# Civil Rights



How did we get here? An analysis of the Dobbs decision

Bleeding Heartland user “Bill from White Plains” is an Iowa attorney.

Now that five U.S. Supreme Court justices have overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent when deciding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I thought it might be helpful to do a deep dive into the legal bases for that decision. Most folks see this as a “results-oriented” ruling, “judicial activism” done by “unelected judges” superseding “the will of the people.”

As with most Supreme Court cases, the popular press has focused on the result (ending any federal constitutional right to an abortion), rather than the legal framework. More often than not, our discourse parrots what we read and hear from the media. It is important to learn how the Supreme Court majority reached this outcome, because for the rest of our lives, that legal framework may impact civil rights most of us have taken for granted for decades.

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Six terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2022

After a hectic two days at the capitol, the Iowa House and Senate finished their work for the year shortly after midnight on May 25.

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will cover some of the final bills in detail. As usual, there were a few surprises in the “standings” bill, such as a provision expanding open enrollment from public schools. While Democrats opposed many bills sent to Governor Kim Reynolds this week, including a ban on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools or child care centers, they welcomed one of the last-minute proposals, which exempts diapers and period products from Iowa’s sales tax.

This piece will focus on bills that didn’t make it through, despite a push from Reynolds or top Republican lawmakers.

I anticipate future legislative battles over most if not all of these proposals. Earlier this year, the governor signed into law two priority items that failed to advance in 2021: a measure banning transgender Iowans from girls’ and women’s sports, and deep cuts to unemployment benefits.

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Regulating health care

Sondra Feldstein is a farmer and business owner in Polk County.

It’s conventional wisdom that Roe v Wade was a poorly written judicial decision. Not the first, nor the last.

I’m not a constitutional law scholar and I can’t say whether the weight of precedent should counteract the weakness of a poorly reasoned opinion. But each and every one of the conservative justices who can be expected to concur with the draft opinion overturning Roe assured senators during their confirmation hearing that the 1973 precedent was settled law, and that the principle of stare decisis carries such grave weight that the prospect of overturning “settled law” was unlikely.

But then, for anyone who believed what those potential justices said, I have the proverbial bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. It just isn’t relevant to ask whether future justices lied under oath, because everyone knew they were lying. It’s a game we play.

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A momentous year for Alexander Clark

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

The year 1848 was momentous in the life of young Iowa pioneer Alexander Clark.

On June 21, he and Benjamin Mathews purchased property on East 7th Street where their church would be built the following year. The Muscatine congregation became known as “the oldest colored church in Iowa.” (I’ll say more about the church in future columns.)

History reveals two other events of 1848: Alexander’s marriage to Catherine Griffin, and around the same time, his role—or maybe theirs—in a drama his eulogist will extoll in 1892, calling him “one of the Underground Railroad engineers and conductors, whose field was the South, whose depot was the North, and whose freight was human souls.”

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Three takeaways from Iowa's latest transgender equality ruling

Nearly fifteen years after state legislators and Governor Chet Culver added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on the first employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a transgender Iowan.

On April 1 the seven justices unanimously upheld a Polk County jury verdict, which found that the Iowa Department of Corrections unlawfully discriminated against plaintiff Jesse Vroegh. Superiors refused to allow Vroegh to use male restrooms and locker rooms when he worked as a nurse at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.

The court also upheld the jury’s finding that the state discriminated against Vroegh by refusing to cover gender-affirming “top” surgery, even though the state’s insurance plan would have covered a double mastectomy for a medical need not related to gender identity.

But breaking with the U.S. Supreme Court, six Iowa Supreme Court justices determined that gender identity discrimination did not also constitute discrimination against Vroegh on the basis of sex.

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"History reveals itself over time"

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

Early in the research for his Alexander Clark biography published in the Drake Law Review, retired Iowa State Supreme Court Justice Robert Allbee visited Muscatine to consult with Kent Sissel, the preservationist who has resided in Clark’s house since it was moved and saved from demolition in the late 1970s.

“I’ve spent the last 40 years, more or less, protecting the legacy of Alexander Clark,” Sissel told him in the hour-long conversation they recorded that day in 2018.

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