Terry Branstad

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad delivers the annual Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Charlie Neibergall

JOHNSTON, Iowa --- Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday he expects to sign into law a compromise provision that would allow him to decide whether taxpayer money will be used to pay for a limited number of abortion procedures for low-income Iowa women who are covered by the federal Medicaid program.

A compromise struck by the split-control Legislature that was included in a human services budget bill in the closing days of the 2013 session would make Branstad one of the few governors nationally to have what amounts to veto power over using taxpayer money to pay for abortions that fall under the exceptions of rape, incest, life of the mother or fetal abnormality.

Branstad, who described himself as a “pro-lifer,” said during the taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” show that he expected to approve the provision and then decide funding questions “in a very thoughtful way” on a case-by-case basis.

“As I understand it, the decision is not whether there’s an abortion or not, the decision is whether the state is going to approve funding, which is a decision that is made after the fact. So I’m not really going to have any say in whether this procedure occurs or not -- I would discourage it wherever possible – but then I’ll have to make a decision whether or not it’s appropriate under the circumstances and under the guidelines that we have,” the governor told reporters after the “Iowa Press” taping.

According to the state Department of Human Services, there have been a total of nine Iowa Medicaid-paid abortions performed in this fiscal year -- eight involving severe fetal anomalies and one to save the life of the mother. There were no requests for payment of abortions in the case of rape or incest this fiscal year.

The total cost of the Iowa Medicaid-paid abortions was $11,479, including $1,286 in federal dollars and $10,193 in state dollars, according to DHS data. Federal dollars can be used only for abortions to save the life of the mother or for rape or incest. Also, Medicaid does not approve abortions in advance; instead federal officials decide whether to allow reimbursement to providers.

“Iowa law is very restrictive on the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. Very few of them are funded and I would like to see even less funded,” said Brantad. “We’re going to carefully look at this situation and if I approve (the legislative provision) — and I think it’s likely that I will — it will be done on a case-by-case basis.”

Among the considerations, the governor said, is the requirement that state policies comply with federal Medicaid guidelines.

“I think this is a compromise that was worked out in the legislative process,” he added. “This has been a very sticky issue in the Legislature. I feel that as the chief executive it is my responsibility to try to make things work.”

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Statehouse reporter for The Courier

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