Kansas Weighs New Anti-Choice Laws

The South Wind Women’s Clinic in Wichita may offer a place for women to receive abortion care, but anti-choice legislators in the state are hoping to impose new restrictions on the procedure. Both the state House and Senate have passed a bill that would define life as beginning at fertilization, and anti-choice Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.

The bill does more than include language about when life begins. It would also mandate what information clinics must give women about abortion risks—including the medically inaccurate claim of a possible link between breast cancer and abortion—and fetal development; prohibit clinic employees from providing sex education in schools; ban terminations performed solely because of the sex of the fetus; and prohibit the use of tax credits, tax preferences, and public funds for abortion services, as well as prevent public health-care services provided by the state from being used in any way to carry out abortions.

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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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Pro-Choice News Roundup

It’s been a busy week as far as pro-choice news is concerned.  Here’s a roundup in case you missed anything.

Idaho woman challenges the state’s late-term abortion ban – Houston Chronicle
UK is debating mandatory counseling for abortion patients – The Guardian
RU-486 may become available in Australia – The Australian
Kansas told they have to fund Planned Parenthood – Businessweek
What new legal obstacles mean for women in Ohio – RH Reality Check

More States Defunding Planned Parenthood

Now that Planned Parenthood clinics are closing or suspending services in Indiana and Minnesota, the trumpets have blared, the angels have descended, and Jesus Christ himself has come down to say that even though the Bible says nothing about abortion, he’s pretty darn happy.

Oh, wait, that’s not it. Nope, now that clinics have closed, women and men won’t be able to access preventative health services, including cancer screenings. Way to protect lives, anti-choicers!

The Minnesota clinics, which didn’t provide abortions, were closed due to cuts in Title X funding. However, it’s not exactly a secret that anti-choice politicians opposed this funding, even though it cannot be used for abortions: according to Michele Bachmann’s office, “Taxpayer funds should not be directed to this heinous organization, especially at a time when our nation’s debt exceeds $14 trillion.” [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...]

Kansas Abortion Provider Under Attack

This post was written by Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. Mazine. It was originally published at Ms. Magazine. Please help spread the word!

“Are doctors who are willing to provide [abortions] still just on their own, with their face on WANTED posters … waiting to see what happens next?… How do we as a country react?”

Rachel Maddow posed that question last week as she reported from Kansas on the escalating campaign of threats, harassment and terror against Dr. Mila Means, who recently announced her plans to provide abortions in Wichita.

Abortions have not been available in the city since the murder of Dr. George Tiller in May 2009. Means has now become the target of an aggressive campaign led by anti-abortion extremists. WANTED-style posters featuring Means’ photograph and address are being circulated in Wichita and online, and about a dozen anti-abortion zealots stalked the physician at her rural Wichita home.

Threats of violence against abortion providers intended to prevent them from providing reproductive health-care services—like those against Means—are prohibited by the FACE act, by state anti-stalking laws and by criminal threat and trespass laws. Although these threats can and should be prosecuted, all too often they are not. And time and again, threats that are ignored by law enforcement escalate to violence. [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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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.

Sentencing Delay for Scott Roeder

In late January, Scott Roeder was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician who provided abortions. Roeder was also convicted of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening two other men as he fled. Roeder’s sentencing was scheduled for March 9, but this week it was announced that the sentencing will be moved to April 1.

During pre-trial hearings, Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that Roeder could not argue justifiable homicide, but that depending on the testimony, his attorneys could argue voluntary manslaughter. Shortly before the end of the trial, the judge ruled that there was not sufficient reason to consider the lesser charge. It is expected that at the April 1 hearing, the judge will hear a request for either a new trial or an acquittal, based on the defense’s belief that Wilbert erred in not letting the jury consider voluntary manslaughter.

To win a conviction of voluntary manslaughter, a jury would have to agree that Roeder was acting under “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” It’s pretty clear that the circumstances under which Roeder acted – Dr. Tiller was in his church, serving as an usher before services began – did not justify deadly force. That’s as clear-cut as, well, Roeder’s confession – he didn’t leave any doubt about his guilt. Hopefully we’re not in for another round of legal wrangling (for lack of a better term); guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the sentencing brings.

Tuesday News Roundup

mouse-clickAbortion and the Health Care Battle – The New Yorker
Abortion in Tanzania – The Guardian
New FBI Data Shows Sharp Increase in Anti-Gay Hate Crimes – Think Progress
Mexico to Consider Constitutional Ban on Abortion – National Partnership for Women & Families
Former Kansas Attorney General’s Assistant on Trial for Illegal Investigation of Planned Parenthood & Dr. Tiller -
Forward Kansas and Wichita Eagle
More Background Info on the Kansas Case – Forward Kansas