I have a PhD in Political Science from New York University (2001), with an emphasis on American Public Law. Since 2006, I have been a professor of Law, Politics, and Society at Drake University (Des Moines, IA), I write op-eds and essays that have been picked up by major media outlets, including The Atlantic and Time, and am frequently interviewed by national and international print, radio, and television media. My current book project, under contract with Stanford University Press, investigates the mobilization of advocates for Certified Professional Midwifery, and will be published as Attending to Birth: Expanding the Margins of Reproductive Care. Prior to that, I published Pregnant with the Stars: Watching and Wanting the Pregnant Celebrity Body (Stanford), as well as a book on federal tribal acknowledgment: Cash, Color, and Colonialism (Univeristy of Oklahoma Press). I am an expert on reproductive justice, reproductive law and politics, birth, abortion, and public health; and the United States Supreme Court. I am also an expert on American Indian tribal acknowledgment and federal Indian gaming.
Health Politics and Policy
Race, Ethnicity and Politics
U.S. Supreme Court
Election Of Women
Gender Equality Laws
Higher Education Policy
Higher Education Politics
Ethics: Higher Ed
Native American Governments
Native American Politics
Critical Race Theory
Race Class Gender
I teach and research around issues of reproductive law and politics, with an emphasis on birth and pregnancy, and have a teaching speciality that includes access to abortion and birth control, and US Supreme Court cases (and state legislation) that impacts these areas of law and policy. My current research is on the legalization of Certified Professional Midwives in the United States (which is a state-by-state process), the ways that midwives and their advocates mobilize for legal status, and the ways that states regulate CPMs once they have achieved legality. I focus on professionalization, integration of care, and families as consumer advocates. I have previously published on celebrity pregnancy, arguing that our obsession with celebrity pregnancy enables us to feel comfortable with the regulation, commodification, and surveillance of everyday women's pregnancies. Prior to my work on reproductive law and politics, I wrote a book on the recognition of American Indian tribes via federal processes of acknowledgement.In all of this research, I am focused on the intersections of regulatory law and identity/status. I am the Herb and Karen Baum Chair of Ethics in the Professions at Drake University, and have a research and professional interest in access, affordability, and ethical leadership in higher education.
Recent years have seen increased activism on behalf of homebirth midwives, with grassroots movements in many states focused on gaining professional status for midwives, and legislation regulating and decriminalizing their practice. However, changing the legal status of homebirth midwifery in the United States may not be the most important issue in creating access for maternal services of this type; in fact, legal status is relatively unimportant to this issue. Participant-observation and interviews indicate that, regardless of legal status, homebirth midwives may be subject to prosecutorial discretion, onerous reporting and insurance requirements, and increased state reach via administrative agencies. These findings reaffirm other studies that have pointed to the limits of law; the gap between doctrine and legislation, and implementation; and the contingent and constitutive relationships between law and transformational change.
In this co-authored piece, we explore the ways that institutions and departments can structure their time and expectations to support professional integrity - having discovered that work/life balance is a harmful fallacy, rather than a useful goal.
Poor coordination of care across providers and birth settings has been associated with adverse maternal-newborn outcomes. Research suggests that integration of midwives into regional health systems is a key determinant of optimal maternal-newborn outcomes, yet, to date, the characteristics of an integrated system have not been described, nor linked to health disparities.
The invisibility of immigrant women’s healthcare and justice needs, directly related to the triple oppression they face and intersectional identities they hold, is highlighted by the silence surrounding a requirement that they be immunized against cervical cancer with the controversial vaccination, Gardasil. Such a requirement was the unintended consequence of a statutory mandate colliding with an agency recommendation, and it disproportionately burdened women and girls emigrating from Mexico. A quiet and far-reaching coalition used unconventional means to get the policy reversed, and opened new ways for scholars to understand potential responses to agency-level injustices for groups marginalized by dominant discourses of public health and immigration.