The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI students, JoCo officials express frustration around paused contraceptive funding

In March, the Iowa Attorney General announced an audit into Iowa’s funding of emergency contraceptives is still ongoing, meaning funds have been paused since 2023.
Jenna Galligan
Planned Parenthood in seen on Friday, May 8, 2020.

After the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted to back funding for emergency contraceptives for survivors of sexual assault in August after state funding was paused, the future of reinstating statewide financial support remains undetermined.

In 2023, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird audited and paused Iowa’s funding of emergency contraceptives for survivors of rape. The Johnson County Board of Supervisors took over the funding in response. In March, Bird announced that the audit is ongoing, and the funding will continue to be paused.

Johnson County Supervisor Jon Green said the audit of these funds is “a huge middle finger from the attorney general.”

He said Johnson County has not audited the funding, having financed the county with $10,000 for emergency contraceptive funding several months ago, with the understanding that it would support access to medicine, operations, and abortion if necessary.

Green said if Johnson County has to continue paying for these services, he thinks the supervisors will continue to do so. The main reason is that $10,000 isn’t that much, he said. The Johnson County fiscal 2024 budget is about $146 million,Green said.

While Johnson County is prepared to continue these appropriations, Green said he is concerned about the quality of care for survivors of sexual assault in counties without these appropriations are receiving.

The attorney general’s role in Iowa is to help enforce laws, provide legal advice, and represent most state departments along with the state in Iowa District Court matters. The attorney general can’t create legislation nor can they withdraw a county’s right to exercise governance.

Sierra Gardner, a women’s health nurse practitioner at Emma Goodman Clinic in Iowa City, said during the aftermath of sexual assault, the clinic prioritizes support, reassurance, and care.

“What happened to [the survivor] was completely out of their control,” Gardner said. “So giving that control back to them is something we really focus on.”

Gardner said Iowa’s potential six-week abortion ban and the attorney general’s audit have increased the barriers for survivors of sexual assault and women in general to seeking reproductive care.

Lina-Maria Murillo, a UI professor of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies, said it’s important for Iowans to know that this funding for emergency contraceptives does not come from tax-payer dollars but rather from fines and penalties paid by those who are convicted of sexual assault.

Murillo said the decision to audit this funding was ludicrous, and this audit puts marginalized communities in Iowa at risk, particularly young and poor women. Murillo also said auditing this funding on the state level takes away the support system for sexual assault survivors, resulting in fewer individuals seeking treatment.

Murillo said Johnson County’s decision to take over this funding is admirable, and Johnson County could become a sanctuary county for survivors of sexual assault. Murillo said it is important that women know about this resource.

“If you are a victim or survivor of sexual assault, Johnson County has your back,” Murillo said. “Johnson County cares, unlike the state.”

Kyle Clare, a UI third-year student and a member of UI College Republicans, said the attorney general’s decision to stop funding during the audit was wrong.

Clare said he thinks the funding should have continued during the audit, and at the end of the audit, the attorney general should make a decision — one that would hopefully not get rid of the funding, but improve it.

Clare said he believes the funding for emergency contraceptives for survivors of rape is important.

“Rape victims need support. They don’t need their resources taken away, they need more,” said Clare.

Clare said this funding is especially important for survivors of sexual assault in rural areas where shame may be a factor in their choice to seek treatment.

RELATED: Johnson County Supervisors approve emergency contraception funds

While he hopes that Bird will fund statewide emergency contraceptives in the long term, Clare said Johnson County’s choice to fund in the attorney general’s place is a positive one. He hopes Johnson County welcomes survivors from other areas to seek treatment if it is not accessible in their home counties.

Clare said emergency contraceptive funding for survivors of rape should be a bipartisan issue. When it comes to anti-abortion rights beliefs, Clare said this funding is positive.

“If you’re a pro-life Republican, would you rather have [the victim] get an abortion later on in the pregnancy or just have the plan B pill immediately to stop that from happening?” Clare said. “I see myself as pro-life, but I also don’t think rape victims should have to carry their rapist’s baby. That’s immoral.”

UI third-year students E’mma Camara and Sydney Sands found the news of the state attorney general’s continual delay of this funding troubling but are glad that Johnson County has taken the funding upon themselves

“It’s unfortunate that Johnson County had to take on the funding, but I’m glad that they did it,” Sands said.

Both Camara and Sands questioned the reasoning behind Bird’s decision to continue this audit. Sands said she wonders how the attorney general can justify this politically.

“It seems more like a moral issue than a well-thought-out plan to improve the lives of Iowans,” Sands said.

Both Camara and Sands are worried about what this says for the future of Iowa’s women. The two both said they believe the issue comes down to support.

“The money that she’s potentially taking away from funding contraceptives better be going towards raising a child,” Camara said. “But as soon as the child is born, they don’t fu**ing care. That’s the problem.”

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About the Contributor
Jenna Galligan
Jenna Galligan, Films Editor/Documentary Director
Jenna Galligan is the Films Editor and Documentary Director at The Daily Iowan. She is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema with a minor in anthropology. This is her fourth year in the visuals department at the DI.