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More than 160 Plan B reimbursement requests for rape victims are pending at the AG's office

More than 160 emergency contraception reimbursement requests for rape victims are pending at the Iowa Attorney General's office.
Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition
More than 160 emergency contraception reimbursement requests for rape victims are pending at the Iowa AG's office.

More than 160 reimbursement requests for rape victims’ emergency contraception are pending at the state attorney general’s office as the state’s long-standing practice of covering this cost remains on pause.

According to records obtained by IPR, the reimbursement requests total around $7,500.

The reimbursement requests come from hospitals and pharmacies across the state. Around three-fourths are from this year, but several date as far back as 2021. One is from August 2020. Another is coded for child abuse.

Attorney General Brenna Bird confirmed earlier this year she had paused reimbursements for emergency contraception made through the Crime Victim Compensation Program while it reviews the practice.

A statement released by Bird’s office in April said they were reviewing the practice to evaluate “whether this is an appropriate use of public funds" as it conducts an audit of victim assistance services.

The Crime Victim Compensation Program pays for out-of-pocket expenses for crime victims, including sexual assault exams. Historically, it has covered emergency contraception and even abortions for rape victims. The program is funded using criminal fines and penalty fees, not taxpayer dollars.

Under the Sexual Assault Examination Payment Program, hospitals, physicians and other medical providers are to bill the AG’s office, not the victim or their insurance company, for the cost of a sexual assault examination, whether or not the crime is reported to law enforcement.

Hospital and pharmacy receipts from the attorney general’s office show emergency contraception costs are being deducted from the reimbursement total, which covers other common medications like doxycycline and metronidazole, antibiotics that are used to treat STIs.

On an episode of Iowa PBS' Iowa Press earlier this month, Bird said her office is still reviewing the practice of reimbursing victims for Plan B, but indicated she intends to make it a permanent change.

The attorney general’s office did not respond to IPR’s request for comment on the current state of its review process.

Critics have called for Bird to reinstate the policy, saying rape victims should never have to be concerned about the cost of medical care.

Earlier this month, following Bird’s Iowa Pressappearance, four Democratic state senators sent a letter to her office requesting the reinstatement of the practice of covering emergency contraception.

“There is no cause to keep the growing number of sexual assault survivors in limbo. These funds exist to help victims, and they are provided by their assailants through fines and restitution. They are not taxpayer funds,” the letter stated.

This month, Polk County supervisors unanimously voted to fund emergency contraception for rape victims using county funds. The cost had previously been covered by the attorney general's office.

A statement released by Polk County Supervisors Tom Hockensmith and Angela Connolly said 105 victims in Polk County received emergency contraception last year.

“But to those women, we hope that they felt supported and cared for in a comprehensive and complete manner that allowed them to begin the process of rebuilding their lives after one of the most traumatic events that a woman can experience,” the statement said.

“Funding these critical healthcare services is about compassionate and complete care that puts women before partisan politics.”

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter