New numbers from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services obtained by the Des Moines Register reveal that the state’s family-planning program is remarkably less effective at providing birth control than it was a year ago, before state lawmakers voted to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
According to the Register, Iowa’s family-planning program saw a 73 percent decrease in services provided between April and June 2018, compared to the same time period from the previous year. The Register also found that, in June 2018, there were fewer than half of the people enrolled in the family-planning program as there were in June 2017.
In June 2017, state lawmakers voted to ban organizations and clinics that provide abortion services from receiving funding, which meant the state lost out on $3 million in Medicaid. (Last year, Planned Parenthood also closed four clinics in Iowa after losing out on those federal funds.)
The changes to the family-planning program are simply one way Iowa’s GOP-controlled legislature has worked to restrict abortion access in recent years. Although most Iowans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, state lawmakers succeeded in passing thestrictest abortion ban in the U.S. in 2017. From the Register:
Under the legislation, physicians will be barred from performing most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Experts said that heartbeat can be heard about six weeks into a pregnancy — often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant.
The constitutionality of “fetal heartbeat” law is currently being challenged and the law has been temporarily put on hold.
The chairman of the Iowa Council on Human Services has argued that increasing access to contraceptions should result in the need for fewer abortions. But Iowa’s family-planning program may be failing its residents on this very metric:
Critics have noted that the new program’s list of approved family planning providers contains listings for agencies that don’t offer contraception. For example, at least 74 of the 695 providers now listed are part of the Mercy health system, a Catholic organization with strict limits on contraception services.
A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland reiterated that it’s up to Iowa’s lawmakers to amend the problem they’ve created across the state. “They have an obligation to the people they serve to fix the mess they made,” Becca Lee told the Register.