News Politics

Iowa’s Gubernatorial Contest Draws Sharp Contrast on Abortion

Teddy Wilson

Iowa's gubernatorial race pits a virulently anti-choice governor against a pro-choice opponent who has a record of supporting the expansion of health care to low-income Iowans.

The Iowa gubernatorial campaign offers a sharp contrast in governing philosophies, records in government, and their stances on high-profile issues.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) has a record of supporting policies that restrict reproductive rights, as well as opposing measures to extend health-care access to low-income Iowans, while his opponent, state Sen. Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines), has a record of opposing legislation to restrict reproductive rights and has been a forceful advocate for expanding health-care access in the state.

Branstad was elected governor in 2010 and is campaigning for reelection. This is not the first time that Branstad has been on the ballot for reelection. Branstad served as Iowa’s governor from 1983 until 1999. If elected, he will be the longest serving governor in U.S. history.

Unlike many other Republican governors, Branstad has had to govern with a legislature not fully controlled by his own party. Republicans control the state house and Democrats control the state senate, both with slim majorities.

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In order to pass legislation, Republicans have had to work with Democrats in the state assembly, like Bradstad’s opponent.

Sen. Hatch has served in the state senate since 2003, and is currently the assistant majority leader. Hatch, prior to his tenure in the senate, served in the state house from 1985 to 1993 and again from from 2001 to 2003.

Bradstad’s campaign has centered around his record as governor, including economic issues such as job creation and taxes. Hatch has been critical of Branstad’s record on job creation, claiming that Branstad has fallen well short on a promise to create 200,000 jobs. Branstad claims to have presided over the creation of more than 146,000 jobs.

When Branstad took office in 2011, the state and the rest of the country were emerging from the Great Recession. According to a U.S. Senate report, Iowa added 78,900 private-sector jobs since the end of the recession in February 2010.

The Business Journals ranked Branstad 28th among governors for job creation as the state has added 46,000 jobs since Branstad took office in January 2011.

The difference in the numbers come from different measurements of job creation. Branstad is claiming the gross number of jobs created in the state—he is not including job losses over the same period of time.

Health-Care Reform

During the national debate over health-care reform in 2009, Hatch was named chair of the White House Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform. He was a vocal proponent of fully implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Iowa, including Medicaid expansion.

Branstad initially opposed the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law, he called it “federal blackmail.”

“The federal government has done this again and again: ‘Buy into our program, and we’re going to do all these things for you,’ and then it doesn’t happen, and then the taxpayers of the state get stuck with it. This is the reason why we and so many others objected to this,” Branstad said in a press conference following the decision according to the Iowa Republican.

“I’ve said all along, I don’t think the states can afford … in our state it adds 150,000 to the Medicaid rolls, and the federal government frankly can’t afford it either,” said Branstad. But even as he vocally rejected Medicaid expansion he was already hinting at an “alternative.”

Hatch told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that his clashes with Branstad over health care directly resulted in his decision to become a candidate for governor. “[Branstad’s] opposition to the ACA and Medicaid expansion drove me to think [that] I just can’t stay in the Senate if he’s governor,” Hatch said.

After Branstad’s alternative plan failed to pass in the legislature, lawmakers negotiated a bipartisan compromise that paved the way for the state to expand health-care access to low-income residents.

Iowa expanded Medicaid using a system similar to how Arkansas expanded the program, with some key differences. The state uses public funds to purchase private coverage for those eligible for Medicaid. However, unlike Arkansas, Iowa charges a small premium for Medicaid enrollees who are between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty line.

The modified expansion of Medicaid has extended health-care coverage to an estimated 100,000 residents.

Hatch has proposed creating a “new, integrated, patient-centered health care delivery system that combines Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance into an integrated provider payment system within the current private market.”

It is unclear what the specifics of this policy would be, and how they would differ from the state’s current policy.

Reproductive Rights

Earlier this year, during the annual Rally for Life in the state capitol, Branstad pledged his continued support of anti-choice policies, reported the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. On his campaign website, Branstad describes himself as “pro-life” and says that he believes “in protecting the sanctity of human life,” and touts the fact that he signed “every pro-life law in Iowa.”

Iowa has some restrictions on abortion affecting low-income women and minors’ access to abortion care.

Branstad signed many of the laws restricting abortion access that came up during the latter part of his first tenure as governor.

The anti-choice activism of the early 1990s did much to push the Iowa Republican Party further to the right on social issues, including abortion. Laws requiring parents to be notified before a minor can receive abortion care, and requiring statistical reporting of abortion were signed by Branstad in 1996 and 1997. Branstad signed a law in 1998 that would have outlawed abortion procedures as early as 12 weeks, but that law was blocked by a federal judge because it was constitutionally vague and violated privacy rights.

Hatch has a legislative record of supporting reproductive rights and issues related to women’s health care. From 1996 to 2004, Hatch voted 100 percent of the time for legislation supported by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Hatch voted for a bill in 2008 that required health insurance plans that provide vaccination coverage to also provide coverage for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations.

As of 2011, 85 percent of Iowa counties had no abortion provider, and half of all women lived in these mostly rural counties. The importance of access to reproductive health care for women living rural areas led to Iowa becoming the site of great innovations in telemedicine abortion care. A 2012 study found that since the practice began in the state in 2008, it increased access and improved the quality of reproductive health care in the state.

A Branstad-appointed judge ruled to uphold the state regulators’ decision to ban the use of video-conferencing systems that allow doctors to dispense abortion-inducing medication to patients in rural clinics across the state. Branstad praised the ruling, saying that “it certainly is the right decision because the code says before an abortion can be performed, there needs to be an examination. I don’t see how you can do an examination by telemedicine.”

The regulations were implemented by the Iowa Board of Medicine, of which all ten members were appointed by Branstad, including a Catholic priest who has testified in favor of anti-choice legislation.

In a statement, Hatch told the Des Moines Register that the regulations over-regulate health care. “I believe we should free doctors and providers from burdensome regulation and allow them to do what they do best: practice medicine,” Hatch wrote. “They should determine the correct uses for telemedicine, not state bureaucrats and unelected board members.”

In the state legislature, a debate took place over low-income women’s access to abortion in the state. Iowa Republicans sought to prevent Medicaid funding for any abortion care, but Branstad did not support fully eliminating the funding.

During the senate debate, Hatch called the legislation “extreme,” and said that it was in direct conflict with federal law.

“Are you willing to take over $1.5 billion of federal dollars away from the health and safety of every women, every child and every family involved in Medicaid in this state?” Hatch asked his colleagues.

Instead of completely banning Medicaid funding for abortion, Branstad signed a law that would allow him to decide on a case-by-case basis whether Medicaid funds will be used to reimburse for abortion services when pregnancies are the result of rape or incest, when there are fetal abnormalities, or to protect the life of the woman.

“I take the responsibility that I’ve been given very seriously,” Branstad told the Omaha World-Herald.

“As I understand it, the decision is not whether there’s an abortion or not, the decision is whether the state is going to approve funding, which is a decision that is made after the fact,” said Branstad, according to the Sioux City Journal. “So I’m not really going to have any say in whether this procedure occurs or not—I would discourage it wherever possible—but then I’ll have to make a decision whether or not it’s appropriate under the circumstances and under the guidelines that we have.”

The Associated Press reports that after the new rule took effect, Branstad did not approve any payments, because the few patients who were eligible for Medicaid-funded abortions received them anyway; the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where most of the abortions were performed, never billed the state.

John Hedgecoth, spokesperson for the Hatch campaign, told Iowa Watch that Hatch would would seek to change the policy.

“Sen. Hatch does not believe that is the best administrative process to be used and would like to keep the governor’s office out of those decisions, if possible,” Hedgecoth said.

Commentary Economic Justice

The Gender Wage Gap Is Not Women’s Fault, and Here’s the Report That Proves It

Kathleen Geier

The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work.

A new report confirms what millions of women already know: that women’s choices are not to blame for the gender wage gap. Instead, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the progressive think tank that issued the report, say that women’s unequal pay is driven by “discrimination, social norms, and other factors beyond women’s control.”

This finding—that the gender pay gap is caused by structural factors rather than women’s occupational choices—is surprisingly controversial. Indeed, in my years as a journalist covering women’s economic issues, the subject that has been most frustrating for me to write about has been the gender gap. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant for EPI, though not on this particular report.) No other economic topic I’ve covered has been more widely misunderstood, or has been so outrageously distorted by misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies.

That’s because, for decades, conservatives have energetically promoted the myth that the gender pay gap does not exist. They’ve done such a bang-up job of it that denying the reality of the gap, like denying the reality of global warming, has become an article of faith on the right. Conservative think tanks like the Independent Women’s Forum and the American Enterprise Institute and right-wing writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller have denounced the gender pay gap as “a lie,” “not the real story,” “a fairy tale,” “a statistical delusion,” and “the myth that won’t die.” Sadly, it is not only right-wing propagandists who are gender wage gap denialists. Far more moderate types like Slate’s Hanna Rosin and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson have also claimed that the gender wage gap statistic is misleading and exaggerates disparities in earnings.

According to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 79 cents, a statistic that has barely budged in a decade. And that’s just the gap for women overall; for most women of color, it’s considerably larger. Black women earn only 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make, and Latinas earn only 55 percent as much. In a recent survey, U.S. women identified the pay gap as their biggest workplace concern. Yet gender wage gap denialists of a variety of political stripes contend that gender gap statistic—which measures the difference in median annual earnings between men and women who work full-time, year-round—is inaccurate because it does not compare the pay of men and women doing the same work. They argue that when researchers control for traits like experience, type of work, education, and the like, the gender gap evaporates like breath on a window. In short, the denialists frame the gender pay gap as the product not of sexist discrimination, but of women’s freely made choices.

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The EPI study’s co-author, economist Elise Gould, said in an interview with Rewire that she and her colleagues realized the need for the new report when an earlier paper generated controversy on social media. That study had uncovered an “unadjusted”—meaning that it did not control for differences in workplace and personal characteristics—$4 an hour gender wage gap among recent college graduates. Gould said she found this pay disparity “astounding”: “You’re looking at two groups of people, men and women, with virtually the same amount of experience, and yet their wages are so different.” But critics on Twitter, she said, claimed that the wage gap simply reflected the fact that women were choosing lower-paid jobs. “So we wanted to take out this one idea of occupational choice and look at that,” Gould said.

Gould and her co-author Jessica Schieder highlight two important findings in their EPI report. One is that, even within occupations, and even after controlling for observable factors such as education and work experience, the gender wage gap remains stubbornly persistent. As Gould told me, “If you take a man and a woman sitting side by side in a cubicle, doing the same exact job with the same amount of experience and the same amount of education, on average, the man is still going to be paid more than the woman.”

The EPI report cites the work of Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who looked at the relative weight in the overall wage gap of gender-based pay differences within occupations versus those between occupations. She found that while gender pay disparities between different occupations explain 32 percent of the gap, pay differences within the same occupation account for far more—68 percent, or more than twice as much. In other words, even if we saw equal numbers of men and women in every profession, two-thirds of the gender wage gap would still remain.

And yes, female-dominated professions pay less, but the reasons why are difficult to untangle. It’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the EPI report explains, raising the question: Are women disproportionately nudged into low-status, low-wage occupations, or do these occupations pay low wages simply because it is women who are doing the work?

Historically, “women’s work” has always paid poorly. As scholars such as Paula England have shown, occupations that involve care work, for example, are associated with a wage penalty, even after controlling for other factors. But it’s not only care work that is systematically devalued. So, too, is work in other fields where women workers are a majority—even professions that were not initially dominated by women. The EPI study notes that when more women became park rangers, for example, overall pay in that occupation declined. Conversely, as computer programming became increasingly male-dominated, wages in that sector began to soar.

The second major point that Gould and Schieder emphasize is that a woman’s occupational choice does not occur in a vacuum. It is powerfully shaped by forces like discrimination and social norms. “By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work/family balance,” Gould told Rewire. One study cited by Gould and Schieder found that in states where traditional attitudes about gender are more prevalent, girls tend to score higher in reading and lower in math, relative to boys. It’s one of many findings demonstrating that cultural attitudes wield a potent influence on women’s achievement. (Unfortunately, the EPI study does not address racism, xenophobia, or other types of bias that, like sexism, shape individuals’ work choices.)

Parental expectations also play a key role in shaping women’s occupational choices. Research reflected in the EPI study shows that parents are more likely to expect their sons to enter male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM) fields, as opposed to their daughters. This expectation holds even when their daughters score just as well in math.

Another factor is the culture in male-dominated industries, which can be a huge turn-off to women, especially women of color. In one study of women working in science and technology, Latinas and Black women reported that they were often mistaken for janitors—something that none of the white women in the study had experienced. Another found that 52 percent of highly qualified women working in science and technology ended up leaving those fields, driven out by “hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”

Among those pressures are excessively long hours, which make it difficult to balance careers with unpaid care work, for which women are disproportionately responsible. Goldin’s research, Gould said, shows that “in jobs that have more temporal flexibility instead of inflexibility and long hours, you do see a smaller gender wage gap.” Women pharmacists, for example, enjoy relatively high pay and a narrow wage gap, which Goldin has linked to flexible work schedules and a professional culture that enables work/life balance. By contrast, the gender pay gap is widest in highest-paying fields such as finance, which disproportionately reward those able to work brutally long hours and be on call 24/7.

Fortunately, remedies for the gender wage gap are at hand. Gould said that strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, greater wage transparency (which can be achieved through unions and collective bargaining), and more flexible workplace policies would all help to alleviate gender-based pay inequities. Additional solutions include raising the minimum wage, which would significantly boost the pay of the millions of women disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage sector, and enacting paid family leave, a policy that would be a boon for women struggling to combine work and family. All of these issues are looming increasingly large in our national politics.

But in order to advance these policies, it’s vital to debunk the right’s shameless, decades-long disinformation campaign about the gender gap. The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work. The right alleges that the official gender pay gap figure exaggerates the role of discrimination. But even statistics that adjust for occupation and other factors can, in the words of the EPI study, “radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings.”

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, women did not choose to be paid consistently less than men for work that is every bit as valuable to society. But with the right set of policies, we can reverse the tide and bring about some measure of economic justice to the hard-working women of the United States.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”