More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

Gazette Column
Pro-gun legislation in the Iowa Statehouse has succumbed to a barrage of bullets. Unfortunately, this is not a metaphor. The nation’s latest mass shooting, this time at a Florida high school, contributed to the demise of an Iowa bill aimed to loosen gun-permitting regulations. Instead, lawmakers want school districts to adopt security plans that address “active shooters” and other disasters. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who managed Senate File 2106, said the untimely and unnecessary deaths of 17 Floridians “apparently changed the optics.” Well, it’s about damn time. [caption id="attachment_1934" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Students, friends and family gather at the memorial crosses at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., to remember those where were killed and injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)[/caption]…
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Feminine hygiene product drive began with dignity

Feminine hygiene product drive began with dignity

Gazette Column
As Iowans extend a helping hand to those in need, feminine hygiene supplies are too often forgotten. A local group is stepping up to help. Members of the Cedar Rapids National Organization for Women are collecting pads and tampons to help support homeless and incarcerated women and girls. “The idea for the feminine hygiene product drive followed discussions on initiatives like the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act,” said Bailey Mendenhall, chapter president. “Throughout our last few meetings we had been discussing legislative solutions, as well as other organizations’ efforts to assist women abroad and at home with access to these products. We decided that we should be doing something right here, within our own community.” The women learned that there is a near constant need for feminine hygiene products in local transitional housing…
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Family planning services thin under Iowa GOP program

Family planning services thin under Iowa GOP program

Gazette Column
Despite Republican promises to the contrary, changes to family planning services has resulted in less access that will cost Iowans more. Last spring, Iowa Republicans crafted a new family planning program funded only with state dollars. They did so for the sole purpose of excluding providers that perform abortions or are part of a health network that does. Although abortion providers could accept public money under the previous program that was primarily funded at the federal level, none of the funds could be used for abortion services. The state’s new rules not only resulted in the expected exclusion of Planned Parenthood, but of other significant health care providers like the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the statewide UnityPoint network. Promises of expanded access haven’t materialized, according to a…
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Iowa Republicans are devaluing women – again

Iowa Republicans are devaluing women – again

Gazette Column
Iowa Republicans are once again making clear that they value the potential of pregnancy more than they value women. Their latest missive is Senate Study Bill 3143: “An act relating to the prerequisites for and prohibition against an abortion related to the testing for, and following the detection of, a fetal heartbeat, providing for a repeal, and providing penalties.” A nearly identical bill, HF2163, was introduced in the Iowa House: “An act recognizing the rights and protections accorded each life from the moment of fetal heartbeat detection, prohibiting the performance of an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, providing for licensee discipline, and providing a repeal.” Both bills basically state that, once a fetal heartbeat is detected by ultrasound, a pregnant woman cannot legally obtain an abortion. Doctors who defy the…
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Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Gazette Column
How will it cost taxpayers if the Iowa Legislature approves, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signs, a bill targeting so-called sanctuary communities? Let’s count the ways. The bill, Senate File 481, earned 32 votes and a nod of approval in the Iowa Senate last year. This week, it received a 2-1 vote in a House Public Safety subcommittee — despite law enforcement officials from across the state lobbying and speaking against it. The proposal must still advance through the full committee before it can be brought to the House floor. If approved by the Iowa House without any changes to what the Senate approved last year, it would be sent to the Governor’s Office where it could be signed into law. On Thursday night, the Reynolds-Gregg campaign used the bill as a fundraising plea, falsely…
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Theology as advocacy on death row

Theology as advocacy on death row

Gazette Column
Intersections luncheon features former Wartburg professor A former Wartburg College professor returns to the Hawkeye State this week to tell the story of a friend and theology scholar who was put to death by the state of Georgia in September 2015. And she has some questions. Jennifer M. McBride was board of regents chair in ethics, assistant professor of religion and director of peace and justice studies at Wartburg, a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Waverly. She now is associate dean of doctor of ministry programs and continuing education, and assistant professor of theology and ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. McBride first met Kelly Gissendaner — at the time, the only woman on Georgia’s death row — while directing a theology certificate program for the Atlanta…
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Maybe the answer is fewer rural hospitals

Maybe the answer is fewer rural hospitals

Gazette Column
Midwestern health providers and stakeholders are speaking out, and what they have to say is surprising. Could fewer hospitals bridge the widening urban-rural health gap? A new report highlighting the challenges and opportunities in rural health care across Iowa and six other Midwestern states says small communities need more flexibility to customize health care services, workforces and facilities to meet individual needs — even if, in some communities, it results in the loss of a full-service hospital. The Bipartisan Policy Center and the Center for Outcomes Research and Education spoke with more than 90 thought leaders and key stakeholders in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming to compile the report, which was released this month. [caption id="attachment_1874" align="alignleft" width="500"] Stethoscopes hang in a clinic hallway on May…
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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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Sexual harassment report urges action

Sexual harassment report urges action

Gazette Blog
Nearly five years after complaint 'there is nothing that has changed' On Friday, the Iowa Republicans shared a four-page report by Mary Kramer, which included specific recommendations “for achieving the goal of creating and maintaining a safe, respectful and professional workplace in the Iowa Senate.” Kramer, a former Republican lawmaker, U.S. ambassador and human resource professional, was asked by GOP leadership to prepare the report after a wrongful termination lawsuit was successfully brought against the state, placing taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million. Although Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, has yet to acknowledge or express remorse for it, a court ruled GOP leadership retaliated against a female employee by terminating her employment hours after she had submitted a formal complaint of sexual harassment. Court documents, as well…
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Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Gazette Column
This week was for the doubters and the naysayers. This week was for those who continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it makes no difference when women lead. With her first Condition of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds proved to all Iowans why well-rounded states value and embrace the strengths and experiences of all residents. Her remarks were generally inclusionary and conciliatory. They stood in stark contrast to last year’s contentious legislative session, and in defiance of the bungled Statehouse sexual harassment scandal. “All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector,” she said. “What we do here matters. Iowans are watching. We can’t change behavior everywhere, but we have…
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