Iowan speaks out against anti-abortion centers: ‘I thought it was legitimate’

Members of an Iowa House subcommittee on changing the regulations for the MOMS act meet on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Photo by Nikoel Hytrek/Starting Line

By Nikoel Hytrek

January 23, 2024

For two hours, staff at an anti-abortion center told Mica Chase—then 19 years old—they would go to Hell for having an abortion.

The staff also said the abortion could kill them (abortion is incredibly safe) and that the staff would do anything to help Chase keep a pregnancy they had already decided they weren’t ready for.

“Far from receiving factual reproductive health care, I encountered misinformation and lies,” Chase said at a Tuesday Iowa House subcommittee to advance a bill that would loosen requirements for anti-abortion centers in Iowa to receive state funding. “Leaving that place, self-proclaimed as a non-judgmental safe space, left me embarrassed.”

It took Chase, a Cedar Rapids resident, years to trust reproductive health care providers again.

Anti-abortion centers, fake clinics without medical licenses, would receive funding from the More Options for Maternal Support (MOMS) program, which Iowa Republicans have set aside $2 million to support.

The money—which comes from taxpayers—hasn’t been spent because for two years the state has failed to find a manager for the program.

A bill, introduced by Rep. Jon Dunwell (R-Newton), would ease the requirements for a manager by removing the requirement for three years of experience managing a similar, statewide program and removing the requirement to publish the name of the program manager and the criteria for applying to the program on the website for the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.

Reps. Michael Bergan (R-Dorchester) and Tom Jeneary (R-Le Mars) voted to advance the bill to the full committee on Tuesday. Democratic Rep. Heather Matson (D-Ankeny) voted “no.”

Matson said the program is clearly flawed because the state hasn’t been able to find a qualified manager, and she’s not comfortable loosening the requirements on a program that won’t serve Iowans.

“I do not think that it is a good idea to continue spending taxpayer dollars on programs that, first of all, are not moving forward because we cannot find an administrator that’s qualified, but also does not meet the needs in a genuine, completely honest way that every single Iowan deserves,” she said.

Matson said it’s also clear this program exists to exclude groups like Planned Parenthood that provide a range of reproductive health care because everyone knows those resources work to help people plan and navigate their pregnancies.

Mazie Stilwell, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States (PPNCS), said this latest news did nothing to alleviate her previous fears about the program.

“My concern here is that when we are unable to find a suitable administrator for the program, I don’t believe that answer is making it easier to become the administrator,” she said.

Stillwell thinks the program is a bad idea because it gives money to anti-abortion centers that don’t offer real health care and routinely lie to and manipulate people like Mica Chase.

“But if it is going to be funded, I think we should do so with increased transparency and increased accountability for the taxpayers of Iowa who are funding this program,” she said.

Chase’s experience is a common one. Anti-abortion centers have a reputation for lying to and shaming vulnerable pregnant people to convince them to keep their pregnancies. The centers themselves are not licensed medical centers and they don’t employ health care workers.

“Visiting one of these facilities almost made me lose confidence in the process of locating and getting treatment at a genuine reproductive health care clinic at all,” Chase said. “Endorsing legislation like this is perilous and irresponsible. Iowans deserve access to quality, factual and legitimate, informed choices.”

“It’s disheartening to see this bill introduced, especially after real family planning solutions were gutted by the same legislators prioritizing control over Iowan’s, bodies, and reproductive health care choices,” they continued.

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Mica Chase’s name. This has been corrected. 

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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