Mar 232011
 

By Tom Chapman

House File 5, the 20-week abortion ban, has passed out of a subcommittee of the House Government Oversight Committee and will most likely be considered by the full committee this week. 

A news conference was held March 16 to encourage legislators to move pro-life legislation. Representatives of Iowa Right to Life, Iowans for LIFE, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, Concerned Women for America, and a contingent from Council Bluffs participated. The Council Bluffs participants are concerned about a statement from Dr. LeRoy Carhart about relocating his abortion business there. For more information about the news conference visit the website: www.iowacatholicconference.org.

The House version of the state’s health and human services appropriations bill, House File 649, proposes to change the definition of “medically necessary” abortions — in other words, what category of pregnancies Medicaid will pay to terminate. Medicaid is the state’s health insurance program for people with very low incomes. A provision in the bill would narrow the number of tax-funded abortions to those necessary to save the life of the mother.

Currently, the state’s Medicaid program will pay for abortions when the life of the mother is endangered, and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Coverage for abortions of pregnancies where the physician certifies that the fetus is “physically deformed, mentally deficient, or afflicted with a congenital illness” was added more recently. Those situations are truly heartbreaking for all involved, but at the same time, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) does not believe that anyone should actively take the life of those who are still alive but flawed in some way.

The ICC has supported House File 576, a bill to keep insurance plans covering abortion out of a state health exchange. The bill is unlikely to move unless the House decides to create a state health exchange in the process of implementing the federal Affordable Care Act.

House File 439, which would require reporting of the number of judicial waivers granted for minors to obtain an abortion without notifying a family member, advanced out of subcommittee on Thursday. There is speculation that this bill will become a vehicle for moving a “personhood” bill.

Earned Income Tax Credit

Senate File 209 “couples” some provisions of state tax law to federal law. Because the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House cannot agree to the same version of the bill, SF 209 has been sent to a conference committee. A proposed increase in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which the ICC supports, is one of the political footballs being tossed around in an attempt to come to a final agreement on the bill. 

Other issues being debated are a Taxpayer Relief Fund, advocated by the House and opposed by the Senate, which would take the ending balance in the state’s general fund and give it back to taxpayers, as well as some supplemental appropriations in the areas of corrections, public safety and mental health.

LIHEAP eligibility

“LIHEAP” is the low-income home energy assistance program. It helps poor people pay their energy bills. Section 35 of House File 646, the budget bill for administration and regulation, proposes a change to eligibility requirements for LIHEAP in Iowa. It would require that the state department of human rights participate in the federal “systematic alien verification for entitlements,” or SAVE program in order to verify the eligibility of each person seeking funds.

The ICC believes the change is unnecessary because Social Security numbers must already be provided for each member of a household before they can receive LIHEAP assistance. The change would be an additional administrative burden for community action agencies as well.

National budget

Budget discussions are ongoing in the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is concerned about cuts in spending that disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable. Go to www.usccb.org/sdwp/take

action.shtml for more information on how you can take action. Members of Congress are home for a “Constituent Work Week” so it’s a good time to make contact.

(Tom Chapman is executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference.)

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