Sarah Boden

Reporter

Sarah Boden is a Des Moines-based reporter for Iowa Public Radio. Before coming to Iowa, she was a freelance reporter and producer in Minnesota.

In addition to IPR, Sarah's work has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend All Things Considered and WBUR's Here and Now.

Her reporting has won multiple awards, including a regional Edward R. Murrow for her story on a legal challenge to Iowa's felon voting ban.

Sarah's favorite public radio program is On The Media. 

Ways to Connect

Flickr / Superb Colours

This is the first year fireworks can be sold in Iowa. So far there are 12 licensed retailers, though that number may grow to nearly 1,000. 

Retailers hypothetically were able to start selling bottle rockets, ground spinners and roman candles on June 1st. But since the bill was signed into law only last month, State Fire Marshal Jeff Quigle says it’s taken his office a bit of time to figure out the licensing process, which usually could take more than six months to create.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Vice President Mike Pence arrived by motorcycle to the third annual Roast and Ride in Iowa. Sen. Joni Ernst’s yearly fundraiser is a 49-mile motorcycle ride, followed by a barbecue meal and political speeches. 

While speaking to a friendly crowd, Pence didn't address any of the recent controversies surrounding the investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election. Instead, he boasted of the administration’s accomplishments. 

grassley
Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Sen. Chuck Grassley held his second town hall this week at the Adair County Courthouse in Greenfield. Many attendees were unhappy when Iowa's senior senator wouldn't take a definitive position on issues surrounding Republican lawmakers' goal of repealing Obamacare.

Attendees asked Grassley if he would vote against a bill that would adversely affect people with pre-existing conditions, end essential health benefits, or increase the number of uninsured Americans. Grassley was also asked if he believed access to healthcare was a right.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

In the basement of the State Historical Museum of Iowa there’s a box of hairless, 18-inch porcelain dolls. They each bear a passing likeness to Mrs. Billie Ray, the wife of Robert Ray, Iowa’s 38th governor.

“It looks like we have Billie Rays at least to last for another, just counting, so we got six, seven Billie Ray figures still that can be dressed as first ladies,” explains Leo Landis, Iowa’s state historian. 

Angel Jepsen

Due to declining enrollment, Wednesday is the final day of classes in the 56-year history of the Charter Oak-Ute High School. In September, most COU 9th through 12th graders will be attending classes in the neighboring district of Maple Valley-Anthon Oto. 

The change is not a consolidation, but rather a sharing agreement between the two far western Iowa districts.

USDA

In her address after being sworn in Wednesday, Governor Kim Reynolds highlighted the importance of high-speed internet being available in all parts of the state, regardless of a community's size and location. 

"A connected community means better jobs, safer communities, better education and a better quality of life," said the governor. "And it really is the expectation of our young people." 

A significant amount of money is likely needed to make this goal a reality in rural parts of the state.

Jon Pemble/IPR file

In a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court says sentencing a juvenile to lifetime parole is not a cruel and unusual punishment.

When he was a 17-year-old, Bradley Graham committed statutory rape by having sex with a 13-year-old. In addition to incarceration, Graham was given a lifetime sentence of parole.

Graham says the lifetime aspect of his punishment is cruel and unusual, because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime.

Flickr / Carl Wycoff

The city of Des Moines is hoping a new, nearly $50,000 pot of money will convince reluctant witnesses to help police with unsolved homicides. 

In the past two years a dozen of homicides remain unsolved, and this year the city is seeing a sharp increase in these crimes. Des Moines has recorded 15 homicides this year, and  is on track to surpass 1978’s record of 27. 

The cash comes from local businesses like Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel, as well as the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Polk County Board of Supervisors.

Flickr / Steve

A new study from Iowa State University finds that people who are the victims of workplace bullying often receive unhelpful advice about how to deal with the harassment.

ISU communication studies researcher Stacy Tye-Williams found the most frequent piece of advice victims receive from family and friends is to quit their jobs, which is financially impractical. People were also often counseled to ignore or to stand up to the bully. 

Iowa’s Planned Parenthood affiliate is closing four clinics. It says this move is the result of a new state law that prevents organizations that provide abortions from receiving family planning money from Medicaid.

The Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City clinics will close on June 30. The Quad Cities facility in Bettendorf will remain open until the building is sold, though only telemed abortion services will be provided. All other types of appointments will cease at the end of June.

Flickr / wabisabi2015

Every school day at 7:30 am, fifth-grader Ava Perrett catches the first of two bright yellow buses that drive her to the Greene County Intermediate School in Grand Junction.

Due to a 2014 consolidation, the Greene County Community School District is the state’s eighth largest in geographic size. It spans 388 square miles. So it’s a good thing Ava says she usually doesn’t mind riding the bus.

“But sometimes it takes a while,” she says. “When we’re switching buses it gets really cold out when we’re waiting for the buses.”

Former FBI Director James Comey's offical FBI portrait.
Federal Bureau of Investigation

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says he hasn’t decided if he’ll invite former FBI Director James Comey to testify before the senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley heads.

News reports say the former FBI director is interested in testifying before Congress, where questions about his sudden and controversial firing will likely be asked.

Flickr / bloomsberries

A 49-year-old woman from northwest Iowa has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for a fraud in which she sold non-existent tickets and accommodations to the Super Bowl and other sports events.

Ranae Van Roekel of Hull plead guilty last summer to one count of mail fraud and another count of filing a false tax return in relation to the scheme.

According to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Sioux City, while Van Roekel was awaiting sentencing she engaged in another scheme to sell non-existent gift bags.

Flickr / Ted Eytan

A record 136 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2016. The Iowa Department of Public Health says this is probably not due to an increased rate in transmissions, but rather likely an outcome of additional funding and social media efforts to encourage Iowans to get tested.

The department admits it doesn’t know how many Iowans were tested for HIV last year. But data shows a larger percentage of people diagnosed were in an early stage of the disease, meaning more HIV-positive individuals aren’t waiting until they became sick to find out if they’ve contracted the virus.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has extended a temporary injunction that suspends part of a new law that mandates a three-day waiting period before an abortion.  

When Planned Parenthood and the ACLU first asked for the injunction last week, they argued that the Iowa Department of Public Health had not yet developed certain materials which the new law mandates women be provided before having an abortion. The information includes content on adoption and risk factors associated with abortion.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction that immediately blocks a provision of a newly signed law that mandates a three-day waiting period between two appointments before having an abortion.

After a lower court denied a request for an injunction on Thursday afternoon, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa successfully appealed to the state's high court. The injunction was granted Friday morning, a couple hours after Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law.

Pool photo via KCCI-TV

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is appealing to the Iowa Supreme Court for an injunction to stop new abortion restrictions from going into effect tomorrow morning. At about 8:30, upon Gov. Terry Branstad’s signature, a new law will be enacted that mandates a 72-hour waiting period between two appointments before a woman receives an abortion.

SARAH BODEN/IPR FILE

Tomorrow afternoon, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa are asking a judge for an emergency injunction to stop a law that requires women wait 72-hour before receiving an abortion. The law is slated to go into effect Friday morning, unless the Polk County District Court intervenes.

The plaintiffs argue the law violates women's equal protection rights by trying to stop them from having abortions. They also argue the law is unconstitutional, as it singles out the procedure by objecting it onerous restrictions. 

FLICKR / JENNIFER MORROW

People in 94 of Iowa’s 99 counties may have no options in 2018 for buying individual healthcare polices on the state's insurance exchange that was created under the Affordable Care Act. 

Currently nearly 48,000 people have insurance through Iowa's ACA exchange. But recently two of the three insurers providing individual plans announced they were leaving the Iowa market next year.

That left Minnesota-based Medica to be the exchange's likely sole participant. Now Medica is saying that it too may be leaving the state.

DOC SEARLS

Iowa is making improvements on alcohol use, but still has a ways to go when it comes to bullying. That’s according to the director of the recent Iowa Youth Survey, which samples 6th, 8th and 11th graders every two years.  

In 2016 youth drinking in Iowa continued to decline, especially among 11th graders.

In 2012, more than 26.4 percent of high school juniors reported having a drink in the past 30 days. In 2016 this number dropped to 21.3 percent.

WIKICOMMONS / Holger.Ellgaard

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office says that for once, a caller claiming to be working on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service may not be a scammer, but instead a legitimate private debt contractor. 

Last month the IRS Private Debt Collection Program went into effect. Congress enacted the law in 2015, authorizing the federal agency to use private collections firms to call people who owe overdue taxes.

The debts targeted in this program are older, past-due balances the IRS is no longer actively seeking to collect.

The abortion-access advocacy organization NARAL Pro-Choice America is urging Gov. Terry Branstad to veto legislation it says threatens women's health and plays politics with women's lives.

Senate File 471 requires women to wait three days before receiving an abortion and have an ultrasound before the procedure. It also bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. 

"There is still time for the governor to do the right thing," says NARAL's James Owens. "This bill introduced ideology into the doctor’s room and tries to shame women away from accessing basic healthcare." 

WIKICOMMONS / Kevin Schuchmann

Iowans are being encouraged to clean out their medicine cabinets this Saturday by taking unwanted and expired medications to more than 100 disposal sites.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Reported cases of gonorrhea infections in Iowa are up more than 75 percent in the last three years, according to preliminary data from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The department says while Iowa's overall infection rate isn't unusual, the sudden increase in infections from 2013 is unique. 

IDPH STD program manager George Walton says part of the reason for this increase is that providers are conducting more comprehensive testing, which has identified cases that would have otherwise gone undetected. 

Polaris Industries Facebook

More than 300 people in northwest Iowa are getting laid off, now that Polaris Industries is shifting production of all-terrain and utility vehicles to Alabama, Minnesota and California.

The company says the layoffs at its Milford facility are the result of an effort to streamline plant infrastructure.

Milford is a town of fewer than 3,000 people and Polaris is the community's biggest employer. Mayor Bill Reinsbach says layoffs will hurt the local economy. 

WIKICOMMONS / Anatomy of the Human Body

A new law limits the amount of compensation an Iowa worker can receive for a shoulder injury.  Critics say the change makes workers disposable, but proponents point out that the law also provides tuition so injured employees can retrain for new careers.

 

In January, 2016, 51-year-old Bill Bennett of Pleasantville fell at work and tore the rotator cuff on his right shoulder. The injury makes his dominant right arm useless for movements as basic as pouring a cup of coffee.

Sarah Boden/IPR

More than 130 Iowa religious leaders and clergy have signed a statement calling climate change “one of the most pressing moral challenges facing our world today.”

They say carbon pollution is an environmental justice issue, because power plants have historically been located near low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and agricultural communities. They want local, state, national and international leaders to form policies and strategies that promote sustainable energy use. 

Sarah Boden/IPR

The Madison County Sheriffs' Office has arrested a person in the burning of one of the area’s iconic covered bridges. Seventeen-year-old Alexander Hoff of West Des Moines is accused of purposely setting the Cedar Bridge on fire early Saturday. He’s been charged with arson in the first degree—a class B felony.

The Cedar Bridge is one of several covered bridges near Winterset seen in the 1995 movie, "The Bridges of Madison County."

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court says the state of Iowa is not liable for a sexual assault allegedly committed by a man who for years had lived at the state’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders, because the assault occurred after William Cubbage was discharged from state custody. 

ISTOCKPHOTO

Media violence researchers at Iowa State University published a study this month that finds media violence affects aggressive behaviors across a variety of cultures. 

More than 2,100 participants from Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S. named three of their most frequently-watched or played TV shows, movies or video games, and then rated how often they used each title. Then researchers evaluated the violence level of the media, and contrasted that data with survey answers that looked at behaviors like physical aggression or arguing. 

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