DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate passed SF 2381, dubbed the MOMS (More Options for Maternal Support) bill, by a party-line 32 to 18 vote on Tuesday.
The legislation directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to create a statewide program (MOMS) to promote healthy pregnancies and childbirth through non-profit organizations that provide pregnancy support services.
“Pregnancy support services” in the legislation is defined as “nonmedical services that promote childbirth by providing information, counseling, and support services that assist pregnant women or women who believe they may be pregnant to choose childbirth and to make informed decisions regarding the choice of adoption or parenting with respect to their children.”
The program can provide and support services to pregnant women such as nutritional services and education, housing, education, employment assistance, child care assistance, parenting education, postnatal support services, material items needed for newborn infants, health care coverage information, medical referrals, counseling, mentoring, and adoption education.
The Iowa Department of Human Services is to select a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has systems and processes in place for at least three years to successfully manage a statewide network of subcontractors to provide pregnancy support services. The organization’s mission should demonstrate a commitment to promoting healthy pregnancies and childbirth instead of abortions.
This criteria blocks groups like Planned Parenthood from becoming program administrator of the state’s MOMS program.
The bill requires the program administrator to create and maintain a network of subcontractors that are 501(c)3 organizations with a minimum of one year of operational experience in providing core pregnancy support services or managing a network of providers of pregnancy support services. These groups also have a primary mission of promoting healthy pregnancies over abortion, having a financial accountability system, and a board of directors that hires and supervises a director who manages the organization’s operations.
These subcontractors must ensure that the funding provided does not go to provide abortions or abortion referrals unless an attending physician confirms it is medically necessary to prevent their client’s death.
If the bill is signed into law, the legislation appropriates $1 million for the first year of the program, which starts on July 1, 2022.
The bill also appropriates $5.58 million in FY 2022-2023 and $8.87 million in FY 2023-2024 to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage under the Medicaid program to pregnant women enrolled in the Medicaid program pending approval by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Senate Democrats offered an amendment that eliminated the MOMS program but kept the Medicaid postpartum expansion appropriations.
“Senate Democrats are really happy to see this provision in your bill. As we’ve been pushing for this coverage for years, pregnancy in Iowa should not be a death sentence for parents to be sadly maternal mortality, the maternal mortality rate in Iowa has more than doubled in the past few years,” State Senator Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said. “Keeping new parents healthy is an important part of keeping new babies healthy.”
She said the amendment strikes the MOMS program “found to be ineffective and riddled with fraud in other parts of the country.”
“It replaces it with a safe evidence-based initiative to ensure Iowans who are pregnant have an advocate by their side who can provide safe evidence-based health care for them close to home before, during, and after they have their baby. It calls for Medicaid to provide coverage for doula care for islands who are pregnant,” Petersen added.
State Senator Mark Costello, R-Imogene, the bill’s manager, replied that Medicaid already has programs dealing with doula care. Since the amendment cuts the MOMS program, he recommended that the Senate oppose the amendment, which they did by a 32 to 18 vote.
Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, outlined how the Texas program the bill is modeled after, The Texas Pregnancy Care Network, experienced fraud and abuse.
After the amendment failed, State Senator Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, asked questions about the bill.
Costello pointed out that the fraud in Texas was one non-profit abusing their status, and they were no longer allowed to participate in the program.
“We have reporting requirements that they feel will help us to keep a good track of what’s going on and make sure that we try and keep fighting abuse to a minimum,” he said, pointing out that the Iowa Department of Human Services gave helpful input as the legislation was drafted.
Costello added that DHS Director Kelly Garcia, who previously worked in Texas and was familiar with the Texas law, was happy to see the bill brought forward and provided suggestions for reporting requirements.
Jochum countered that she provided suggestions but did not necessarily support the bill.
She also recounted the fraud seen in the Texas program and stated her opposition to the bill.
“This bill is not needed,” Jochum said. “When that HHS budget comes over from the house start funding the programs that we already know work.”
State Senator Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, criticized the bill and claimed that defunding Planned Parenthood of family planning funding was the cause of the number of abortions to increase in Iowa.
“So prevention of unwanted pregnancy is absolutely the most cost effective and effective way to ensure that we have fewer abortions in our state. This bill will not solve those problems. And it might cause more,” she said.
State Senator Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, spoke in support of the bill.
“This bill invests in women and their babies and provides them with the support they need to have positive and healthy outcomes for themselves and their babies,” she said.
She discussed her experience with an unplanned pregnancy.
“When my doctor gave me the pregnancy test, and it was positive. He then did an ultrasound. And when he found the heartbeat, he asked me what I wanted to do. He knew I was single, but he didn’t know anything else about me. And it was troubling to me that he assumed that abortion was my only option,” Cournoyer said. “But it was scary. I was overwhelmed. And that heartbeat that I introduced in the Senate last week, who’s going to be 25 in September, changed my life dramatically.”
“It’s not what I planned for my life. It’s not how I wanted to start my family, but it’s what happened after I participated in an activity that I knew could result in pregnancy. And it formed a human life, and I was now responsible for it. And I was not going to stop a heartbeat because it didn’t align with my life plan and it was inconvenient,” she added.
Cournoyer challenged Democrats on their support of Planned Parenthood.
“The senator from Polk talks about fraud from the program in another state that takes money from women’s care. I would ask about how the $746,000 that Planned Parenthood PAC gave to two Democratic candidates helped support women’s care? They then spent another $45 million in 2020 in that election in nine states to support Democratic candidates. That’s $45 million that could have been spent on the women that they say they support,” she argued.
“There’s a lot of talk about public money going into private organizations. Let’s talk about the $500 million that Planned Parenthood gets in public funds, public funds that go to a private organization,” Cournoyer said.
“This bill provides support for women and their babies in Iowa so we can ensure that our youngest Iowans get the best start in life,” she said. “This is a proactive approach.”
State Senator Carrie Koelker, R-Dyersville, also spoke in support of the bill. She said that the bill moves the needle but is not the final goal.
“This is something that we need to start, and we can grow from. We want to make sure that there (are) pro-life initiatives. We want to put tools in the toolbox, whether it’s adoption leave, whether it is over-the-counter birth control bills,” she said.
State Senator Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, also spoke in support of the bill and talked about how the birth mother of his adopted son benefitted from pregnancy services after she experienced an unplanned pregnancy at age 16.
Costello pointed out how many public assistance programs, including programs Democrats support, have had to deal with fraud in his closing remarks.
“In Fiscal Year 21, (Iowa DHS) collected $3,356,506 in overpayments for benefits that were provided DHS recipients in error. And the total debt owed to the state the conclusion is s FY 21 was 43,462,997. That (are) mistakes and fraud that we have not been able to collect from these programs,” Costello said, noting the state has a “big” fraud issue, and there is a bill to address that.
“I was hopeful that everybody would get on board because we’re not trying do restrict abortion in any way. We’re just trying to help make it rare to help provide women with the support that they need to feel comfortable making that decision to have that baby. And so I think that it makes a step forward,” he added.