Bill moves to Iowa House to reallocate clinic funding

Danny May and Xavier Conzet

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The Iowa House of Representatives is currently reviewing a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. Many Luther students who receive services from these organizations could be affected by the financial change.

Senate File 2, which the Iowa Senate passed on Feb. 7 and has since passed a House subcommittee, would discontinue the Iowa Family Planning Network Waiver (IFPN)—a Medicaid program— and replace it with a state family services planning program. Under the new program, funds will not be distributed “to any entity that performs abortions or that maintains or operates facilities where abortions are performed.”

The Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation (NEICAC), a health clinic located in Decorah, does not perform abortions but will still be affected by the discontinuation of the IFPN. According to NEICAC Health Programs Director Lori Egan, 612 of the 1,373 patients who visited the clinic last year had their expenses covered by the IFPN.

“Without the IFPN our clinic will close,” Egan said. “For many of the young men and women [to whom] we provide preventative health care services we are their primary source of health care. The elimination of the IFPN would likely leave 600 to 800 people without their source of primary health care.”

Senate File 2 has raised concern among students and faculty at Luther about whether or not they will have access to clinics like NEICAC and Planned Parenthood which offer services such as birth control and contraceptives.

“Many Luther students I know rely on the affordable services provided by Planned Parenthood, which includes birth control and contraceptives, among other basic health care needs,” Ashalul Aden (‘20) said. “Some Luther students are not able to have these needs taken care of elsewhere. Defunding Planned Parenthood will cause most, if not all, of its clinics to close, leaving these students without a place to get adequate and affordable health services.”

Students in support of the bill are hopeful about the benefit of redirecting funds that Planned Parenthood currently receives to other qualified health clinics.

“I think defunding Planned Parenthood will absolutely benefit Iowa,” Abigail Cornejo (‘20) said. “The money that would be going to Planned Parenthood will be redirected to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and family planning organizations that do not provide abortions. I think this is an absolute win for Iowans. ”

Iowa Senator from the 28th District Michael Breitbach, who helped to push Senate File 2 through the Iowa Senate, took issue with the specifics regarding which clinics will be affected by the shift in funding.

“[The bill] is not specifically defunding Planned Parenthood,” Breitbach said. “[Rather,] it is defunding abortion providers. But Planned Parenthood does receive about $1.5 million from the state of Iowa so it is included. This should have no effect on Luther students going to the Women’s Health Center in Decorah. That clinic will not lose funding because its location does not provide abortion services.”

Aden expressed her further concern about the deficit left when $1.5 million is pulled from Planned Parenthood facilities. Planned Parenthood patients will need to seek services elsewhere if their regular facilities are unable to offer services. Many other health clinics will likely  experience dramatic increases in patient numbers.

“It’s not a matter of re-allocating money, it’s a matter of being able to come up with $1.5 million ourselves,” Aden said. “If Iowa can come up with that difference, I think over time the health centers may be able to adjust to the dramatic influx of new patients, but only if that funding is guaranteed. If the state of Iowa won’t help fund it, then there is no way that the health centers could make up the difference.”

The bill will now move to the House Human Resources Committee for consideration.

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