Health and Human Services committee,” Rep. Michael Bergan, a Republican from Dorchester, said. Bergan and Republican Rep. Tom Jeneary of Le Mars voted in favor of the bill.

Following the vote, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa issued a statement.

“Anti-abortion centers are a stain on our state and put Iowans’ health in danger, yet lawmakers who want to outlaw abortion want to pump millions of taxpayer dollars into these fake clinics without accountability or transparency,” Mazie Stilwell, the group’s public affairs director, said. “We live in a state where one-third of Iowa counties are designated as maternity health care deserts. We face multiple health care crises bred from the failed policies of out of touch politicians. Lawmakers should be working on real solutions to these problems, but instead they are more interested in making it easier to deceive those seeking comprehensive care and resources. Iowans deserve better.”


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