Iowa Republicans blinded by abortion

Iowa Republicans blinded by abortion

Gazette Column
However shortsighted, expensive and harmful the resulting policies may be, Iowa Republicans remain obsessed with abortion. Last legislative session, they chose to scrap the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver, primarily funded by the federal government, and replace it with a new program funded solely by the state. That initiative, now known as the Family Planning Program, took effect July 1. Both programs provide men and women of childbearing age who do not qualify for Medicaid a cost-effective way of accessing reproductive health services including contraception, exams, screenings and testing. The Iowa switch wasn’t proposed because the original program was riddled with fraud or otherwise ineffective. In May 2016, the University of Iowa Public Policy Center concluded that more than 80,000 women had used the Iowa Family Planning Network waiver since…
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Triage for mental illness makes sense

Triage for mental illness makes sense

Gazette Column
Iowans need jail alternatives County law enforcement officials are asking Iowa lawmakers to create regional triage centers for Iowans experiencing mental health episodes or an addiction crisis. It would be a much needed and smart move by lawmakers. The six triage centers proposed by the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association would assess individuals committed voluntarily or involuntarily so that those people can receive proven treatment that’s cost-effective. Currently, these people in crisis are being funneled into highest cost care, generally hospitals, jails and prisons. The flip side of the coin is why this is happening, and has been happening for several years. Iowa doesn’t have nearly enough treatment options for those with mental illnesses. This was true four years ago, when I wrote a two-part series about a Johnson County criminal case. It involved…
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Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Gazette Column
When Iowa lawmakers consider what should be done to improve Iowa Medicaid, Disability Rights Iowa hopes people will be their primary focus. To that end, the organization is encouraging Iowans to go online and share their stories in an #IamMedicaidIowa awareness campaign. Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told Iowa Public Radio the idea was hatched following a forum last month that highlighted “turmoil” in the program. “Many people came up to me and said: ‘Politicians need to see our faces. They are just thinking about the numbers,’ ” Hudson says. “ … That’s why we’re doing this.” [caption id="attachment_1793" align="alignleft" width="500"] Disability Rights Iowa is encouraging Iowans to hold a #IamMedicaidIowa sign, take a photo and tell their story to lawmakers.[/caption] A special announcement on the Disability Rights Iowa website is more…
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Alabama redefined pro-life

Alabama redefined pro-life

Gazette Column
Alabama election results made clear that anti-abortion no longer is the equivalent of pro-life. The professional number-crunchers will have their say in the days to come, tweezing out drilled down demographics. But the campaign strategy embraced by Roy Moore and his allies reveals new insights into an ongoing cultural shift, one expedited by religious conservatives’ embrace of President Donald Trump. In a nutshell, dire warnings about candidates’ stances on abortion don’t hold the weight they once did. Millions of dollars — $1.1 million from one pro-Trump super PAC alone — were pumped into the Alabama special election to remind voters that Democratic candidate Doug Jones favors abortion rights. The warnings were issued within ads on social media, television, newspapers and direct mail. “Jones is so liberal he supports abortion even…
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Recommit to support veterans

Recommit to support veterans

Gazette Column
Parades, free meals and organized ceremonies took place Friday as Iowans observed Veterans Day. That leaves this day, the actual date of Veterans Day, open for personal reflection and recommitment to those who wore the boots. Since 1775, nearly 1.4 million military members have died in war and conflicts. More than 40 million men and women have served in the armed forces during war; millions more during peacetime. Men and women have served on bases and in conflicts around the globe, including in Afghanistan for the past 16 years. They’ve served regardless of current events or political sentiment — although all returning have been subject to the whims of a society shaped by these factors. Within that context, the pomp and circumstance of Veterans Day is important and inadequate. Pausing…
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Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Gazette Column
Economic recommendations for Appalachia unveiled by a nonprofit and four U.S. senators this week could benefit the whole of rural America, if they garner a champion. The Appalachian region includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 more states, spanning from upper Mississippi to lower New York. It’s generally an area that’s coping with multiple and nuanced economic and cultural issues including shifting workforce priorities and the opioid epidemic. In May the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center began work with U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to establish a task force to develop recommendations for overcoming economic strife and isolation in four topic areas: education and workforce, entrepreneurship and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and rural health. On Wednesday the group…
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Health care failure is bipartisan

Health care failure is bipartisan

Gazette Column
“Think of it as a starter house,” former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said in 2010 of the newly minted (and already dented) Affordable Care Act. His meaning, if it isn’t clear, was that the ACA, or Obamacare, never was intended to be stagnant. It was what the Democratic majority had the political will to pass, a product of compromise and, therefore, fell short of many party members’ aspirations. Flip the partisan majority, fast forward to 2017, and the similarities are obvious. In the weeks ahead we’ll learn if Republicans have the political will to compromise. Perhaps more important, if the goal is to stabilize health care, we’ll discover if Democrats can better stomach massive renovations or full demolition. And, yes, those are the remaining options. Harkin’s starter home, too cheaply…
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Wrongful birth suits get Iowa court nod

Wrongful birth suits get Iowa court nod

Gazette Column
Physicians who don’t inform pregnant women and their partners of fetal anomalies can be sued, the Iowa Supreme Court decided this month. These “wrongful birth” cases involve pregnancies in which physicians or other medical professionals have access to test results, not disclosed to parents, indicating the child will face severe disabilities. For instance, in the case before the Iowa Court, parents Pamela and Jeremy Plowman say their prenatal doctors failed to inform them of abnormalities discovered during an ultrasound. Instead they were led to believe “everything was fine” with the pregnancy, and recommended follow-up testing was never completed. Severe cognitive defects were diagnosed after their son was born. His medical condition requires lifelong oversight and intervention. Now six years old, their son does not speak or walk, and he is…
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Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Gazette Column
News that health care advocates had been dreading came Thursday: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will shutter a third of it’s Iowa clinics. Locations in Bettendorf, Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close at the end of June. Only one of those locations offered abortion services, and it will continue to provide those procedures until the building is sold. Soon to be lost is what more than 70 percent of Iowans supported — access to family planning services like contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and cancer or other disease screenings. More than 14,000 Iowans utilized the clinics now slated for closure. Planned Parenthood clinics statewide serve nearly half of residents who use publicly-funded family planning services. Looking only at the four counties impacted by the closures, Planned Parenthood clinics served, at a…
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Keep it honest, take it personally

Keep it honest, take it personally

Gazette Column
Dubuque letter writer Barbara Rank struck a chord, according to a Washington Post headline. I have another assessment: Rank took it personally. Rank attended the Dubuque town hall event hosted by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. She heard her Congressman say it was time to end some “crazy” Affordable Care Act regulations, “such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.” The following day, as she walked through her community, she thought about that statement and other past controversies surrounding how taxpayer funds are used. Then, she penned a short, authentic response to Blum that she submitted as a letter to the editor. “I ask, why should I have to pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read? Why…
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