# Women



The time has come to license midwives in Iowa

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa.

The 2022 Iowa legislative session saw the most significant momentum in more than forty years of advocacy for the creation of a licensure of direct-entry midwives in Iowa. With the 2023 legislative session underway, I will review the pivotal moments in the 2022 legislative session and explain why the Iowa legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds should prioritize enacting a midwifery licensure bill.

While I have addressed the need to provide a licensure for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in previous pieces, I will go more in-depth in providing background on why all Iowans should want and support CPMs practicing in our state.

Note: I would not benefit directly in any way if this bill passed, as I am not a birthworker (doula, midwife, physician), and I do not plan on having any more children. Through my volunteer work with the International Cesarean Awareness Network, I have learned a lot about the different types of midwives and believe Iowans have been “dealt a bad hand” by not having knowledge or access to community birth options that are more readily available in other states and other high-income countries. Iowa families deserve to have all options available for safe and quality maternal health care.

Continue Reading...

Four takeaways from Iowa's 2022 early voting numbers

Sixth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections. This post has been updated to include numbers from the Iowa Secretary of State’s revised statewide statistical report, issued on January 27.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office recently published the statewide statistical report on the 2022 general election. Republicans enacted many new barriers to early voting in 2021, which meant that compared to previous elections, Iowans had fewer days to request absentee ballots, fewer days to vote early by any means, and less time to return absentee ballots to county auditors. It was also much harder for Iowans to deliver another person’s completed absentee ballot, and each county could have only one drop box.

As expected, fewer Iowans voted early. The decline wasn’t spread evenly across the electorate.

Continue Reading...

Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2023

The Iowa Senate began its 2023 session on January 9 with 34 Republicans and sixteen Democrats, the largest majority seen in the chamber for about five decades. Five of the last seven Iowa general elections have been Republican waves.

Fourteen senators (nine Republicans, five Democrats) were just elected to the chamber for the first time in November. Seven of them (four Republicans and three Democrats) previously served in the Iowa House.

Fifteen senators are women (eight Democrats and seven Republicans), up from twelve women in the chamber prior to the 2022 election and more than double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

Democrat Izaah Knox is the second Black state senator in Iowa history. The first was Tom Mann, a Democrat elected to two terms during the 1980s. The other 49 senators are white. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Democrat Janice Weiner became the first Jewish person to serve in the Iowa Senate since Ralph Rosenberg left the legislature after 1994. Democrat Liz Bennett became the first out LGBTQ state senator since Matt McCoy retired in 2018.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. The Senate has added a new Technology Committee and renamed what used to be “Labor and Business Relations” as the Workforce Committee.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Mark, Mike, and Dan.

Continue Reading...

Five policy priorities to improve maternal health in Iowa

Rachel Bruns is a volunteer advocate for quality maternal health care in Iowa.

A 2022 report from March of Dimes shows that “36% of counties nationwide — largely in the Midwest and South — constitute ‘maternity care deserts,’ meaning they have no obstetric hospitals or birth centers and no obstetric providers.” While their report does not provide state rankings, you can see whether your county classifies as being a maternity care desert here. Additionally, a report from Stacker in June 2022 ranked Iowa eleventh on a list of “states where the most people live in maternal health care deserts.”

Even if your area has maternal health care providers (OBGYNs, family physicians, midwives), finding quality care is another challenge facing pregnant and postpartum individuals in both urban and rural areas. I’ve discussed some of those problems in previous articles for this website

The good news is relatively low-cost, evidence-based solutions are available to make maternal health care more accessible in Iowa, which would improve outcomes. I have identified and prioritized opportunities that should be bipartisan based on successes in other states.

Note: I am not including abortion access in these recommendations, since the procedure continues to be legal in Iowa, the media regularly cover this topic, and several organizations advocate on this issue. This article from Commonwealth Fund explains how states with restrictive abortion laws have worse maternal health outcomes.

Continue Reading...

Grassley, Ernst oppose big spending bill but back some provisions

The U.S. Senate completed its work for the year on December 22, when senators approved an omnibus bill to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2023.

The bill allocates $1.7 trillion in federal government spending ($858 billion for the military, and $772 billion in non-defense spending). The Washington Post broke down the funding by appropriations area.

The legislation also provides $44.9 billion more in aid to Ukraine, and $40.6 billion for disaster aid. It changes some Medicaid rules, which will preserve coverage for many new mothers and children. It also includes some policies not related to federal spending, such as reforms to the Electoral Count Act, workplace protections for pregnant or breastfeeding employees, and a ban on installing TikTok on government-owned devices.

Eighteen Republicans joined the whole Democratic caucus to pass the omnibus bill. Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the 29 Republicans who opposed the bill on final passage (roll call). But they supported some amendments added to the bill on December 22, as well as several GOP proposals that failed to pass.

Continue Reading...

Goveror promotes Taryn Frideres to chief of staff

Governor Kim Reynolds has picked Taryn Frideres to be her next chief of staff, the governor’s office announced on November 15. Frideres has been the governor’s chief operating officer since early 2021.

Sara Craig Gongol, whom Reynolds tapped to be chief of staff in December 2018, is leaving the office to serve as the Republican Governors Association’s next executive director, Politico was first to report today.

According to the governor’s office news release, Frideres served as U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s general counsel before holding several positions within the State Department, culminating as deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration. In that role, Frideres headed the ambassador’s Washington office and served “as a liaison to the White House, State Department, and Congress.”

Frideres will be the fourth woman chief of staff for an Iowa governor. Gretchen Tegeler was the first woman to hold that job during the first Terry Branstad administration, followed by Cynthia Eisenhauer, who was chief of staff for the last two years Tom Vilsack was governor, and Craig Gongol.

Salary records that Bleeding Heartland obtained through public records requests indicate that Craig Gongol and Frideres have been among several governor’s office staffers who are paid more than Reynolds herself. (State law caps the governor’s salary at $130,000 per year.) As chief operating officer, Frideres earned $163,176 in base pay during fiscal year 2022, and Craig Gongol earned $168,792 during the same period. Both received small raises at the beginning of the current fiscal year in July.

UPDATE: The governor’s office announced on November 21 that Jacob Nicholson will be the governor’s new chief operating officer, effective December 1. From the news release:

Jacob has worked for the State of Iowa’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management since 2008.

“I am excited for Jacob to join our team. I’ve worked closely with him over the last several years while he’s led the charge on many of our state’s major crisis incidents. He’s proven himself as a strong leader during our state’s most challenging times, and I know his depth of knowledge and experience will make him a great asset to the people of Iowa as my Chief Operating Officer.”

“I am honored to serve as the Governor’s Chief Operating Officer and put to work my skills and experience to greatly benefit Iowans,” said Nicholson. “Throughout my time at HSEMD, I have worked very closely with all state agencies and will continue to foster those relationships to ensure we are providing Iowans the best level of service they deserve.”

Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Jacob served as the Response Division Administrator and Chief of Operations in the State Emergency Operations Center and has responded to over 25 presidentially declared disasters. Jacob led and coordinated the State of Iowa’s response to some of the largest and most complex disasters in Iowa’s history, including the COVID-19 Pandemic, the August 2020 Derecho, and widespread record flooding across the state in 2019.

Continue Reading...
View More...