Category Archives: Abortion

Legal cost of anti-abortion laws keeps climbing

gavelThe state’s legal cost of defending recent anti-abortion laws has now topped $1 million. Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office has paid more than $612,000 to the Lawrence firm of Thompson, Ramsdell and Qualseth and more than $418,000 to the Wichita firm of Foulston Siefkin. Lawmakers were warned that the laws likely were unconstitutional, but they passed them (and Gov. Sam Brownback signed them) anyway.

Senate committee has turned into a circus

pilcher_cookIt’s good that Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, doesn’t micromanage committee chairmen, but she might want to make an exception for Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee (in photo). In the past week, Pilcher-Cook had sonograms performed on two women during a Public Health and Welfare Committee meeting and held a hearing on her bill to criminalize surrogacy contracts. As Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, complained, the committee meetings have turned into “a three-ring circus.”

Are abortion and slavery similar?

abortionprotestGov. Sam Brownback flattered his ultraconservative followers in his State of the State address last week by “equating Kansas’ gun- and Bible-toting abolitionists from the 1850s with the anti-abortion protesters who staged demonstrations in Wichita in 1991,” columnist Mary Sanchez wrote. She argued that abortion and slavery are not the same. “If abortion is evil, it is not a social evil, a crime against a class of people for the benefit of another,” she wrote. “The zealots Brownback praised – and upon whom he no doubt depends in his upcoming election – are not doing their cause or the victims it claims to protect any good by pretending that this weak analogy holds.”

Sonograms, surrogates and legal fees, oh, my

sonogramkslegThe stunt this week of having two pregnant women receive sonograms during a Kansas Senate committee hearing has generated plenty of ridicule, with people wondering what other medical procedures might be demonstrated for state lawmakers. Colonoscopies? Mammograms? Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, the committee’s chairwoman, is working on a new bill that would ban surrogate pregnancies in Kansas. It’s unclear why she thinks this is the Legislature’s concern. Associated Press also reported this week that the state has spent $1 million so far in legal costs trying to defend anti-abortion laws enacted during the past three years.

No surprise some took offense at abortion comment

tillerclinicAnyone familiar with Sam Brownback’s record as U.S. senator and Kansas governor should not have been surprised to hear him mention abortion during his State of the State address. But Brownback should have known he risked offending African-Americans by mentioning it in the same breath as the state’s fight against slavery. His statement that “the Summer of Mercy sprung forth in Kansas as we could no longer tolerate the death of innocent children” also was heard by many as an endorsement of those massive 1991 anti-abortion protests outside the Wichita clinic of George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion zealot. “Another day, another bizarre abortion comment from a Republican politician,” responded the Daily Beast. As Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, the state’s first elected black female senator, put it: “Why was this needed in the speech?

Kansas not only state passing anti-abortion laws

abortionantiNationwide, state legislatures added more abortion restrictions the past three years than during the entire preceding decade, the Washington Post reported. More than 200 abortion restrictions were passed and signed into law from 2011 to 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Last year 22 states enacted 70 anti-abortion measures. Kansas passed restrictions last year that banned sex-selection abortions and blocked tax deductions for abortion providers.

Anti-abortion groups causing neighborhood disruption

Speakers from Kansans for Life, Operation Rescue, Word of Life Church and the Kansas Coalition for Life implored the Wichita City Council Tuesday to rezone the South Wind Women’s Center out of its neighborhood at Bleckley and Kellogg. But it’s hard to think of legitimate reasons to rezone a property where physician George Tiller performed abortions for decades (before being murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion zealot) and to shut down a similar clinic performing a legal procedure. The reasons offered by the speakers Tuesday were heartfelt but unpersuasive, especially because most, if not all, of the neighborhood disruption stems from the anti-abortion groups’ provocative activities. The richest moment Tuesday was when Kansas Coalition for Life’s Mark Gietzen talked about it being inappropriate for children to see graphic anti-abortion signs – then took responsibility for bringing such signs to the site.

Women more supportive of abortion restriction

Democrats are casting new state laws restricting abortions after 20 weeks as a Republican “war on women.” But a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that women are more supportive of the restriction than men. The survey asked whether restrictions should begin at 24 weeks, as the U.S. Supreme Court dictated, or at 20 weeks. Sixty percent of women surveyed preferred 20 weeks, compared with 53 percent of men. However, 58 percent of women opposed efforts by some states to make it more difficult for abortion clinics to operate, compared with 50 percent of men. There wasn’t much gender difference on abortion rights, as 56 percent of men and 55 percent of women said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Will abortion ban and voter law be part of special session?

Though Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders wanted the Sept. 3 special session to focus only on rewriting the state’s Hard 50 criminal-sentencing law, the agenda already has expanded to include confirmation votes on as many as 19 gubernatorial appointees. Others are interested in lengthening the to-do list, perhaps with a bill “prohibiting an abortion of an unborn human individual with a detectable fetal heartbeat” or, in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case, by reopening the debate over Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. But “we’re not opening up this to legislation that’s left over or pending,” said House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell. “If we start doing that, it’s expensive to have a special session. I’m all in favor of saving the taxpayers dollars and getting this over with.” As our Wednesday editorial said, with the “special session costing $35,000 or more daily, taxpayers have a right to expect it not to last a minute longer than necessary.”

Abortion laws headed to court, as intended

If it seems as if states are passing a lot of anti-abortion laws, it’s because they are. “So far this year, state legislatures have enacted more than 40 measures to restrict or control access to abortion, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, and proponents of those measures acknowledge that they are deliberately inviting legal challenges in the hope that the cases will land in federal courts and produce stricter limits on abortion nationwide,” the Washington Post reported. Several of those measures already are in court, including Kansas’ new law that, among other restrictions, requires abortion providers to give women disputed information about a link between abortion and breast cancer. Federal and state judges in several states have struck down abortion bans at 20 weeks or earlier and blocked requirements that abortion doctors have staff privileges at a local hospital. Kansas has similar requirements.

Social conservatives still wield influence in GOP

After Republicans badly lost the women’s vote in the 2012 presidential election, and after anti-abortion comments cost them Senate races they should have won, there were calls by party leaders and strategists to focus less on social issues. That word apparently didn’t get to Republican U.S. House members. Or, more likely, Tuesday’s vote to restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception reflects the influence that social conservatives still have in the GOP – and their unwillingness to be marginalized. The bill has no chance of making it through the Senate.

Lawmakers pass bad laws; taxpayers get legal bills

It’s amazing how flippant some state lawmakers are about the state’s legal bills, considering them just a cost of doing business. No, they are a cost of making bad laws. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office estimated last week that it will need an additional $1.2 million to defend likely challenges to the state’s new gun, abortion and drug-testing laws. It’s already spent more than $750,000 defending previous abortion laws (and cases are still in the courts). The Attorney General’s Office even told lawmakers earlier in the session that parts of the new gun law couldn’t be enforced and would spur costly lawsuits, but lawmakers passed the bill anyway. It’s as if they are spending other people’s money. No, wait – they are.

Jesus, Mary and new abortion law

An Associated Press photo showing “JESUS + Mary” written at the top of Gov. Sam Brownback’s notes about the abortion bill he signed Friday has received some national media notice. The sweeping bill blocks tax deductions for abortion providers and those who receive abortions, requires abortion clinics to provide information about how abortion may cause an increase in breast cancer, and declares that life begins “at fertilization.” The typewritten portion of Brownback’s notes stated that the bill would create “a culture of life” in Kansas.

What it means to be on the front lines

A New York Times editorial Sunday headlined “Courage in Kansas” recounted some of the obstacles and threats that Julie Burkhart has faced in opening the South Wind Women’s Center, a women’s health care and abortion clinic in Wichita. These include a chilling jailhouse conversation that an anti-abortion group recorded with Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Burkhart’s former boss, Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. Roeder said that Burkhart had put a target on her back. The editorial concluded: “Dangerous and unconstitutional legislative restrictions, unceasing harassment, threats of violence and fearful doctors having to hide their identities for self-protection: This is what it means to be on the front line of trying to deliver legal and necessary reproductive health care to women in Wichita.” Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups are criticizing the media for not giving more coverage to the case of a Philadelphia abortion doctor accused of delivering live babies and then killing them.

More anti-abortion laws, more lawsuits

Expect more costly legal challenges when the anti-abortion bill that the Kansas Senate approved this week becomes law. The bill’s legal problems include the elimination of a woman’s mental health as justification for mid- to late-term abortions and the requirement that doctors distribute information about a connection between abortions and breast cancer – a link not supported by science. The bill’s prohibition on deducting any abortion-related expense on state income taxes also raises privacy concerns. But none of this seems to matter to most lawmakers, who even resented having to consider whether the bill’s declaration that life begins at fertilization could ban certain forms of birth control.

Lawmakers shouldn’t pass medically inaccurate bills

As a retired physician, Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, should be a valued resource for her House colleagues when they consider health-related legislation. But as the House gave initial approval to the latest big anti-abortion bill Tuesday, it ignored her efforts to excise medically inaccurate language linking breast cancer to abortion. She made another excellent point: Legislation dealing with health issues should go through the chamber’s health committee.

MAPC made right decision on clinic property

The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission made the right decision Thursday in denying a request by Kansans for Life to change zoning to prevent South Wind Women’s Center from opening in the building that previously housed George Tiller’s abortion clinic (in photo). The property reportedly has been zoned for medical purposes since 1937, and that’s how it was advertised when South Wind purchased it. Though many citizens oppose abortion, it is a legal procedure. And it struck many other citizens as ironic and insincere for anti-abortion groups to argue that the zoning should be changed to protect the neighborhood from disturbances created by those same groups.

Majority backs Roe decision, but opponents most motivated

Seventy percent of Americans want the Roe v. Wade ruling upholding abortion rights to stay, while 24 percent would like it overturned, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that came out on the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. So why is abortion still such a significant issue in politics? One reason is that 74 percent of those who support overturning Roe consider abortion a “crucial issue” or “one of many crucial issues,” according to a Pew poll, while only 31 percent of Roe supporters consider abortion a crucial issue.

So they said

“Congratulations Paul. Well done. You were respectful & truthful, unlike your opponent who was cranky & rude. Time for leaders w/character.” – Rep. Mike Pompeo (in photo), R-Wichita, on his Pompeo for Congress Twitter account, complimenting Rep. Paul Ryan’s debate performance

“The backwater word is: ‘Do not send too much to make him look like a nut.’” – Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, on how aggressive Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration wants to be in passing anti-abortion legislation next session

“My position is really more apolitical, just trying to be a good insurance regulator. His is more of a political position, and I understand that.” – Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, on Brownback’s unwillingness to have anything to do with the federal health reform law

“When you don’t agree with the facts, then you just label it scare tactics.” – Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, on Republicans’ reaction when Democrats mention the revenue shortfalls forecast because of the governor’s tax cuts

“They do a good job but not that good.” – Rep. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, a Kansas Senate candidate, calling the legislative researchers’ predicted red ink “a red herring”

Romney flip-flopping again on abortion?

After being strongly pro-choice when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, then saying he was pro-life during the GOP presidential primary, Mitt Romney said this week that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” But later that day a Romney spokeswoman issued a statement saying that “Gov. Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.” Romney’s campaign also contacted pro-life leaders to assure them that he really is anti-abortion.

Challenging Huelskamp’s anti-abortion rhetoric

The always sharp-tongued Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, recently made national news with comments at the 2012 Values Voter Summit equating abortion and slavery, and claiming that Planned Parenthood “was created for the sole purpose of killing children that look like mine – a racist organization, and it continues specifically to target minorities for abortion destruction.” That prompted the Louisville Courier-Journal to call out Huelskamp (who has adopted four children of different ethnicities) in an editorial criticizing political language that strains “good taste as well as meaning.” The editorial argued: “Surely, Rep. Huelskamp, there are better ways of making an anti-abortion argument than calling millions of people racist baby killers.”

Now that’s one big abortion conspiracy

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline blamed the dismissal of the case he filed against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri on a conspiracy to protect abortion providers, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Kline said the web of “corruption and cover-up” included Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, and former Attorneys General Steve Six and Paul Morrison – multiple officials from multiple jurisdictions and political parties over multiple years. Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood, offered an alternative explanation for why the case fell apart: Kline’s “incompetent prosecution” and “abuse of political power.”

GOP can’t distance itself too far from Akin

Republican lawmakers and officials are trying to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But more than 200 U.S. House members, including Akin and vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (in photo), R-Wis., sponsored a bill last year that would have rewritten the rape exception in federal abortion-funding bans to cover only “forcible rape.” That sounds like “legitimate rape.” Under public pressure, the bill was rewritten to drop the “forcible” language, but another provision was added saying the government couldn’t “subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape.” The bill passed the House, with all Republicans voting for it, but didn’t clear the Senate.

Akin, GOP may blow it in Missouri

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., is doing his best to blow his race against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. On Sunday Akin defended his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape by stating that pregnancy from rape is really rare. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he said – a claim not supported by science. McCaskill was quick to respond: “It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.” Akin later claimed he “misspoke.” In the past few days, Akin also has said he wants to re-litigate civil rights law and compared federal student loans to stage 3 cancer.

UPDATE: Several top Republicans are calling on Akin to drop out of his race against McCaskill so that the party can nominate someone else. So far he is refusing.

AP standing by abortion campaign story

Neither Associated Press nor MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow are backing down over a recent AP story on the role abortion was playing in the Sedgwick County district attorney’s race. AP quoted Operation Rescue president Troy Newman claiming that if District Attorney Nola Foulston “had done her job,” Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller “would still be alive today.” Newman contends that Foulston’s failure to prosecute Tiller is what led anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder to murder him. Maddow thinks it was irresponsible for AP to include Newman’s claims and to not mention Roeder’s links to Operation Rescue. “He didn’t get prosecuted so, obviously, he had to be shot, so says Operation Rescue, and so writes down the Associated Press, thus resulting in newspapers all over the country printing this absolutely wack-a-doo, uncontested, more than insinuation,” Maddow complained. She called on AP to retract the article, which AP refused to do. “We were quoting someone who was playing an active role in the outcome of an election,” Paul Colford, the AP’s director of media relations, told MSNBC. “We stand by the story.”