Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

November 23, 2019

Des Moines Register. Nov. 21, 2019

Fund Planned Parenthood: When one of its clinics disappears, so does testing and treatment for STDs

Some GOP politicians try to micromanage the lives of their female constituents by limiting access to abortion. The goal seems to be forcing every pregnant woman to give birth, whether she wants to or not.

The anti-choice tactics of these elected officials are largely targeted at health providers who offer abortion services. Threaten them with jail time. Pass laws requiring them to perform unnecessary ultrasounds on patients, provide state-approved literature and obtain special consent for a safe, outpatient procedure.

The favorite tactic, however, is starving Planned Parenthood of funding. Members of the GOP seem to believe running Planned Parenthood out of business will “save babies.”

Perhaps they don’t understand what syphilis does to an infant.

When a Planned Parenthood closes, Iowans don’t lose access only to birth control, cancer screenings and abortion services. They lose a place that offers testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

And rates of STDs have been soaring in Iowa.

This state had 19,807 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2018, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of more than 1,800 cases from the previous year.

Sexually transmitted diseases have been increasing nationwide. In recent years American adults had more sexual partners and were more likely to have casual sex than adults in previous years. Public health officials have seen more STD cases among individuals who use substances such as methamphetamine. Federal funding for STD clinics has also been reduced.

These realities make Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual education and condoms, more important than ever.

Yet Iowa’s GOP lawmakers are doing their best to try to close clinics. They insisted the state forfeit about $3 million in federal family planning dollars for the sole purpose of ensuring Planned Parenthood couldn’t collect it. That led to a significant decline in Iowans utilizing family planning services and contributed to the closure of four Planned Parenthood clinics around the state.

In the four counties where those closures took place, STD cases increased 20% in the first year after closures, compared to a previous average increase of 2% per year.

When Iowans don’t get tested for STDs, they don’t get treated. Untreated STDs can lead to numerous health problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and cervical cancer in women.

Of course if GOP lawmakers cared about the health of women, they would support Planned Parenthood, a trusted health provider that has reliably served tens of thousands of women over the years. If these lawmakers really cared about infants, they would recognize how untreated STDs affect babies.

Congenital syphilis can cause deformed bones, severe anemia, enlarged organs, jaundice, blindness, deafness and meningitis. The disease can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and death shortly after birth.

Planned Parenthood specializes in preventing and treating STDs. Its clinics are easy to access. Teenagers, who may not want to visit a family doctor, feel especially safe seeking confidential help at a Planned Parenthood.

Yet the anti-choice politicians — including the state’s current governor — continue a quest to target and defund the very health providers who provide testing and treatment for STDs. That puts women and infants at risk.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Nov. 20, 2019

Iowa loses great chief justice

Mark Cady, the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court who died of a heart attack Friday at 66, will be remembered as a giant of the judiciary who eschewed political ideology.

After he was recently named president of the National Conference of Chief Justices, predecessor Mary McQueen of Washington lauded Cady as “dedicated to fairness, access, and transparency in the justice system.”

The independent-minded Cady was the subject of wrath by social conservatives, but wasn’t a liberal either.

Born in South Dakota, Cady graduated from Drake University law school. The Fort Dodge resident climbed the state court ranks, thanks to appointments by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to the district court, Iowa Court of Appeals, and then Iowa Supreme Court in 1998. He became chief justice of the so-called “Cady court” in 2011.

Iowa became the third state to sanction gay marriage in the court’s unanimous 2009 Varnum v. Brien decision, which Cady wrote.

Although the Legislature in 1998 had defined marriage as a union between only a man and a woman, Cady found the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection clause was paramount.

“Our responsibility … is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time,” he stated, adding that later generations would find laws “once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress.”

The first Iowa Supreme Court decision in 1839, he wrote, “refused to treat a human being as property to enforce a contract for slavery and held our laws must extend equal protection to persons of all races and condition.”

The Iowa high court, he added, was years ahead of the nation in ending segregation and allowing women to become lawyers.

But the decision made him a lightning rod for social conservatives who removed three of his colleagues in a 2010 retention vote. Cady was not on the ballot. Two years later, Varnum supporters led the campaign that retained Justice David Wiggins.

Cady also alienated social conservatives last year in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Reynolds, a 5-2 decision striking down a 72-hour abortion waiting period approved by the Legislature in 2017. It also essentially made moot the 2018 “fetal heartbeat” law that banned most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

He wrote that Planned Parenthood’s “current same-day regime ensures that women who are conflicted or who need more time are, in fact, given extra time or are given the resources to pursue other options.”

He added, “Some patients will be pushed beyond the twenty-week surgical abortion cutoff and others will be pushed beyond the ten-week medication abortion window and will be denied the procedure of their choice. The delay will also expose women to additional medical risk. Finally, victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault will endure additional hardships, including jeopardized confidentiality.”

The decision was a catalyst for the Republican-controlled Legislature to change the state’s 17-member commission that nominates judges, replacing the sole state Supreme Court member with the governor’s appointee. It also reduced Cady’s eight-year term as chief justice, which would have forcing him to relinquish that position in 2021.

Cady managed to appall liberals by rejecting the restoration of felony voting rights, denied by the Iowa Constitution for “infamous crimes.” After Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack restored those rights, Branstad immediately revoked them, establishing a process for restoring them through his office.

The American Civil Liberties Union contended not all felonies are “infamous crimes.”

Cady wrote, “Constrained, as we must be, by our role in government, we conclude our constitution permits persons convicted of a felony to be disqualified from voting in Iowa until pardoned or otherwise restored to the rights of citizenship.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled juveniles convicted of murder could not receive mandatory life sentences without parole, an Iowan who participated in a murder as a 17 year old, but was not the killer, had his sentence restructured to parole after 25 years. Branstad then unilaterally made parole available only after 60 years.

Writing for the majority in Ragland v. Branstad in 2013, Cady helped strike it down, claiming it constituted a life sentence.

Cady was not Earl Warren, the conservative California governor turned liberal icon after being named the U.S. Supreme Court’s chief justice by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. He was more akin to Anthony Kennedy, the high court’s swing vote after being named by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Cady had his detractors, but his decisions were not predicated by political ideology. Ideally, that should be the standard for any member of the judiciary.


Quad City Times. Nov. 20, 2019

Read ID is coming

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a number of news stories reporting the increase in people who are showing up at driver’s license bureaus looking to get a Real ID.

In some Chicago-area bureaus, we’ve seen reports of lines going out the door. And one survey says that most Americans don’t even know about the requirements.

What is Real ID?

It’s an enhanced-security identification that will pertain to people who want to fly or enter federal facilities, such as courthouses or military bases; it also will be required to enter nuclear plants.

The IDs themselves are notable for the gold stars in the upper right-hand corner.

A U.S. Travel Association survey says that 40 percent of Americans don’t have Real ID or the other kind of documentation necessary to board a flight. In addition, 57 percent of Americans don’t know that driver’s licenses that don’t meet the additional security requirements won’t be able to board flights, according to the survey.

The good news is that it won’t be until Oct. 1, 2020, before these enhanced security requirements go into effect.

The bad news is that, in some places, people are flocking to driver’s license bureaus to get Real IDs and are having to wait in lines.

So far, that isn’t the case in the Quad-Cities. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office tells us its facility in Silvis has seen some increase in traffic but it’s been manageable. We’ve visited over the past week, and while we found the office to be busy, it wasn’t overly so. From March through the first week of November, about 6,000 Real IDs have been issued at the facility, according to the state.

An Iowa Department of Transportation official says facilities in the state are busier, but it’s nothing they haven’t been able to handle. But, then, Iowa has been issuing Real IDs since 2013, too. The state also tells us it has been ramping up its communication to residents about the issue.

These new requirements stem from a 2005 federal law aimed at improving security in the age of terrorism. The law is also purportedly aimed at preventing things like identity theft and other types of fraud. Congress provided plenty of time for states and people to come into compliance, but the deadline is approaching.

We think the best thing people can do is be aware of the new requirements — and then determine whether they even need a Real ID. Some people will not.

Some credentials, like a passport or military identification, will be enough to board a plane.

Also, if you have no plans to fly and don’t access the kind of federal facilities that require this enhanced identification, Real ID may not be needed, officials have said.

Government web sites have extensive sections aimed at answering such questions. in Iowa, go to www.iowadot.gov/mvd/realid. In Illinois, go to realid.ilsos.gov.

If you do decide to get a Real ID, we’d recommend not waiting until the last minute. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office tells us they expect to see increased volumes as the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline approaches. We expect Iowa will see the same thing.

Also, be sure to check out the kind of documents that you need to get a Real ID before you head off to the driver’s license bureau. The websites we cited above have links to sites that describe what you will need.

Even though the deadline still is nearly a year away, some travel industry experts are worried the country is ill-prepared for the new security requirements, and some have warned of a scenario where millions could be prevented from boarding flights come next year.

We hope it doesn’t come to that. But every Quad-Citian can take steps to prevent that from happening. In fewer than 11 months, the requirements of the Real ID Act will be upon us. We all should educate ourselves and be prepared.