- Associated Press - Saturday, September 23, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - One of Iowa’s biggest health systems says the state is improperly barring all of its hospitals, clinics and health care providers from participating in a new family planning program because a few within the system perform abortions in some cases.

UnityPoint Health contends its affiliates should be allowed to offer publicly financed birth-control services to moderate-income Iowa residents, The Des Moines Register reported Saturday.

But state administrators say a new state law passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature strictly bans any system that allows any abortion.

The new family planning program, which is financed solely by the state, replaces a federal Medicaid program. Critics of the law fear it will severely limit access to birth-control services, especially in rural areas. They also note it requires the state to forego $3 million in federal Medicaid money, because the national Medicaid family-planning program doesn’t let states exclude abortion providers.

Thirty-two Iowa hospitals are members or affiliates of UnityPoint, which is based in West Des Moines. The system also has scores of clinics and doctors’ practices in the state.

The state measure had been aimed at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Iowa’s largest abortion provider. But the Iowa Department of Human Services said it informed lawmakers last spring that the bill also would bar participation by UnityPoint and the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics system.

Those health systems don’t provide elective abortions, but they do perform some abortions in cases of fetal anomalies.

The Register learned of the conflict after obtaining correspondence between a UnityPoint executive and the Department of Human Services.

A spokeswoman for UnityPoint declined comment, other than to say the health system is in talks with the department about the dispute.

Approved family planning providers under the new program include several Mercy hospitals and clinics around the state. That system is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, which generally opposes birth control.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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