The office of Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird (R) announced Friday that Iowa will no longer pay for emergency contraception—morning-after pills—or abortions for sexual assault victims.
“While not required by Iowa law, the victim compensation fund has previously paid for Plan B and abortions. As a part of her top-down, bottom-up audit of victim assistance, Attorney General Bird is carefully evaluating whether this is an appropriate use of public funds,” Bird Press Secretary Alyssa Brouillet said in a statement to the Des Moines Register. “Until that review is complete, payment of these pending claims will be delayed.”
In rare cases, the state would also pay for victims’ abortions. The statement from Bird’s office did not mention what other types of victim services are being reviewed.
Emergency contraception like Plan B is not the same thing as abortion, but anti-abortion activists and groups have purposely conflated the two and frequently targeted both emergency contraception and other forms of contraception.
Both Iowa law and federal regulations require the state to pay for some out-of-pocket expenses for victims of violent crimes. That’s why the crime victim compensation fund exists.
The AG’s website lists medical care, counseling, and lost wages among others that are covered by the fund. For sexual assault victims, that includes rape kits and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The money comes from fines and penalties paid by those convicted of crimes, not taxpayer money.
Under former attorney general Tom Miller, it was long-term state policy to cover emergency contraception as well.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that sexual violence affects over half of American women and 1 in 3 American men. One in 4 women and 1 in 26 men have experienced attempted or completed rape.
“My concern is for the victims of sexual assault, who, with no real notice, are now finding themselves either unable to access needed treatment and services, or are now being forced to pay out of their own pocket for those services, when this was done at no fault of their own,” said Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, director of the crime victim assistance division under Miller, told the Des Moines Register.
Bird ran on a platform of protecting victims. Last Tuesday she tweeted that her office “is committed to working with survivors of sexual assault to ensure they receive the support they need.”
Our office is committed to working with survivors of sexual assault to ensure they receive the support they need. Join us and #WearTeal to raise awareness and put a STOP to sexual violence. pic.twitter.com/o0D1K9X0x1
— Iowa AG Brenna Bird (@AGIowa) April 4, 2023
Yet, Bird has also been eager to restrict or ban access to healthcare such as abortion medication.
She was one of 20 conservative attorney generals to sign onto a letter to Walgreens, CVS, and other retail pharmacies warning them not to sell abortion medication in the state, after the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved it earlier this year.
This is despite abortion being legal in Iowa until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Bird is also defending Iowa’s six-week abortion ban in court, which is something former AG Tom Miller refused to do.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
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