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NEWS 4.11.23: IA SUPCO hears arguments in "fetal heartbeat" lawsuit, major MHRD grant, and more

A lawyer for Governor Kim Reynolds argued before the Iowa Supreme Court today that Iowa’s “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban should be reinstated.

State lawmakers passed the ban in 2018, but it was blocked by a judge and never enforced. If the Court reinstates the law, it would ban most abortions after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks of pregnancy. Abortion is legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Attorney Chris Schandevel representing the state, says the Court has no choice but to let the state enforce the abortion ban after last year’s rulings by the Iowa Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court.

 “What the legislature did in 2018 in enacting the fetal heartbeat law, it’s perfectly consistent with both constitutions. Because there is no fundamental right to abortion.”

A lawyer for Planned Parenthood says there’s no legal basis in Iowa for reviving a law that was unconstitutional when it passed and then permanently blocked by a court four years ago. The Court is expected to issue an opinion by the end of June.

Submitted news release:

Gov. Reynolds Statement on Heartbeat Bill Oral Arguments

DES MOINES – Gov. Reynolds released the following statement in response to the Iowa Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on the fetal heartbeat bill:

“I remain optimistic that the Iowa Supreme Court will allow the fetal heartbeat bill to take effect as the Iowa Constitution requires. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, decision-making power has been returned to the states. Our citizens and their elected officials have chosen to promote Life and end abortion at a heartbeat, with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.”

House Republicans are planning to advance a bill this week that would make Iowa Democrats’ proposal for absentee caucus participation illegal.

The Iowa Democratic Party proposed using mail-in preference cards for the Democratic caucuses as part of its bid to stay first in the nation for the presidential nominating process. National Democrats removed Iowa from the early nominating window anyway, but Iowa Republicans are still going first.

Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton is the bill’s sponsor. He says the bill would help both parties stay first in the nation.

“If we do mail-in ballot voting as a caucus in Iowa, New Hampshire views that as a primary and they will jump us which will jeopardize our first in the nation status.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart says the bill is disappointing and is potentially damaging to the history of the parties working together to preserve the caucuses. She says Democrats will be, quote, “moving forward with an inclusive caucus process.”

Wind turbine setback distances have come before the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors again.

The board on Tuesday unanimously directed the Woodbury County Zoning Office to increase commercial wind turbine setback distances to two miles from city limits and a half mile from public conservation areas.

For three years in a row, the issue of commercial wind turbines in Woodbury County has come before the board to approve setback distances and regulations.

The Sioux City Journal reports Board Members Mark Nelson and Dan Bittinger asked the board to make the increase after hearing concerns from city officials, residents and planners.

The current ordinance has a setback distance of 600 feet or 110 percent of turbine height from city limits and public conservation areas.

Those concerned said current setback distance could hamper potential city growth and hamper wildlife and visitors who frequent county conservation areas, according to board documents.

A Sioux City family medicine practice and residency program is slated to become part of University of Iowa Health Care. Click here for the story from the Sioux City Journal.

Missouri River Historical Development (MRHD) awarded $750,000 to Iowa’s West Coast Initiative. The money will be used to create an “Innovation Center” that will house amenities such as a food hall tech lab, business space, and studios for Siouxland Public Media.

Submitted news release:

National Data Breach Impacts Some Iowa Medicaid Members

Cyberattack Occurred On Contractor’s Computer System; Iowa Medicaid System Was Not Breached

Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces today that some Medicaid members’ personal information was compromised in a national data breach affecting a contractor’s computer system last year. The Iowa Medicaid system was not breached.

“Medicaid takes the privacy of Iowans’ personal and health information seriously,” said Elizabeth Matney, Iowa Medicaid Director. “We regret the inconvenience and the concern this incident may cause Medicaid members in Iowa. HHS will continue to do everything possible to protect member information from unauthorized access.”

Iowa Medicaid, a division of HHS, works with private contractors to help deliver health care in Iowa. One of those contractors is Telligen, Inc. which performs annual assessments for Medicaid members to ensure they are receiving the correct level of care. Telligen subcontracted part of that work to Independent Living Systems (ILS).

Between June 30 and July 5, 2022, ILS suffered a data breach that resulted in the exposure of personal information belonging to more than four million individuals across several states. Data for approximately 20,800 Iowa Medicaid members was involved in this breach. The breach led to the compromising of information, such as full names, Medicaid details, and other sensitive information.

ILS detected the network intrusion on July 5, 2022, and reported the incident to the FBI and other authorities. An investigation was launched to determine what data was compromised. As the investigation was concluding, ILS informed Telligen of the breach on February 14, 2023. Telligen notified Iowa HHS and Medicaid on February 17, 2023.

ILS has taken steps to mitigate the risk of this happening again by improving their network security environment and providing enhanced training to employees on dealing with sensitive information.

Iowa Medicaid is mailing letters to all affected members this week. Those letters will include details on what information was compromised and how to protect themselves from unauthorized use of their information. The letters also include information on how to access free credit monitoring, and how to obtain a free copy of their credit report.

Medicaid members with questions can reach out to Iowa Medicaid Member Services toll free at 833-257-1764 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. central daylight time.

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