Category Archives: Abortion

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.”

Former top Brownback staffer backing KFL campaign

David Kensinger, Gov. Sam Brownback’s former chief of staff, is helping finance the Kansans for Life political action committee, the Kansas City Star reported. His consulting firm gave $15,000 to the PAC on July 31 – the PAC’s largest donation this year. So is it just a coincidence that the PAC endorsed most of the candidates backed by the Governor’s Office and anti-tax groups? KFL has said there was no connection, even though several of the incumbents targeted for defeat by the Governor’s Office and not endorsed by KFL – such as Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick – have lengthy pro-life voting and advocacy records.

KFL choosing between pro-life candidates

Some legislators are upset with Kansans for Life for picking sides in GOP primaries in which both candidates are pro-life, Associated Press reported. For example, the anti-abortion group endorsed Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, in a GOP primary against Rep. Trent LeDoux, R-Holton, who is also strongly anti-abortion. “Either endorse them both, or stay out of it,” LeDoux said. “Kansans for Life has marginalized themselves.” Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, yet Kansans for Life endorsed his challenger, Rep. Larry Powell, R-Garden City. Morris suggested that Kansans for Life might be influenced by anti-tax groups that are targeting him and other state senators – a claim that Kansans for Life denies. One of the group’s litmus tests was whether senators supported changing the way judges are appointed, which is a procedural question on which reasonable people can disagree. In area Senate races, Kansans for Life didn’t endorse Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, or Rep. Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain, though it acknowledged that both have pro-life voting records.

Abortion law not conservative

The state asked a federal judge last week to toss out a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law passed last year that prohibits insurance companies from offering coverage of abortion in their general insurance plans. The state’s attorneys argued that the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri has failed to present evidence that individual women haven’t been able to obtain abortions because of the law, Associated Press reported. The ACLU argues that the law penalizes women who exercise their constitutional right to have an abortion. It’s unclear whether the law is unconstitutional; U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson will make that decision. But the law certainly isn’t conservative, as it bans private insurance companies from offering coverage of a legal service to private companies for their private employees. That’s not limited government.

Schmidt tries to manage use of outside lawyers

Like pretty much every attorney general before him, Derek Schmidt has been criticized for the cost of hiring outside counsel to represent the state, including in the school-finance trial and the challenges to four new abortion laws. But “we get sued a lot,” he recently told The Eagle editorial board, and his comparatively small team of 40 to 45 in-house attorneys will always need to rely on outside counsel as a safety net. The office has spent more money on outside attorneys than he’d like to spend, but it’s saved some, too, on attorneys’ fees and otherwise. Schmidt said he expects to add civil litigators and pull in some cases now being farmed out. He defended the decision to hire outside lawyers to represent the state against the significant legal challenges to the abortion laws. “They deserve a good defense,” he said.

Violent threats didn’t come from God

God has been wrongly portrayed by a local anti-abortion activist and a Kansas pastor in recent days. Angel Dillard, who is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for a threatening letter she sent to a Wichita doctor, claimed in a court filing that her message was “divinely inspired.” Meanwhile, incredibly, the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca in north-central Kansas said that it’s time for the U.S. government to begin killing gay men and lesbians, the Huffington Post reported. “They should be put to death,” Curtis Knapp told his congregation. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ – I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”

Not ‘pro-choice,’ but supportive of abortion rights

The number of self-identified “pro-choice” Americans has hit an all-time low – 41 percent – according to a new Gallup poll. That’s an 8 percentage point drop from the 2011 survey. However, Americans’ support for abortion rights increased slightly. Of those surveyed, 52 percent believe abortion should be legal under “certain circumstances,” up from 50 percent in 2011. An additional 25 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal under all circumstances, while 20 percent think it should be illegal. Meanwhile, 50 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as “pro-life,” up from 45 percent in 2011.

Abortion bills generating jobs for attorneys

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office paid outside attorneys almost $628,000 through April to defend anti-abortion laws enacted last year, Associated Press reported. And that’s just the beginning. Laws passed last year are still tied up in the courts. And the Kansas House is determined to pass even more constitutionally and scientifically suspect laws. A bill approved Monday would prohibit citizens from deducting from their taxes money spent on an abortion or for supplemental health insurance to cover the procedure. It also would bar employers from deducting any money they contribute to a health plan for supplemental insurance coverage of an abortion, and ban corporations from taking a tax credit from contributions they make to Planned Parenthood. The bill’s provisions include applying sales taxes to any drugs used to perform or induce an abortion. Apparently pledges not to raise taxes don’t apply when the issue is abortion. The bill also requires physicians to tell women that an abortion poses a risk of breast cancer, even though mainstream science doesn’t support that link.

Attorney fees on abortion bills just getting started

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office has paid outside lawyers nearly $597,000 so far to defend various anti-abortion laws enacted last year. But that may be just a drop in the bucket. The cases are still in the courts, so more attorney bills will be coming. And the Legislature seems bent on passing even more constitutionally suspect laws, such as requiring a fetal monitor to “make the embryonic or fetal heartbeat of the unborn child audible for the pregnant woman to hear.” Even though he has given a green light to lawmakers to pass anti-abortion bills, Gov. Sam Brownback has a fiscal responsibility not to sign bills that are sure to get tossed out by the courts.

Anti-abortion bill goes too far, as usual

It’s one thing for doctors and pharmacists to refuse to participate in abortions or to prescribe or dispense contraceptives – though that can create significant problems for women living in small towns. But the Kansas House went too far in expanding the state’s conscience law so that doctors and pharmacists don’t have to refer patients to other providers. That goes beyond protecting the consciences of doctors to imposing those views on patients. The House also is considering legislation that would limit the liability of doctors who lie to women about the condition of their pregnancies to try to prevent them from getting abortions, and that would require physicians to inform women seeking an abortion about the risk of breast cancer, even though mainstream science doesn’t support a link between abortion and breast cancer. Meanwhile, those on both sides of the abortion debate can’t believe that a former abortion doctor at a now-defunct clinic in Kansas City, Kan., put more than 1,000 patient files in a recycling container. The files, which included personal information about patients, were discovered by an Overland Park woman.

So where are the abortion records?

Do the abortion records still exist or not? That’s the puzzling question after an investigation of the supposed shredding of documents needed by prosecutors in a case against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park. Last November, a judge dismissed 49 charges against the clinic because the Johnson County district attorney said the records had been shredded by the Attorney General’s Office in April 2009, triggering speculation by some anti-abortion activists that the Sebelius administration was involved in a cover-up. But the Shawnee County sheriff investigated and determined that none of the shredded documents was related to this case. An attorney for the clinic says that the records still exist and were held by the Attorney General’s Office as of last fall. So where are the records now?

Rubber stamp went too far, but frustration understandable

Kari Ann Rinker, executive director of the National Organization for Women’s Kansas branch, didn’t show proper respect when she pulled out a rubber stamp during her testimony last week against a series of anti-abortion measures. “You can use it on every abortion bill that comes through here this session,” she told members of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, “and you can even share it with the governor if you like.” But Rinker is understandably frustrated with how the Legislature passes and Gov. Sam Brownback signs anti-abortion bills that seem to clearly violate federal rules and court decisions. As a result, the state spent about $1 million last year trying to defend the laws in court. This session lawmakers are again considering measures that defy the courts and mainstream science.

Komen reverses itself on Planned Parenthood

After getting pounded this week for its decision to drop funding for breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation reversed course today and announced that Planned Parenthood could still get funding. The foundation apologized “to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.” It said it will amend its funding criteria to make clear that politically motivated investigations would not disqualify an organization from receiving funds. Earlier this week, the foundation cited an investigation by an anti-abortion lawmaker in Congress for its decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

Anti-abortion laws helping attorneys prosper

At least some Kansans are prospering under the Brownback administration. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office paid outside law firms, including Wichita-based Foulston Siefkin, $476,000 to defend anti-abortion laws enacted last year, Associated Press reported. And that’s just the start. The attorney bills will continue to rack up as the legal challenges work their way through the courts. In a budget year in which funding was cut for schools, the arts, the disabled and other important programs and services, it is particularly frustrating that the state is spending this amount of money defending laws it knew were weak or flawed. For example, the federal government warned Kansas that it couldn’t block funding to Planned Parenthood, but lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback approved the law anyway, which was then blocked by the courts. Now some anti-abortion lawmakers are planning even more constitutionally suspect laws for this coming session, such as preventing private companies from getting tax deductions for abortion-related expenditures. That will make the attorneys happy.

Anti-abortion laws invited costly legal bills

It’s disappointing that Kansas legislators’ rush to send three anti-abortion bills to the desk of pro-life Gov. Sam Brownback has led to nearly $393,000 in legal bills for the state, including from Wichita-based Foulston Siefkin. It’s reasonable that Attorney General Derek Schmidt needed outside legal help to defend the new laws, variously aimed at denying federal family planning funds to Planned Parenthood, imposing new regulations on abortion clinics and prohibiting insurance companies’ comprehensive plans from covering abortions. But it’s also reasonable to expect lawmakers and the governor to try harder to vet legislation before they pass it, in an effort to avoid costly lawsuits.

Who is to blame for abortion records fiasco?

Now that a U.S. district judge has dismissed most of the legal charges against Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Overland Park, the focus is shifting to who is to blame for the failed case. In addition to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment destroying its copies of abortion records, reportedly as part of routine document destruction, the Attorney General’s Office destroyed its copies of the records in 2009. Current Attorney General Derek Schmidt plans to investigate the shredding to determine if any laws were broken, but some already are pointing fingers at former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (in photo), who is now the U.S. secretary of health and human services. “Since these illegal activities allegedly transpired under Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ administration — possibly even at the behest of her handpicked attorney general, Steve Six — Secretary Sebelius has some serious questions to answer,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said in a statement. A spokesman for Sebelius said that she “has no knowledge of the matter.” Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood attorney Pedro Irigonegaray blamed the records fiasco on former Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline. “Competent lawyers know the importance of obtaining authenticated copies (of records),” Irigonegaray said in court.

Brunk wants investigation of destroyed abortion records

Rep. Steve Brunk (in photo), R-Bel Aire, is calling for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the state health department’s shredding of abortion records, Associated Press reported. Former Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline filed charges in 2007 claiming that Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic altered some of its patient records from 2003. But it turns out the state destroyed its copies of those records in 2005 as part of “routine document destruction.” “This smells like some very selective shredding,” Brunk said. “There needs to be an investigation, and it should come out of the Attorney General’s Office.” But Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, doesn’t want to rush to judgment. “I just want to make sure I’ve got more information before accusing anybody of anything,” he said.

So what exactly is Cain’s position on abortion?

It’s still unclear what GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s position is on abortion. In an interview with Fox Business, Cain said that it “is not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision (about abortion).” And after saying he was against abortion under any circumstances, he told CNN’s Piers Morgan: “It ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president. Not some politician. Not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family, and whatever they decide, they decide.” That sounds like a pro-choice stance. But Cain then released a statement saying that he misunderstood the questions. “As to my political-policy view on abortion, I am 100 percent pro-life,” he said. “End of story.” Is it?

Another reason to pull plug on Kline’s Planned Parenthood case

Johnson County prosecutors won more time today in their effort to authenticate abortion records dating from 2003 and used in 2007 by then-District Attorney Phill Kline to file a 107-count complaint against Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic. But with last week’s news that state health officials shredded their copies of the records in 2005 as part of “routine document destruction,” it’s getting harder to see how this ancient case can be made — or why it should be, given that a professional ethics panel recently found that Kline misled a grand jury (which ultimately refused to indict Planned Parenthood itself) and “engaged in a pattern of misconduct” as district attorney and, earlier, as Kansas attorney general.

Sebelius: GOP wants to roll back women’s health

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who took flak for her pro-choice positions as was Kansas governor, didn’t hold back when speaking at a recent NARAL Pro-Choice America fundraising luncheon in Chicago, warning that Republicans “want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America.” She touted the health reform law’s measures to increase access to birth control. “Forty percent of unplanned pregnancies end in those women seeking abortions,” she said. “Wouldn’t you think that people who want to reduce the number of abortions would champion the cause of widely available, widely affordable contraceptive services? Not so much.”

Kline let anti-abortion fervor cloud judgment

A professional ethics panel had little choice but to recommend that former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline have his state law license suspended indefinitely. Kline repeatedly misled other officials or allowed subordinates to mislead others, violating “rules that prohibit false and dishonest conduct,” the panel concluded. Kline responded in a statement that he “will continue to speak and stand for the truth and for those who cannot speak for themselves.” And he claimed that his only “mistake” was his “willingness to investigate politically powerful people.” That may play well with some pro-life groups, but what got Kline in trouble was that he let his anti-abortion fervor cloud his legal judgment and justify professional misconduct.

Kansas leading way on court challenges to new laws

“Ever since the elections last fall, the few surviving Democrats in Kansas hardly qualify as speed bumps for conservative legislation,” the New York Times reported, in an article characterizing the court challenges around the country to the year’s GOP-passed legislation relating to abortion and immigration as “the first real efforts to slow the crush of conservative legislation.” Secretary of State Kris Kobach told the Times that as the 2010 GOP wins led to swift passage of long-sought conservative legislation, “liberal groups have been quicker than usual to rush to the courthouse doors.” Conservatives seem to view the court fights over each new law as inevitable. And “I think at some level they don’t care about the judicial response,” said University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson. “If it’s upheld, that’s great for them. If it’s struck, it adds to the critique of the so-called imperial judiciary.”

Flak for DeGraaf’s abortion insurance law

Predictably, a New York Times editorial sided with the American Civil Liberties Union on whether Kansas can prohibit abortion coverage in comprehensive insurance plans — as the state did in the new law pushed by Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane. The editorial said the ACLU lawsuit “has opened a new front in the legal war over women’s reproductive rights” and “argues persuasively that the law is unconstitutional because it essentially levies a tax on a constitutionally protected procedure.” Just as predictably, a National Review blogger chided the Times and blamed “Obamacare.” Michael New wrote: “The fact that states are facing federal mandates to expand Medicaid eligibility and the fact that government funds will be subsidizing insurance plans through the various exchanges give pro-lifers another avenue to restrict abortion.”

Respect judges, open government — even on abortion

The legal right to abortion doesn’t get much respect in Kansas anymore. But as the state and its attorneys defend new overreaching anti-abortion legislation against the inevitable lawsuits, they at least should be less disdainful of federal judges and open government, our editorial today argues. U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten had to order the state Tuesday in federal court in Wichita to resume the flow of federal family planning funds to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Meanwhile, the state is fighting disclosure of how it crafted temporary new rules and regulations specific to abortion providers. The Brownback administration shouldn’t tout the rule of law, transparency and limited government in some matters and then, when it comes to abortion, flout a federal judge and operate as a heavy-handed and secretive regulatory authority.