Public policy and legal decisions often rely on historical expertise and historical context. Here are some issues on which University of Iowa historians have weighed in.

Reproductive Rights

Lina-Maria Murillo wrote a Scholar’s Strategy Network “Key Findings Brief” — Reproductive Freedom along the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (November 2018), summarizing her research on reproductive rights along the U.S. Mexico border.

In June 27, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law designed to shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics with medically unnecessary restrictions. The decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt reaffirmed the constitutional right to access legal abortion. Linda Kerber participated in a scholars’ Amicus brief which underscored the constraints on women’s liberty and equality in laws that purport to protect women.

Civil Rights

Ashley Howard wrote a Scholar's Strategy Network policy brief, "How U.S. Urban Unrest in the 1960s Can Help Make Sense of Feguson, Missouri, and Other Recent Protests" (November 2016) discussing "the texture of these modern rebellions, activists, elected officials, and policymakers can hope to find solutions that improve upon past failures."

In Good v. Iowa Department of Human Service (currently before the Iowa Supreme Court), the ACLU filed suit against the State of Iowa for denying Medicaid coverage to transgender Iowans seeking gender-affirming surgery. Leslie Schwalm and Lisa Heineman participated in a scholars’ Amicus Brief on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Colin Gordon wrote a Scholar’s Strategy Network “Basic Facts Brief,” How Legacies of Urban Racial Segregation Shape Today's Controversies over Police Killings of Black People (October 2016) summarizing his research on patterns of segregation in St. Louis and other cities.

In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court held that a Texas law making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct violated the Due Process Clause. Linda Kerber participated in an historians’ amicus brief that questioned the “irrational discrimination” of such statutes.

Voting Rights

In Missouri NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant School District (2016), the ACLU and the Missouri NAACP charged that the schools district's at-large electoral system was locking African-Americans out of the political process. In August 22, 2016, a federal court ruled that the District was in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The decision held up on appeal and was denied a hearing by the Supreme Court in January 2019. Colin Gordon submitted a brief, detailing historical patterns of segregation in the District, on behalf of the plaintiffs.

In Timmons v New Party (1997), representatives of the New Party filed suit against Minnesota election officials, contending that the State's antifusion laws violated its associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Colin Gordon wrote a scholar’s amicus brief tracing the history and implications of fusion voting.

Environment and Industrial Regulation

The President’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling investigated the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo oil spill and developed recommendations for reforming federal oversight of the industry. Tyler Priest joined the commission as a senior policy analyst, and wrote chapter two of the Commission’s final report, on the history of the offshore industry in the United States, and contributed to researching and writing chapter three, on the history of government regulation and oversight of offshore oil.

Labor Standards and Workers’ Rights

Colin Gordon is a senior research consultant at the Iowa Policy Project, a think tank affiliated with the Economic Analysis Research Network and the State Priorities Partnership. His recent work includes reports on wage theft in eastern Iowa, the impact of 2017 changes to Iowa’s workers compensation system, and the annual release of The State of Working Iowa.

Iowa’s Cultural Heritage

UI historians have been vocal in their support our cultural and historical institutions. Tyler Priest has played an important role in organizing support for the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) Research Center in Iowa City—an effort which included a 2016 white paper in support of the SHSI.

Capital Punishment

In mitigation appeals in St. Louis-based death penalty cases, Colin Gordon has submitted a series of expert opinions detailing the conditions under which defendants grew up, and the full range of social, economic, and ecological disadvantages faced by the residents of North St. Louis in the closing decades of the twentieth century.