Iowa Pauses Emergency Contraception, Abortion Funding Pending Victim Services Review


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The Iowa Attorney General’s Office announced Friday that emergency contraceptives and abortions for victims of sexual assault will no longer be paid for by the state, pending further review.

Current federal and state laws require Iowa to shoulder many of the expenses for victims of sexual assault within the state who seek medical attention. The costs of forensic exams and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases are covered through the state’s victim compensation fund, the Associated Press reported. Under former Democrat attorney general, Tom Miller, Iowa’s victim compensation fund also provided the morning after pill and, in “rare cases,” abortion, even though the state’s law makes no mention that such services are covered, the outlet stated.

“As a part of her top-down, bottom-up audit of victim assistance, Attorney General Brenna Bird is carefully evaluating whether this is an appropriate use of public funds,” Bird Press Secretary Alyssa Brouillet said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “Until that review is complete, payment of these pending claims will be delayed,” she concluded.

Bird’s decision comes after U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas ordered a halt on federal approval of mifepristone, a drug commonly used to terminate pregnancy within 10 weeks of conception. In his 67-page opinion, Kacsmaryk argued that after the drug was approved in 2000, judicial review of its approval was “stonewalled” by the Food and Drug Administration for fourteen years after a 2002 petition, despite laws requiring the agency to respond to such a petition within 180 days.

When the agency did respond in 2016, Kacsmaryk noted, the FDA altered steps put in place to “ensure the drug’s safe use.” Patients were once required to have multiple office visits with a medical professional while taking the drug, but the FDA then revised that requirement to just one visit. Non-medical doctors were also granted approval to administer the drug despite concerns brought up in a 2006 congressional committee which showed the mifepristone had, in some cases, caused “more than 950 adverse effects” among women, including 8 deaths. (RELATED: Abortion Pill Maker Sues Red States Over Bans: ‘Impacts The Company’s Bottom Line)

News of Bird’s decision to temporarily halt state-funded emergency contraceptives for victims was met with criticism from victim’s advocates. Ruth Richardson, CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, called Bird’s decision, “deplorable and reprehensible,” according to the AP.

Former director of Iowa’s victim assistance division, Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, expressed her concern over the sudden pause, arguing that despite the law not expressly denoting contraceptives and abortion as part of the fund’s purview, Iowa had a “longtime policy” of footing the cost for emergency contraception and abortion in some “rare” cases.

“My concern is for the victims of sexual assault, who, with no real notice, are now finding themselves either unable to access needed treatment and services, or are now being forced to pay out of their own pocket for those services, when this was done at no fault of their own,” Murphy stated according to the outlet.