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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

September 2, 2019

Des Moines Register. August 27, 2019

Trump rule muzzles doctors on abortion referrals; health providers should forgo federal money instead

Good for Planned Parenthood. The health provider has the integrity and backbone to withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program rather than comply with a new Trump administration rule forbidding health professionals from telling women where they can obtain abortions.

The rule is nothing other than a gag order on doctors. And it reaches far beyond Planned Parenthood.

That’s why all health providers participating in Title X, including dozens in Iowa, should reject the federal money and ludicrous new strings.

Title X provides grant money to clinics to fund limited health services, including birth control, for low-income and uninsured patients. It does not pay for abortions, and Planned Parenthood in Iowa uses its grant money — about $1 million — to serve roughly 14,000 patients. Losing that money means reducing services to patients, which will likely lead to more untreated sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

These are among the consequences of elections. When voters support Republicans intent on pushing an extreme anti-abortion agenda, other health care, including access to birth control or cancer screenings, gets caught in the cross hairs. Women are usually the victims.

But the latest GOP stunt stifles the speech of doctors, who should not just quietly go along. Health providers need to stand together against an administrative muzzle that interferes with their ability to practice medicine with honesty and transmit basic facts to patients. Because what will the Trump administration tell doctors to shut up about next? What may it force them to tell patients?

If a patient is seeking an abortion, a doctor should be able to tell her where she can get one, the same way a doctor recommends a physical therapist, cardiologist or other health care provider.

Des Moines OB/GYN Amy Bingaman, who has delivered thousands of babies, recently told a Register editorial writer she was grateful she could refer patients to Planned Parenthood, which she called a “wonderful” provider.

She works for UnityPoint, a health system that operates nearly 300 clinics in Iowa and Illinois.

Following an interview with Bingaman, a Register editorial writer asked UnityPoint if it prohibited its practitioners from providing abortions. Doctors need to know the policies of their employers after the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature blocked another source of federal funding to pay for any health services at clinics that also offer abortions.

To UnityPoint’s credit, it said it would not restrict its physicians from providing care they determine to be medically necessary, so long as it’s within the scope of their licensure and the law.

Abortion, usually performed on an outpatient basis, is a legal, safe medical procedure. Early pregnancies can be terminated with medication. OB/GYNs have the training and equipment to offer abortions, and more of them should do so.

But too many do not. They refer patients to Planned Parenthood. Under the new Trump administration rule, doctors could not even do that. There is no way any health system can comply with the new Title X rule and do right by its employees and patients.

What can the rest of us do?

Patronize providers who reject a political agenda seeking to harm patients and restrict the autonomy of physicians. Visit Planned Parenthood for pap smears and other services. Its clinics serve men and women of all ages. Reject health systems that do not offer all forms of birth control. Put your health insurance reimbursements where your values are, by using your coverage to directly pay providers so they don’t have to rely on federal grants.

If you don’t have health insurance, sign up for it using exchanges and the Medicaid expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by former President Obama.

Support health providers who support women, and vote against politicians who don’t.

Because the Trump administration rule isn’t just another tired attempt by the GOP to strip funding from Planned Parenthood. It is much more.

It is an attempt to control the speech and practices of physicians in this country. It is a ploy to interfere with doctor-patient relationships. It is an assault on the expertise and independence of our medical professionals.

And it cannot be tolerated by any of us.


Fort Dodge Messenger. August 27, 2019

This trade pact is good for America

The push to get congressional approval for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement negotiated in 2018 by the Trump administration is at a crucial stage. It’s imperative that lawmakers promptly back USMCA.

This pact has some similarities to the North American Free Trade Agreement it succeeds, but is a substantial improvement for American agriculture. Here are some of the key enhancements:

. It allows 250 percent more U.S. dairy products to be exported to Canada.

. It increases the amount of eggs that can be sold to Canada.

. It enables more chicken to be sold duty-free.

. Some restrictions on the export of wheat are eliminated.

. Cooperation between the three nations on agricultural biotechnology is strengthened.

Canada and Mexico are immensely important markets for U.S. agricultural products. Here, according to information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the market value of some of the farm products exported to Canada and Mexico in 2018:

. Corn: $3.4 billion.

. Soybeans: $2.1 billion.

. Pork and pork products: $2.1 billion.

. Dairy products: $2 billion.

. Beef and beef products: $1.8 billion.

. Poultry and eggs: $1.6 billion.

Obviously, these two neighbor countries are sales venues enormously significant for Iowa’s farmers and agricultural industries.

With that in mind U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley and former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who is now a U.S. undersecretary of agriculture, are meeting this week with key Iowa agriculture leaders to build support for the USMCA.

“Passing USMCA means new and improved market access for American farmers in Canada and Mexico,” the two Republicans said in a statement announcing the gathering. “With Canada and Mexico being our two largest trading partners, the benefits for Iowa’s agriculture are significant. . The time to pass USMCA is now.”

Support for USMCA is bipartisan. Grassley and Tom Vilsack, who was a two-term Democratic governor of Iowa and U.S. secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration, recently met in Des Moines to discuss USMCA’s importance.

“Modernizing and improving our trade relationship with Canada and Mexico is a bipartisan no-brainer,” Grassley said in a statement announcing that event. “Here in Iowa, the $10 billion worth of agricultural products we export each year to our neighbors to the north and south support more than 86,000 jobs. . Americans are depending on Congress to deliver much-needed certainty for the Midwest and the entire U.S. farm economy.”

The Messenger strongly agrees. It’s time to get USMCA approved so the trade relationship between the U.S., Canada and Mexico can evolve and further strengthen the economies of all three nations.


Quad-City Times. August 28, 2019

Progress on massage parlors, but more to be done with trafficking

Often, we’re conditioned to think that government does little right — that laws and regulations don’t make much difference, so why bother?

We’ve never bought into that idea. Sure, there are plenty of things governments do that don’t work - or that were bad choices to begin with. But, often, they do make a difference. And when that happens, it’s worth pointing out.

Such appears to be the case in Davenport, with the city’s approach to illicit massage parlors.

In March, the city council passed an ordinance requiring that local massage therapists be licensed by the state of Iowa and that reflexologists — people who massage feet, ears and hands — be licensed by the city.

City officials and victims’ rights groups said that some massage parlors are fronts for illegal sex work and human trafficking, and they urged that action be taken. The council passed the ordinance, and it looks like this and other steps taken by the city have made a difference.

The month after the ordinance passed, a half dozen massage parlors were closed after an operation that involved law enforcement officials from Davenport, Scott County, the state of Iowa, the Quad-City Metropolitan Enforcement Group and officials with Family Resources’ Braking Traffik group.

No arrests were made, but the businesses were still closed when Quad-City Times reporter Tara Becker-Gray checked a couple weeks ago. She also reported that the city has not received any complaints about illegal activity at massage parlors since April.

Still, nobody should believe that the problem of human trafficking has gone away. Criminal predators will no doubt try to find a way around the law — if they haven’t already.

This is not a small problem. Maggie Tinsman, the former state senator and founder of Braking Traffik says that, at any given time, there are 200 people being actively trafficked in the state of Iowa. In the course of a year, it’s 800, she says.

Prosecutions have increased, but advocates for victims have said it still is not enough. Meanwhile, we are told, some of the funding in this area has been cut.

Tinsman wrote on these pages recently that cuts in funding for victim services from the federal Victims of Crime Act are having an impact in the Quad-Cities.

We think lawmakers on the federal, state and local level ought to seriously consider the implications of these cuts. There is a need for more help for victims, not less.

The U.S. State Department reports that nearly 25 million people are being trafficked worldwide. Roughly three-quarters of those are victimized in their country of residence.

Other estimates have put the number of people who have fallen victim to this scourge much higher.

We’re glad the City of Davenport is doing a better job at policing massage parlors. It is a demonstration of what concerted action and legislation can accomplish. We hope officials remain vigilant. But we also know that this is just one corner of a problem that has many facets.

We must find a way to bring more of these predators to justice. We also must make sure there are adequate resources available to help victims and educate people to spot human trafficking.

We can think of little that is more heinous than the idea of trafficking human beings, many of whom are vulnerable children.

Amid progress, there is always more to be done.


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