Iowa’s GOP Eliminated a Family Planning Program Only to See Abortions Skyrocket July 23, 2021

Iowa’s GOP Eliminated a Family Planning Program Only to See Abortions Skyrocket

Pro-choice advocates have long been emphasizing that access to free birth control and comprehensive sex education are the most effective ways to prevent abortions. But their opponents consistently refuse to listen, almost always choosing to ban the procedure as much as they can legally get away with without investing in any preventative measures.

Consider what Iowa did in 2017 as an example:

In May, then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a new budget bill that rejected $3 million in federal Medicaid dollars for the Iowa Family Planning Network (IFPN) waiver — partial insurance for low-income patients that covers reproductive care — and replaced it with a state-run family planning program that forbids recipients from using it for care at providers, like Planned Parenthood, that also offer abortions.

That move soon led to the closing of four of the state’s 12 Planned Parenthood facilities while taking away a vital educational tool that could’ve prevented a woman’s need for an abortion.

And now the results of that are clear as ever: Everything backfired.

The number of abortions performed in Iowa climbed nearly 14% in 2020, after jumping 25% the previous year, new state data show.

The turnaround in abortion numbers came in the wake of Iowa’s 2017 decision to withdraw from a federally funded family planning program, which helped thousands of Iowans gain birth control supplies and information on how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The program was replaced with a state-run version, which barred Planned Parenthood’s participation and has served fewer Iowans.

It also comes amid a series of laws the Legislature and governor approved that attempt to limit abortion in Iowa.

In other words, by trying to restrict abortion as well as education about contraception, the “pro-life” crowd was responsible for an increase in the number of abortions across the state.

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of the group Iowans for Life, can’t seem to face those facts. She blamed the trend on a 2018 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that blocked a potential 72-hour waiting period before a woman could receive an abortion. The decision maintained the status quo… yet DeWitte said it promoted the belief that abortion was acceptable because “People look to the law to determine what to believe.”

As if that’s all there is to it and the loss of the family planning program was a totally unrelated coincidence.

We can actually quantify how bad the GOP’s 2017 policy decision was:

The new statistics mean that Iowa’s abortion rate has shot up a total of 42% between 2018 and 2020. Over the previous decade, the number had dropped 56%.

The folks at Planned Parenthood knew this all along.

“It’s certainly what we warned Iowans would happen,” if the agency was barred from the public family planning program, said Jamie Burch Elliott, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa.

The lesson here is simple: If the “pro-life” crowd wants to see fewer abortions, they should listen to the people at Planned Parenthood.

It’s so immensely frustrating when you warn those anti-abortion activists what will happen, only to see it happen, only to hear them deny that it happened.

This is why we aren’t getting any better when it comes to women’s health and why we are, instead, just getting more restrictive abortion laws every day. The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that the state could “bar Planned Parenthood from sex-education grants.”

They’ve learned nothing. This comes even as 58% of Iowans disagree with the potential “passage of a constitutional amendment that would say there is no constitutional right to an abortion.”

With abortion bans or restrictions in red states across the country moving quickly through the legislative or judicial process, it’s more important than ever to fight back. The irony is that the Republicans pushing for those measures and the people at Planned Parenthood would all like to see lower abortion rates, albeit for very different reasons. But because of those different ideologies, we’re now seeing more women going through a procedure they may not have needed at all with better planning.

Once again, this requires realistic and effective solutions that include comprehensive sex education, affordable or free contraception, and healthcare for all.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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