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Nonprofit groups that provide alternatives to abortion, like pregnancy and adoption counseling, support and supplies, would be eligible for new state funding under a bill passed Tuesday by the Iowa Senate.
Senate File 2381 would create the “More Options for Maternal Support” (MOMS) program, a $1 million fund for groups that encourage alternatives to abortion. Under the proposal, the Department of Human Services would fund nonprofits that provide supplies, education, resources and counseling to individuals who plan to carry their pregnancy to term.
The legislation specifies the funding must go to organizations that “have a primary mission of promoting healthy pregnancies and childbirth instead of abortion.”
“We’re not trying to restrict abortions in any way, we’re just trying to help make them rarer – To help provide women with the support that they need to feel confident making that decision to have that baby,” said Sen. Mark Costello, R-Imogene.
Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, said she experienced an unplanned pregnancy but chose to give birth to her son, who is now 25. She supported the bill, arguing it would provide “support and resources so that women don’t think abortion is their only option.”
“I was not going to stop a heartbeat because it didn’t align with my life plan and it was inconvenient,” she said.
Democrats opposed the bill. They said broader social protections, like better child care, affordable housing, and accessible, non-privatized health care, would encourage individuals to choose childbirth over abortions.
“Everyone in this room would say we need to have fewer abortions, right? Fewer abortions is a good thing,” Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, said. “We’re just coming at it in a different way.”
Several Democratic senators pointed to issues with a similar program in Texas, which they said was rife with fraud. In 2021, The Texas Tribune reported the program had grown to over $100 million over two years, despite a lack of oversight and data on its efficacy.
“I cannot support a program here in Iowa that opens the door wide to the same kind of exploitation and graft,” said Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights.
Costello said issues of fraud in Texas were isolated incidents and the program, on the whole, was a success.
Representatives from Planned Parenthood said the bill would fund “crisis pregnancy centers” that discourage or prevent people from accessing abortions.
“(Senate File 2381) diverts taxpayer dollars that could be used to expand affordable, high-quality reproductive health care during a time when Iowa faces multiple health crises,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa spokesperson Sheena Dooley said in a statement.
The Senate voted 32-16 to pass the bill, sending it to the House for consideration.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Sen. Claire Celsi represents West Des Moines.
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