Why South Wind Women’s Center Matters

An abortion clinic opening in any U.S. city would make news these days, but the imminent opening of South Wind Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas has garnered a special kind of attention. The clinic, which will provide abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy as well as a wide range of other women’s health care services, will be located in Dr. George Tiller’s former clinic.

South Wind is owned by the Trust Women Organization, a nonprofit that was founded in 2010 by Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. Tiller for seven years. “We’re going to provide Pap smears, pelvic exams, well-woman care, contraceptive care, pregnancy confirmation and consultation, and STI (sexually transmitted infection) treatment” Burkhart has said. “We want to work with women who are having trouble getting pregnant and women who have been pregnant — the full range of services.” There are three physicians on staff—one local, two that will travel in from out of state—and a social worker that will offer both miscarriage and post-abortion counseling as well as lactation consultation.

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Dispatches from Abortionland

Today’s post, the final is our Roe v. Wade series, is by guest contributor Sarah Cohen, who worked at the National Abortion Federation hotline for several years and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

Once you move to abortionland, there’s no moving back. Once you start thinking hard about abortion, it touches everything—it’s like a new lens that you see the world through. I can turn any conversation into a conversation about abortion. I see the links to it everywhere—in poverty, the social safety net (or lack thereof), education levels, unemployment, race, urban-rural divides, gender relations, religion, and just about every other dimension of modern life.

I moved to abortionland almost five years ago, when I began working on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline. I’d been pro-choice my whole life, and I’d been interested in abortion politics for a long time, but this was brand new. I did options counseling, I looked up clinics and gave out their phone numbers, I talked about money with all kinds of women. I stayed after my shift ended almost every day, thinking I could take just a few more calls and help just a few more women before going home.

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Founder of Arizona’s Abortion Fund Describes Her Drive to Serve

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to pro-choice advocates about what activism looks like to them. Today we’re talking to Carrie Klaege. Carrie is a long-time women’s rights activist, with experience working as a clinic assistant with Planned Parenthood and as clinic director for Dr. George Tiller. Carrie recently founded the Abortion Access Network of Arizona, which provides funding resources to those seeking reproductive health services. She is currently working toward her master’s in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has a goal of working to decrease gender discrimination in the workplace. When not being a mom, student, and activist, Carrie enjoys reading and designing chainmaille jewelry.

1. When did you first get involved in the pro-choice movement? And what was your motivation for getting involved?
I was raised in a pro-choice family, but it wasn’t until after I had my own abortion that it became clear to me how important access to safe abortion services is.

2. Why did you found the Abortion Access Network of Arizona?

After working in the clinic with people who were scraping together every last penny to have their abortion, I realized how important funding is. [Read more...]

Remembering Dr. Tiller

Today marks two years since Dr. George Tiller was killed in Wichita, Kansas. One of the few physicians in the United States that would publicly identify as a late-term abortion provider, Dr. Tiller had survived an earlier assassination attempt and countless incidents of harassment before Scott Roeder entered Dr. Tiller’s church and shot him.

The past two years have brought a contentious health-care battle, a sustained threat to defund Planned Parenthood, and an avalanche of legislative measures aimed at restricting abortion access all over the country. Nebraska and Indiana have banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; Minnesota is working on a similar measure. Texas recently passed a bill requiring that women see a sonogram 24 hours before being allowed to have an abortion. South Dakota’s House of Representatives has approved a bill that requires women to visit a crisis pregnancy center before they can obtain abortion care.

This relentless onslaught of anti-choice legislation has been the subject of much attention because of what it says about individual politicians and state governments, not to mention the federal budget. But as the anniversary of Dr. Tiller’s death approaches, now is also the time to consider the effect of such strident and relentless legislation on the next generation of abortion providers.  [Read more...]

Operation Rescue Unveils List of “Cases to Watch” This Year

Operation Rescue heralded the new year by posting their list of “abortion cases to watch in 2011.” I was curious about what cases could hold their attention, so I clicked over to OR’s site. In typically overheated rhetoric, the group breathlessly detailed the reasons why everyone from Planned Parenthood to a former colleague of Dr. Tiller should hold the antis’ attention for the next twelve months.

Planned Parenthood made the list for a case that might never even come to trial. Last October, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a case against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood could move forward, but imposed a number of restrictions that could negatively affect the prosecution. The charges, which allege that the clinic performed illegal late-term abortions and falsified records, were filed in 2007 by now-former District Attorney Phill Kline (who is perhaps best known for his controversial anti-abortion legal crusades); current District Attorney Steve Howe now oversees the prosecution, and he has said that he needed to review the decision before deciding if the case can move ahead.

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Anti-Choice Extremists Circulate “Wanted” Posters in North Carolina

Late last week, anti-abortion extremists distributed “Wanted” posters for three abortion providers in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. As Rachel Maddow noted on her show, the information on the posters is “very specific,” and includes pictures, office addresses, and the home address of one doctor.

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Operation Rescue: An Overview

Operation Rescue is perhaps the best-known anti-choice group in the U.S. For over twenty years, Operation Rescue has demonstrated against abortion clinics, deployed so-called “Truth Trucks” to cities and towns around the nation, and otherwise harassed and threatened doctors, clinic workers, and women.

OR was founded by Randall Terry in 1986, when he led a series of protests against abortion clinics in Binghamton, New York; his tactics included physically barricading clinic doorways and keeping women from leaving their cars. The group rose to prominence two years later when it demonstrated outside of the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, and for a time was perhaps best-known for its 1991 protest in Wichita, Kansas, at Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. The six-week long protest resulted in thousands of arrests and drew national attention to the tactics of OR, the bravery of Dr. Tiller and his staff, and the immense amount of stress and intimidation that his patients experienced as protesters chained themselves to fences, crawled across the ground, and otherwise kept the clinic under siege for 45 days.

In 1994, President Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, or FACE, Act into law. Clinic workers and their patients were now protected from the physical threat, force, and obstructions they had put up with for years, and the threat of criminal and civil penalties for those who violated the law did cause a decrease in certain types of clinic violence, specifically blockades. It is indisputable that FACE affected Operation Rescue’s tactics, but the organization, which seemed to be on the verge of bankruptcy as recently as last fall, is still very active.  Following Dr. Tiller’s assassination, OR announced that they will now work on putting Nebraska provider LeRoy Carhart out of business. And earlier this summer, the Kansas-based group established a small office in Albuquerque, New Mexico; in response to the organization’s presence in the city, a pro-choice rally is scheduled for Friday, July 30.

Roeder May Not Be Able to Use “Necessity” Defense

scott roederAttorneys for Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller, may not be able to use the defense that Roeder acted “out of necessity.” According to the Associated Press:

[Roeder] told The Associated Press on Nov. 9 that he shot Tiller to protect unborn children and he planned to present a necessity defense at his trial. He also said one of his two public defenders, Mark Rudy, had given him the “green light” to talk to the media about it.

But the following day, lead defense attorney Steve Osburn told reporters the necessity defense did not exist in Kansas law and the defense team did not plan to present that strategy.

“We have explored that possibility,” Osburn said at the time. “That does not seem to be the approach that is viable, nor is it the approach we intend to use.”

A hearing is set for December 22nd to officially decide if a “necessity defense” may be introduced when Roeder actually goes to trial on January 11th. [Read more...]

Roeder May Claim “Justifiable Homicide” Defense

Scott RoederLawyers for Scott Roeder, the man accused of murdering Dr. George Tiller, have said that they might use a “justifiable homicide” defense when Roeder goes to trial. According to the Wichita Eagle:

Roeder has court-appointed defense attorneys, but he apparently has now turned to Michael Hirsh, the lawyer who represented Paul Hill on appeal for killing a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Hill was executed in 2003 after the Florida Supreme Court rejected Hirsh’s argument that the judge should have allowed Hill to present to jurors his claim that the killings were justified to prevent abortions.

Hirsh confirmed he has spoken once to Roeder in recent weeks about representing him, but he has not yet been retained. Hirsh said he had not researched the facts of the case or Kansas law enough to know whether the justifiable homicide defense could be used but said a jury should be allowed to decide if it is applicable.

Scott Roeder’s actions were hardly “justifiable.” The idea of a “justifiable homicide” is laughable. Either you’re pro-life, or you’re not. Somebody who murders a man in church is not a hero, he’s a terrorist. The Wichita Eagle article speculates that it is unlikely that Roeder will be able to use the “justifiable homicide” defense, because nobody has ever been able to do so. And for good reason. Murder is murder, period.

Scott Roeder Has Friends in Low Places

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Scott Roeder, the man accused of killing Dr. George Tiller, has friends in low places. Despite the public claims from Operation Rescue that Scott Roeder wasn’t associated with the group, Roeder has been receiving letters in jail from all kinds of right wing whack jobs. The FBI is reportedly investigating Roeder’s mail and the list of visitors he has been receiving to see if Roeder acted alone, or he was part of a larger anti-abortion conspiracy. [Read more...]