- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa will pass up millions in federal dollars in order to remove state funding for Planned Parenthood under a bill approved Tuesday by a group of Republican lawmakers, and the measure has strong support in the new GOP-majority Legislature.

The 8-5 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee followed hours of stalled debate over the measure, which proposes creating a state-run program that distributes money for family planning services to organizations that don’t provide abortions.

No family planning dollars are now spent on abortions in Iowa, a point that highlights the philosophical differences in the Iowa statehouse after the Nov. 8 election. Democrats lost control of the Senate for the first time in years, and they had previously stopped such legislation from advancing.

Sen. Amy Sinclair, a Republican member of the committee, emphasized the bill would redistribute money to rural health clinics that offer family planning services.

“Please note women will not go without exams or care or screenings,” she said. “They’ll just be able to receive those services right where they live and in conjunction with their broader health care needs.”

The four-page bill proposes Iowa give up participation in a Medicaid program that brings in about $3 million for family planning services in Iowa. The state contributes about $300,000 under a matching system.

The bill does not include a price tag, but Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed that Iowa tap into separate federal dollars in order to fund the state program for about $3.4 million. Branstad’s plan would remove dollars designated for preventative programs for at-risk youth.

Sen. Janet Petersen, a Democratic committee member, said the bill would end up costing the state more money, increase unintended pregnancies and hurt access to specialized health care.

She noted the bill, filed on the first day of the legislative session, is one of only a handful co-sponsored by every Republican senator. Another bill would add gun rights to the state constitution. She questioned how she would react if she was an Iowa taxpayer watching the legislative activity at the Capitol.

“I’d be thinking, ‘Are they really working for me?’ she said. “I think the Iowa agenda is much bigger than guns and pap smears.”

The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Supporters and opponents of the bill gathered at the Iowa Capitol for the meeting, and the turnout -several dozen - meant some people were unable to watch portions of the discussion.

Tina Dicks, 48, came to the statehouse from the nearby suburb of Bondurant with her twin 15-year-old daughters. Dicks, who works in fundraising, said she supports the measure because she feels strongly that no taxpayer dollars should be linked to an organization that perform abortions.

“We’re here to let these legislators know that we want to be a voice for the unborn,” she said.

Victoria Szopinski, 60, wore a Planned Parenthood T-shirt, pink cardigan and pink scarf to listen in on the meeting. The retiree from Ames, just north of Des Moines, said she expected to be at the Capitol several more times this year amid debate over abortion restrictions.

“We’re living in a world of fake news and alternative facts,” she said. “The idea that these services will be available from other places is a misnomer.”

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