Show us the list, Gov. Branstad.
Terry Branstad reiterated his goal to defund Planned Parenthood in last week's Condition of the State address. Send the money to other clinics that don't perform a constitutionally protected procedure, he argues. It's not a new position for the long-time, outgoing governor. But, this time, Democrats lack the power to stop it.
Not a penny of federal or state cash is spent on abortions and hasn't been for years. In fact, abortions are just 3 percent of the organization's total national caseload. Testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer screenings and contraception make up the bulk of Planned Parenthood's services, according to the organization's annual report. Planned Parenthood operates 12 clinics in Iowa, including one in Bettendorf.
Branstad's ideologically driven pitch isn't novel, mind you. He's following a well-warn trail blazed one way or another from Texas to Indiana, where crackdowns shuttered clinics and left thousands of poor women without reproductive care. They, too, drafted lists of "alternative" clinics where treatment is supposedly available for women. The results aren't particularly reassuring.
Florida tried this exact same approach last year. It's so-called list, including dental offices and school nurses, made it an overnight laughingstock. Things got worse when the Zika virus spread through Miami. Gov. Rick Scott, a proponent of the anti-Planned Parenthood movement, had no choice but to seek out the organization's help in spreading the word and doling out condoms. No other medical network had the means or the expertise. Scott learned the hard way.
Indiana's draconian no-funding policy shuttered clinics and weakened Planned Parenthood throughout the state, which was the point. And, within a year, an HIV outbreak — centered in poor, rural towns with a heroin problem — only made the sudden dearth of STD and contraception services more obvious.
Yet Branstad's administration was unable to provide details when pressed. It's a shocking lack of preparation for a such a sweeping policy shift.
Look, we get it. Science doesn't consider a life viable until it functions on its own. Hence the legal definition of a fetus. But there's no doubt some highly subjective gray area in when a life begins. This issue segregates this editorial board just like the rest of society. And the rape and incest situations only further confuse an already complicated debate between the head and the heart.
Research has shown contraception to be best method at reducing the number of abortions. And it's a realm where Planned Parenthood shines.
It's also an incontrovertible fact that, at present, abortion access is a constitutional right. Laws like what's now circulating Iowa are, in a very real sense, little more than obvious attempts to limit access. Texas' attempts to kill clinics resulted in women having to drive hundreds of miles for care, essentially locking out the poorest.
But the fact remains that similar recent experiments have exposed the important role Planned Parenthood uniquely fills in society, a lesson Florida and Indiana officials learned the hard way. Through its network of clinics and army of volunteers, it's positioned to respond to STD outbreaks in a way that no other organization can. It offers reproductive care to women who are isolated, either by geography or economics. Planned Parenthood is more than abortions, regardless of what the misinformation campaign says. Right now, it's best positioned to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
And Branstad and his administration still can't explain how that gap would be filled.
Branstad's proposal could take all that away from thousands of Iowans. That's unless his list can accomplish what previous attempts have failed to do.