Iowa suspends provision of emergency contraception to sexual assault victims | Iowa

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The Iowa attorney general’s office has paused its practice of paying for emergency contraception – and in rare cases, abortions – for victims of sexual assault, a move that has drawn criticism from some victim advocates.

Federal regulations and state law require Iowa to pay many of the expenses for sexual assault victims who seek medical help, such as the costs of forensic exams and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Under the previous attorney general, Democrat Tom Miller, Iowa’s victim compensation fund also paid for Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill, as well as other treatments to prevent pregnancy.

A spokesperson for the Republican attorney general, Brenna Bird, who defeated Miller’s bid for an 11th term in November, told the Des Moines Register that those payments were now on hold as part of a review of victim services.

“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,” the spokesperson, Alyssa Brouillet, said in a statement. “Until that review is complete, payment of these pending claims will be delayed.”

Victim advocates were caught off guard by the pause. The chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States, Ruth Richardson, said in a statement that the move was “deplorable and reprehensible”.

Bird’s decision comes as access to the most commonly used method of abortion in the US plunged into uncertainty after conflicting court rulings on Friday over the legality of the abortion medication mifepristone. For now, the drug the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2000 appeared to remain at least immediately available in the wake of separate rulings issued in quick succession.

Federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas, a Donald Trump White House appointee, ordered a hold on federal approval of mifepristone. But that decision came at nearly the same time that federal judge Thomas Rice in Washington state, a Barack Obama White House appointee essentially ordered the opposite.

The extraordinary timing of the competing orders revealed the high stakes surrounding the drug nearly a year after the US supreme court overturned the federal abortion rights established by Roe v Wade. Joe Biden said his White House administration would fight the Texas ruling.

In Iowa, money for the victim compensation fund comes from fines and penalties paid by convicted criminals. For sexual assault victims, state law requires that the fund pay “the cost of a medical examination of a victim for the purpose of gathering evidence and the cost of treatment of a victim for the purpose of preventing venereal disease”. But it makes no mention of contraception or pregnancy risk.

Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, who served as director of the victim assistance division under Miller, said the longtime policy for Iowa has been to include the cost of emergency contraception in the expenses covered by the fund. She said that in rare cases, the fund paid for abortions for rape victims.

“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,” she said.

Iowa suspends provision of emergency contraception to sexual assault victims | Iowa

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