Iowa Republican legislators suffered another setback at the hands of the courts on May 7 when District Court Judge Paul Scott ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and its quest to receive taxpayer money for sex education.
At issue was an effort by Republicans to prohibit funds for sex education from going to abortion providers. An exception the legislature included in the bill ended up being its undoing.
The Iowa Department of Human Services administers the Community Adolescence Pregnancy Prevention “CAPP” and Service Program while the Iowa Department of Public Health administers the Personal Responsibility Education Program “PREP.” Money for these programs comes from federal grants and are distributed to Iowa entities after competitive bidding.
Those who receive money use state-selected curricula to provide sex education and teen pregnancy prevention services. CAPP and PREP funding may not be used for abortion-related activities.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has eight locations in Iowa and two in Nebraska. It provides abortions and promotes access to abortions. In 2017, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided 95 percent of all abortions in Iowa.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has also received CAPP funding since 2005 and PREP funding since 2012.
The Iowa legislature passed an appropriations bill on April 27, 2019 and it was signed into law on May 3, 2019 by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The bill excluded applicants that perform abortions, promote abortions, maintain or operate a facility where abortions are performed or promoted, conract or subcontract with an entity that performs or promotes abortions, become or continue to be an affiliate of any entity that performs or promotes abortions, or regularly make referrals to an entity that provides or promotes abortions or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.
However, the prohibition was not to be interpreted to include a nonpublic entity that is a distinct location of a nonprofit health care delivery system, if the distinct location provides personal responsibility education program or sexual risk avoidance education grant program services but does not perform abortions or maintain or operate as a facility where abortions are performed.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit and sought temporary injunction, which was granted.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland argued the bill violates its state constitutional right to equal protection under the law and unconstitutionally conditions funding on the abandonment of state constitutional rights to free speech, free association and substantive due process.
The State countered that excluding abortion providers from eligibility for the funding does not impose an unconstitutional condition, that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland does not have a fundamental right to perform abortions, that excluding abortion providers does not violate free speech and association, that excluding abortion providers does not violate equal protection and the challenged law is not a bill of attainder.
The exception carved out in the law for “nonprofit healthcare delivery system” facilities undermines any rationale the State had of not wanting to be affiliated with or provide funds to organizations that partake in any abortion-related activity, the ruling said.
“The act has no valid, ‘realistically conceivable’ purpose that serves a legitimate government interest as it is both irrationally overinclusive and underinclusive. The act violates Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s right to equal protection under the law and is therefore unconstitutional,” Scott ruled.