Sarah Boden

Sarah Boden served as 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.

Ways to Connect

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. 

Flickr / Scott McLeod

Iowa’s high school graduation rate has increased for the fifth year in the row, reaching a new high of 91.3 percent. However dropout rates also rose in the past year, up to 2.8 percent. 

The two measurements track different cohorts of students.  The graduation rate looks a single class over the course of four years, and the dropout rate counts the number of kids who quit high school in a single year.

Staci Hupp of the Iowa Department of Education says the latter metric on drop outs is a reminder that Iowa still has work to do. 

Three staffers from Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis last week. They're appealing criminal convictions related to a conspiracy to hide payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson, who resigned endorsed Paul days before the Iowa Caucuses.

The Iowa Hospital Association says it’s important not to lose the gains made under the Affordable Care Act. The warning comes after the insurance carriers Aetna and Wellmark announced this week that in 2018, they’ll stop selling individual policies on Iowa’s healthcare exchange created under the ACA.

Iowa will soon have only two insurance carriers providing individual healthcare policies. Connecticut-based Aetna has become the second company this week to announce it will stop selling insurance policies on Iowa’s public exchange in January 2018.

Earlier this week the Iowa Insurance Commission announced that Wellmark would also no longer provide individual plans in Iowa. Wellmark says rising costs are causing its departure. Aetna cites financial risk and an uncertain market outlook for its decision to exit.

NSHEPARD / FLICKR

At least two of Iowa’s 99 county auditors say a directive from Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to verify the status of felons in a state voter registration database is an expensive and legally burdensome unfunded mandate. 

Early this year, counties were told that in April they would receive instructions for processing voter records to determine if any felons were illegally registered to vote. Counties received these directions Monday, and the auditors of Linn and Johnson counties are not happy.

Today the full Senate will debate the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the fate of the filibuster hangs in the balance. 

Democrats will probably vote to extend debate on the vote indefinitely, which effectively blocks the nomination. If this happens, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely pull the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments, and this would result in Gorsuch’s confirmation. 

Iowans will have to wait a bit longer to get their state tax refunds this year, as fraud prevention is creating delays.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a prime target for criminals, so the federal government is taking more time to process tax returns. Victoria Daniels of the Iowa Department of Revenue says this affects state tax refunds as well.

Iowa transgender-rights activists discussed a survey on the state’s transgender and gender-nonconforming community, results being called “unacceptable” and “inexcusable.”

For example, nearly a quarter of the 219 transgender and gender-nonconforming Iowans surveyed say they live in poverty, and 30 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year, out of fear of being mistreated.

WIKICOMMONS / US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

An Iowa State neuroscience lab has discovered a way to study the early stages of protein-misfolding diseases like Parkinson’s or Chronic Wasting Disease, and this may aid the development of new treatments.

These diseases are tricky to detect in incubation period. For example if someone has Alzheimer’s, it won’t be apparent that person is sick until they start exhibiting symptoms. 

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

Five counties in eastern Iowa are trying out a less formal approach to family court in hopes of resolving cases faster and preserving court resources.  

Judge Nancy Tabor of Scott County says currently her docket is full of people representing themselves. Most people aren’t familiar with the court system, which means these cases take a lot of time.

So Tabor is trying out a more straightforward approach.

Flickr / Skywayman

While Iowa’s metropolitan communities continued to make population gains in 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau says the state's small towns got smaller. In just the last year Iowa’s micropolitans, communities with 10,000-50,000 people, shrunk in population by a net total of 0.4 percent.

The Spencer and Fort Madison-Keokuk communities saw the greatest declines in 2016.  Both lost one percent of their populations. Though since 2010, Clinton’s population has contracted the most -- by 3.7 percent.

Flickr / Regina Hart

Though there have not been any U.S. cases of the strain of avian flu that has killed more than 140 people in China this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s head veterinarian says the agency is making preparations to combat the deadly virus in case it reaches North America. 

The USDA’s Dr. Jack Shere says it's impossible to predict how far a particular bird flu strain may travel or mutate. In the meantime, however, scientists are on alert. 

John Pemble/IPR

A Democratic state senator says the head of Iowa’s Department of Human Services is lying about his lack of availability to attend an informal hearing, in order to cover up the “failure” and “incompetence” of DHS from investigating circumstances that lead to the death of a West Des Moines teen.

Sen. Matt McCoy of  Des Moines and other Democrats say Director Chuck Palmer is hiding that fact that staffing cuts prevented reports of child abuse and neglect from being properly investigated, and a result, 16-year-old Natalie Finn died of starvation back in October.

WIKICOMMONS / EPA

A hog confinement that could contain nearly 7,500 animals is being proposed in north-central Hancock County. County Supervisor Jerry Tlach says he’s in support of the new Peacock Farms facility. He says it will provide jobs for young farmers hoping to remain in area.

Flickr / Richard D Green

Legislation that limits the amount an injured employee can be compensated has passed the Iowa House along party lines. Republicans say changes to Iowa’s more than century-old workers’ compensation law are needed to keep the state's business climate competitive.

"I believe it’s a situation where we’re seeing rates go up across industry sectors," says GOP Representative Gary Carlson of Muscatine. "If I look at where Iowa used to be at the fifth or sixth lowest in the United States, and now we’re up in the 24th highest."

Flickr / Vance Shtraikh

Legislation that allows private companies in Iowa to test employees’ hair for drug use has passed out of the House Labor Committee along party lines with Republican support. 

"This is about testing for chronic long-term use," says Representative Jarad Klein of Washington County. "Is there a chronic long-term history of abuse of an illegal substance that would give them pause?"

Democrats raise concerns regarding the fairness and the efficacy of testing.

Pages