The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and other groups have condemned a petition requesting the state deny Medicaid reimbursements for abortions resulting from rape, incest, or a devastating fetal health diagnosis.

Forty-one Republican state lawmakers filed the petition last month with the Iowa Department of Human Services. The lawmakers said that government funding for abortions was "in conflict with the express language and intent of the laws enacted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor." The agency has until August 10 to dismiss the petition or initiate the rulemaking process.

“The petitioners ask the department to withhold medical coverage from women who have been raped or whose pregnancy has taken a catastrophic turn,” Ben Stone, ACLU of Iowa Executive Director, said on Monday. “It doesn't get more mean-spirited than that.”

“Their petition asks the department for a procedural run-around that violates Iowa law about how administrative agencies can make rules,” he added. “Iowa law is very clear about when emergency rulemaking is allowed, and when it’s inappropriate.”

The proposal to prohibit Medicaid-paid abortions could threaten Iowa's entire Medicaid budget. The Hyde Amendment of 1976 allows states to prohibit federal funds for abortion, but not when a mother's life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest.

In fiscal year 2012, there were 22 Medicaid-paid abortions performed in Iowa. Fifteen of those abortions were the result of severe fetal anomalies, five were performed to save the mother, and two were for pregnancies that were the result of rape.

“It is shockingly callous that these politicians would try to compound the trauma of rape or incest by depriving a woman who becomes pregnant the ability to make the best decision for her circumstances, whether that decision is raising a child, adoption, or abortion,” Stone said.

[Abortion doctor inspects patient via Shutterstock]