The Iowa Legislature finally adjourned at 6pm on Friday, April 29th. Issues that remained unresolved include Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, water quality, and medical marijuana. While we must consider any agreement to be a positive result and Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement on a $7.35 billion budget that will now go to Governor Branstad for approval, I am, personally, disappointed.
Democrats and Republicans have come to compromise agreements before regarding school funding that the Governor vetoed. And what he vetoed was such a watered down version of what Democrats originally proposed based on what Iowa schools really needed, that I saw little reason to be optimistic about that accord.
With all due respect to Democrats who have tried hard to correct these issues, what we are seeing as school funding falls woefully short, while clean water initiatives are not passed, while medical cannabis continues to be restricted from Iowans who can benefit from its medicinal application, is that Quality of Life has taken a back seat to corporate-pandering special interests. We are seeing crony-politics take root and grow.
Since 2011, Branstad has gotten his way to give away $400,000,000 in new tax breaks to Iowa corporations. What suffers, as a result, is our middle class, schools and infrastructure; all of the reasons that attract corporations to Iowa in the first place.
Policy falling short appears epidemic as just the other day I was in a conversation with a candidate for office who said that medical marijuana needs to be tested more fully by the FDA, and as a Schedule 1 drug it warrants such careful and patient study.
I replied, “Without even getting into the absurd Schedule 1 classification, which was far more political than scientific, we aren’t even talking about recreational use here; we are talking about patients with epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other afflictions, who have found groundbreaking relief from cannabis oil.”
“More study is needed,” he continued, “I haven’t seen enough documentation.”
“I’ve seen plenty,” I said. “Even one little girl, who has had two brain surgeries for her epilepsy, whose parents told me that medical cannabis was the only treatment that gave her rest from seizures, is enough evidence! But there are thousands like her. Who are we? If not a state that does everything it can to allow our citizens to live healthy lives? This isn’t about anything other than improving the quality of life for Iowans who are suffering. I don’t want to hear about years of testing to find out what we already know.”
I wasn’t finished.
“I’ve heard state legislators who have opposed expanding the availability of medical cannabis in Iowa say that people should ‘go out of state to get what they need.’ I was told that one such legislator when confronted with the issue of an epileptic sufferer said: “I’ll pray for her.”
“My daughter doesn’t need his prayers,” the parent told me, “She needs medicine that is being denied to her!”
And Medical Cannabis and School Funding aren’t the only issues that stand as evidence of misplaced priorities: No Senate Water Quality Plan.
House Democrats put up a proposal that stirred discussion with Republicans, who had a proposal of their own. The Republican plan raided state funds; a classic rob Peter (education) to pay Paul (whatever they are willing to compromise on) and progress was halted.
Planned Parenthood also resulted in a stall. That stall works in favor of continuing current funding through Medicaid, but the fact that it’s even on the table is confounding.
My support of Planned Parenthood and continuing its Medicaid funding is three fold:
- The mission of Planned Parenthood is to provide women with reproductive health care. In fact, it is the preeminent provider of health care to women as 1 in 5 American women have, at one time or another, used PP services. The majority of their programs are preventive, primary care, to prevent unintended pregnancies through contraception, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections through testing and treatment, and screen for cervical and other cancers. PP in Iowa is a vital part of our health network, providing high-quality and affordable care to nearly 38,000 women (and men) each year.
- If abortion is the issue which Planned Parenthood critics have taken hold, then it cannot be overlooked that as a contraception provider it reduces unwanted pregnancies.
- And finally, abortion-related services are only a fraction (3%) of what Planned Parenthood provides, and government subsidies do not go toward those services. Furthermore, in Iowa, Planned Parenthood receives no direct legislative funding, it is only through providers like Medicaid.
Defunding Planned Parenthood does nothing but compromise needed health services. There is no rational justification for its defunding especially if the primary reason is to stop abortions.
And since abortion is the issue by which the Planned Parenthood antagonists stake a very passionate claim, let me say this- NO one likes abortion. Where I stand is that I don’t want government dictating, moralizing or determining a choice that belongs to a woman. A woman must have dominion over her own body, and it is with the counsel of her choosing; her doctor, clergy, and family; to decide in early term what course to take. To say otherwise is, in my opinion, to demean the rights and equality of a woman.
We may disagree, but let’s do so without malice and use logic and reason whenever we can to make determinations regarding a very emotionally dividing issue.
In conclusion, whether we are talking about Education, Women’s Rights, Health Care, or the quality of our Water and Land, we are talking about the Quality of Life and the fundamental purpose of legislation: To provide a governing framework from which the citizens collectively “…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
I believe that a legislator must evaluate every issue through the lens of understanding and compassion and consider the improvements to the quality of life that any legislation before them can provide. That should always be the measure of our purpose and our success.