Under Bird, the Iowa AG office has stopped covering emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird speaks with survivors of sexual assault on April 4, 2023. — Twitter photo, cropped

April is Sexual Assault and Awareness Month and Iowa’s new attorney general, Brenna Bird, has been advertising her support for survivors of sexual assault in social media posts. “Our office is committed to working with survivors of sexual assault to ensure they receive the support they need,” according to posts on Tuesday on AG Bird’s official accounts. But the attorney general no longer considers emergency contraception to be part of “the support they need.”

Under Tom Miller, the previous attorney general who held the office for 38 years, victims of sexual assault had access to emergency contraception and, if necessary, abortion services in the course of the medical care victims receive in sexual assault examination. Since 1979, state law has required the Sexual Abuse Examination Payment Program to cover the costs of those exams. The program has been part of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office since 1990.

Iowa Public Radio reported on Friday that Bird’s office has stopped the program for paying emergency contraception as part of the program. According to a statement the AG’s office provided IPR, it will not pay for any contraception or abortion service while Bird is “carefully evaluating whether this is an appropriate use of public funds.”

The program does not use tax dollars, but instead is paid for by the Attorney General’s Victim Compensation Fund, which is funded by criminal and civil fines collected by the office.

Hundreds of people gathered at Cowles Common in downtown Des Moines on May 4, 2022, in response to the leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The “Abort the State” protest was organized by the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement. — Britt Fowler/Little Village

This isn’t the first action Bird has taken to undermine access to abortion services since she was sworn in as attorney general in January in Iowa.

On Feb. 1, Bird joined 19 other Republican state attorneys general in an attempt to intimidate Walgreens and CVS, by threatening the pharmacy chains with unspecified legal action if they followed new FDA regulations and made a prescription drug commonly used in medical abortion made readily available. The next week, Bird and 21 other Republican state attorney generals submitted an amicus brief in support of a federal lawsuit by anti-abortion groups seeking a nationwide injunction on distribution of the same prescription medicine.

That lawsuit was filed in Texas where, thanks to the state’s way of assigning federal civil cases, the anti-abortion groups could be assured of getting a sympathetic judge. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is a 2019 Trump appointee who has a long history of taking extreme right-wing positions and has demonstrated a willingness to issue nationwide injunctions even when they are likely to be overturned on appeal.

Kacsmaryk’s ruling is expected to be handed down at some point in the next few weeks.

This story originally appeared in LV Daily, Little Village’s Monday-Friday email newsletter. Sign up to have it delivered for free to your inbox.