The Midwest is a cesspool of conservatism and backwards thinking. At least, that’s the company line a lot of us rely on to shape our opinion of the area.
We are talking about the region that produced one of the most recent and real threats to Roe v. Wade, after all. It came in 2006 in the form of South Dakota’s Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act, which would have made abortion illegal in almost every instance you can imagine, including rape and incest. Only if the life of the mother was in jeopardy could an exception have been made.
At the time, Governor Mike Rounds made no secret of the fact that the real goal was to start the domino effect that would eventually lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned entirely. It didn’t, though, and if you haven’t followed the story since, you’ll be delighted to know abortions are still very much legal in South Dakota. The reason for that speaks directly to why our perception of the Midwest is unspeakably flawed.
Sure, the legislators and lawmakers in South Dakota passed an abortion ban, but it was the people who ultimately killed it. A petition demanding that the matter be put to a public vote started circulating almost immediately and, in the November elections that year, the residents of South Dakota voted to repeal the act by a margin of 56 to 44 percent.
Does this all still jibe with your vision of the people of the Midwest being a collective of evangelicals who trust nothing but the Lord? It probably does not, and South Dakota’s failed attempt at outlawing abortion is just one piece of evidence supporting the idea that, maybe, the Midwest isn’t nearly the redneck haven we make it out to be.
Specifically, let’s talk about Iowa.
A lot of it likely has to do with how easily a four-letter state name rolls off the tongue, but when it comes time to make fun of the Midwest, Iowa has been the world’s go-to reference for decades now. That’s unfortunate, because, if we’re being completely honest, there might not be another state that deserves that kind of mockery less.
Take their stance on same sex marriage, for example. They were the fourth state to legalize it, but unlike California—a state that’s routinely pointed to as a bastion of progressive thinking—Iowa has never once overturned the decision. (California did just that in 2008 when Proposition 8 was voted into law. ) But it’s not just same sex marriage that puts Iowa in contention for the title of America’s most progressive place. It should be noted that the state also refrains from a lot of the restrictions on abortion that have been in place in the states around them for years. Things like mandatory counseling or ultrasounds aren’t required. You do have to tell a parent if you’re underage, but only one. Meanwhile, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Colorado have all made recent efforts to outlaw abortion entirely.
Now, it appears Iowa is once again setting the pace in another area of concern for this country – illegal immigration. It was reported last week that jails in 22 counties in Iowa will no longer accept “detainer” requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a warrant from a judge. When honored, the requests call for the jail in question to hold detainees for 48 hours while ICE checks that person’s immigration status. This often results in what the Iowa branch of the ACLU calls the “illegal imprisonment” of ordinary Americans with no criminal charges pending against them whatsoever. According to a study by Syracuse University, of the approximately 3,000 ICE detainees in Iowa between 2012 and 2013, 63% had no criminal record.
A recent ruling in Oregon cleared the way for states to reject the requests if they so choose, and now that’s exactly what 22 counties in Iowa plan to do.
Sure, they aren’t the first or only state to stop accepting the requests in light of the ruling and they won’t be the last. Nevertheless, in relation to the routinely-mocked section of the country in which they’re situated, Iowa is once again way ahead of everyone else.