Commission sends Iowa Supreme Court short list to Branstad

After interviewing 60 applicants for the three vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court this week, the State Judicial Nominating Commission sent Governor Terry Branstad a list of nine candidates on January 27. After the jump I’ve posted the press release naming the nine finalists. Five are lower-court judges (four district court, one appeals court), three are attorneys in private practice, and one is on the University of Iowa law school faculty. Branstad has to select three appointees within the next thirty days. Click here for information about and writing samples by all 60 applicants.

My first thought on reading the short list was that going forward, Iowa’s high court will have no women justices for the first time in many years. Twelve women applied for the Supreme Court vacancies, including District Court Judge Annette Scieszinski of Ottumwa and two assistant attorneys general, Jeanie Vaudt and Elisabeth Reynoldson. Since former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus was not retained by Iowa voters and had been the only woman on the court, I expected the commission to include at least a couple of women on the nominees list sent to Branstad. However, only University of Iowa Professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig made the short list, and I see zero chance Branstad will select her. It’s not that she is the youngest of the nine candidates; at her age (37), Branstad was governor of Iowa. The salient fact is that Onwuachi-Willig submitted a friend of the court brief in the Varnum v Brien case, supporting the plaintiffs who were seeking to have the Defense of Marriage Act struck down. I can’t imagine any scenario in which Branstad chooses a public supporter of marriage equality for a judgeship.

Nathan Tucker of the recently-formed conservative 501(c)4 group Iowa Judicial Watch posted the party affiliations and campaign donation history of all nine finalists, as well as links to their application materials and interviews with the judicial nominating commission. Eight of the finalists refused to fill out Iowa Judicial Watch’s questionnaire. Appeals Court Judge Edward Mansfield filled out most of the lengthy document but declined to answer question 26, containing some three dozen more specific questions about his “judicial ideology.” Still, Tucker took a cheap shot at Mansfield, stating, “Though a registered Republican, Mansfield’s wife has donated good and services to Planned Parenthood.” Dangling modifiers aside, donations by Mansfield’s wife don’t necessarily reflect the judge’s views and certainly don’t affect his competence to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court. Looks to me like Tucker wanted to signal to The Iowa Republican blog’s readership that they should oppose Mansfield despite his Republican affiliation.

A more extensive update on news related to the Iowa Supreme Court is in progress. Meanwhile, share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

P.S. Before the commission began interviewing candidates, Iowa House Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Anderson withdrew his application to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court.

UPDATE: Only two women have ever served on the Iowa Supreme Court: Linda Neuman from 1986 to 2003 and Marsha Ternus from 1993 to the end of 2010. If appointed by Branstad (she won’t be), Onwuachi-Willig, who is black, would be the first ethnic minority on the Iowa Supreme Court.

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CDC birth control guidelines could reduce breastfeeding

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine warns that recently updated “birth control guidelines released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could undermine mothers who want to breastfeed,” I learned from the ByMomsForMoms blog, sponsored by Lansinoh. From the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s news release:

“The new guidelines ignore basic facts about how breastfeeding works,” says Dr. Gerald Calnen, President of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM). “Mothers start making milk due to the natural fall in progesterone after birth. An injection of artificial progesterone could completely derail this process.”

The CDC report, “U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, 2010,” released in the May 28 issue of Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), contains important changes in what constitutes acceptable contraceptive use by breastfeeding women. The criteria advise that by 1 month postpartum the benefits of progesterone contraception (in the form of progestin-only pills, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DPMA) injection, or implants), as well as the use of combined (progestin-estrogen) oral contraceptives outweigh the risk of reducing breastfeeding rates. Previously, progesterone birth control was not recommended for nursing mothers until at least 6 weeks after giving birth, and combined hormonal methods were not recommended before 6 months.

Based on clinical experience, breastfeeding support providers report a negative impact on breastfeeding when contraceptive methods are introduced too early. One preliminary study demonstrated dramatically lower breastfeeding rates at 6 months among mothers who underwent early insertion of progesterone-containing IUDs, compared with breastfeeding rates of mothers who underwent insertion at 6-8 weeks postpartum.

I have met women whose milk supply collapsed after they received a progesterone shot. One acquaintance had successfully nursed previous babies and was never informed by her health care provider that a birth control shot could impede her ability to produce enough milk for her infant.

It’s illogical for the CDC to give its blessing to early postpartum use of hormonal birth control when the federal government has supposedly been trying to promote breastfeeding for more than a decade. Earlier this year, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity set a goal of having half of U.S. babies breastfed for at least nine months by 2015, and recommended a number of specific policies to help reach that goal. But breastfeeding without a full milk supply is quite difficult no matter how educated the mother is or how supportive her environment. I hope the CDC will revise its guidelines and recommend non-hormonal forms of birth control for women in the early months of breastfeeding.  

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Republicans put government between women and their doctors

Remember last year when Republicans claimed health care reform would put government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors? It was a hypocritical talking point to begin with, given how often insurance companies overrule doctors’ orders, in some cases denying sick people access to life-saving medical care.

The hypocrisy is especially apparent now that Republicans are cheering two new laws passed in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor’s vetoes of two abortion measures, one of which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

To clarify: Republicans passed a law dictating the way doctors communicate with patients and how they must proceed with every woman seeking an abortion, regardless of her individual circumstances. According to the New York Times, the Center for Reproductive Rights has already filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the ultrasound law, claiming it “violates the doctor’s freedom of speech, the woman’s right to equal protection and the woman’s right to privacy.”

The second law is in some ways more offensive, because the government is shielding doctors who deliberately do not level with their patients. I have close friends who have learned while pregnant that their future child has serious medical problems. To give doctors license to deceive women in that situation is unconscionable. Pregnant women must be able to make informed decisions regarding all medical care. Who’s to say that doctors will stop at “merely” hiding birth defects? Maybe some will decide it’s better not to tell women they have cancer or some other disease that might prompt them to terminate a pregnancy.

The new laws are similar to two anti-abortion laws the Oklahoma Supreme Court already struck down. Clearly Republicans won’t let a little thing like the state constitution get in the way of their desire to intimidate women and interfere with the information they receive from their doctors. I agree with Charles Lemos: this is a sign of how extreme today’s Republican Party has become.

Iowans who don’t take reproductive rights for granted may want to know that Arianna Huffington is coming to Des Moines next Tuesday to help raise money for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (formerly Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa). Click the link for event details.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I recommend this post from the Ms. Magazine blog on the 10 worst myths about abortion in the United States.

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Events coming up this week

I didn’t manage to compile calendars the past couple of weeks, but I wanted to get back on track today, because there are lots of newsworthy events happening in the coming week around Iowa.

I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the DAWN’s List reception honoring outstanding Iowa Democratic women tomorrow. I’d appreciate it if someone who attends would post a comment or a diary here about the reception.

Other notable events this week include a symposium in Des Moines about Iowa’s 2008 floods, a sustainable communities conference in Dubuque, and a public workshop in Ankeny about competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. Details on those and other happenings are after the jump.

Keep checking John Deeth’s blog for news about statewide, Congressional and state legislative candidate filings, which continue through March 19.

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Massive Iowa Legislature linkfest (post-funnel edition)

The Iowa Legislature has been moving at an unusually fast pace during the shortened 2010 session. It’s time to catch up on what’s happened at the statehouse over the past three weeks. From here on out I will try to post a legislative roundup at the end of every week.

February 12 was the first “funnel” deadline. In order to have a chance of moving forward in 2010, all legislation except for tax and appropriations bills must have cleared at least one Iowa House or Senate committee by the end of last Friday.

After the jump I’ve included links on lots of bills that have passed or are still under consideration, as well as bills I took an interest in that failed to clear the funnel. I have grouped bills by subject area. This post is not an exhaustive list; way too many bills are under consideration for me to discuss them all. I recommend this funnel day roundup by Rod Boshart for the Mason City Globe-Gazette.

Note: the Iowa legislature’s second funnel deadline is coming up on March 5. To remain alive after that point, all bills except tax and appropriations bills must have been approved by either the full House or Senate and by a committee in the opposite chamber. Many bills that cleared the first funnel week will die in the second.  

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Weekend open thread with events coming up this week

The coming week will be busy at the state capitol, because February 12 is the first “funnel” date. All bills excluding appropriations bills that have not been approved by at least one committee by February 12 will be dead for the 2010 session, unless something extraordinary happens.

Also, Iowa House Republicans are expected to try to suspend the rules this week to force consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. If last April’s events are any guide, they can expect help from two Iowa House Democrats: Geri Huser and Dolores Mertz. Meanwhile, Mertz is working with a group of Republicans on a constitutional amendment that would “recognize human eggs as persons worthy of legal protection.” Such an amendment would outlaw abortion and probably some forms of birth control as well.

With the compressed legislative calendar and severe budget restraints, there may be fewer bills passed in 2010 than in previous sessions. If you’re keeping your eye on any bill, let us know in this thread. I hope the Iowa Senate Labor and Business Relations Committee will pass Senate File 2112, introduced by Senator Pam Jochum, on “workplace accommodations for employees who express breast milk.” It’s already cleared the subcommittee. Last hear State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad introduced a similar measure in the Iowa House, and I think there’s a decent chance of getting this bill through the House Labor Committee. Employers also benefit from practices that make it easier for their employees to continue breastfeeding.

Jochum is an all-around outstanding legislator. If I lived in the first district, she would definitely have my vote for Congress whenever Bruce Braley decides to run for U.S. Senate.

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. Am I the only one out there who doesn’t care who wins the Superbowl?

After the jump I’ve posted details on other Iowa political events scheduled for this week.

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