Iowa AG Bird completes audit, re-institutes emergency contraceptive reimbursement

IA AG Sexual Assault Audit

IA AG Sexual Assault Audit

(AP News) – The Iowa attorney general’s office said Friday it will resume emergency contraception funding for victims of sexual assault but end the rare practice of reimbursing victims for abortions.

Attorney General Brenna Bird, a Republican, paused the funding while awaiting the results of a comprehensive review of services that began when she took office in 2023.

“I agree that Plan B contraceptive prescriptions for victims to prevent pregnancy should be reimbursed. … However, Iowa will not use public dollars to pay for abortions,” said Bird, who campaigned on her opposition to abortion and her commitment to defending the state’s restrictive abortion law.

The over 350 delayed payments were heavily criticized by Democrats and abortion rights advocates.

The results of the review were released Friday, when Bird announced an overhaul to the victim assistance division to correct issues of noncompliance with Iowa code they had discovered and to improve services.

Bird said there has not been a system since 2019 that notifies victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault when a protective order they requested had been issued and again 30 days before it expires, as is required by Iowa law. The work to build a new system is in progress, she said.

Bird also recommended a change to administrative rules that would increase compensation for sexual assault nurse examiners from $200 per exam to $400. In the meantime, her office will begin reimbursing nurses for mileage to get to and from examination sites.

“Victims deserve immediate care, and our heroes in nursing deserve our support,” Bird said.

Federal and state law requires medical examination costs for victims of sexual assault be covered to ensure forensic evidence is collected readily and properly. In Iowa, costs are covered using state and federal criminal fines and penalties.

The policy under Bird’s Democratic predecessor, Tom Miller, had been to partially cover the cost of contraception for sexual assault victims. In rare cases, the cost of abortion for sexual assault victims was also covered, the previous attorney general’s Victim Assistance Division Director Sandi Tibbetts Murphy told the Des Moines Register last year.

For the duration of the 16-month review, services for victims continued, but reimbursement payments for Plan B and abortion services were stalled. Bird on Friday said the review “took the time necessary to get it done right.”

According to the attorney general’s office, 362 claims for emergency contraception filed during that time will be reimbursed immediately after information with hospitals is verified.

One claim for abortion expenses will not be reimbursed.

Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, said the audit was a “reprehensible” politicization of sexual assault victims.

“For months, Attorney General Bird unnecessarily denied reimbursement for hundreds of sexual assault survivors, turning them into political pawns,” she said in a statement.

“Although state-paid emergency contraceptives will resume, those in need of abortion care will now have to shoulder the cost,” Stilwell added. “This is the last thing survivors should have to worry about.”

The attorney general’s report released Friday indicates the practice of reimbursement for emergency contraception will continue so long as the provider “certifies that the prescription was to prevent ovulation and not to prevent implantation of an embryo.”