Excerpt from Rep. Nielsen’s newsletter:

Several Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to take away federal grant money used to fund essential sexual health education programs at several organizations across the state.

The bill, House File 257, directs the Department of Public Health to prioritize distributing this grant funding to certain applicants, and outright prohibits organizations that perform abortions from receiving these funds. However, federal law prohibits any state or federal tax dollars to be used to pay for abortions.

Instead, this funding goes towards health education programs that help young people prevent unintended pregnancies, avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and make healthier decisions. The organizations that are being excluded from this funding will no longer be able to reach the tens of thousands of young Iowans to help them stay informed and healthy. These education programs have been shown to reduce teen pregnancy, thereby reducing the number of abortions.

Currently, Iowa’s teen pregnancy rates are at historic lows because of these education programs. Also, the funds are instrumental in teaching youth about STDs and how to avoid them. This is especially important now, given that the rates of gonorrhea have increased in Iowa by 145% from four years ago.

Cases of chlamydia and syphilis have spiked as well.

This bill comes at the same time that the Trump Administration announced a new rule that would direct any Title X federal family planning funds to religious and anti-abortion groups. Title X funding goes towards access to birth control, cervical cancer screenings, and treatment for STDs.

Currently, Planned Parenthood receives around $60 million from these funds every year, and operate about 40% of the clinics using this money. This could have severe consequences for Iowa, where there was a 73% decline in family planning services after the Republicans decided to decline $3 million in federal funding to create their own state family program, where women have far less access to healthcare services.

The key to preventing teen pregnancy and reducing the rate of STDs is age-appropriate and medically accurate information. Taking away this education funding can only result in higher instances of both.