Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has made it repeatedly clear that he is no fan of abortion. From his massively anti-choice record in the senate to his “Mary+Jesus” doodle when he signed the state’s omnibus anti-abortion bill, no one doubts he would give his stamp of approval to any law the legislature chooses to pass.
But praising the Summer of Mercy during his “State of the State” address? That seems a little extreme.
According to the Associated Press, the Republican Governor evoked the battle over slavery in the state, then segued into Kansas’ call to be a leader in the anti-abortion movement, too. “The chains of bondage of our brothers rubbed our skin and our hearts raw until we could stand it no more and erupted into ‘Bleeding Kansas.’ The Summer of Mercy sprung forth in Kansas as we could no longer tolerate the death of innocent children.”
The 1991 Summer of Mercy literally shut down the city of Wichita, leading to hundred of arrests, tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for the city, the clinic and the country after federal marshals were sent down to restore order, and was the first in the long line of attacks against Dr. George Tiller that created the fanatic environment that eventually led to his murder. Apparently, that’s the sort of Kansas leadership that the governor feels should be the cornerstone of an address on his governmental priorities. Terror, lawlessness and violence?
Brownback may be one of the highest ranking elected officials to play such open footsie with anti-choice extremists, but he’s not alone. Just this week, supervisors in a county in Virginia voted to give an acolyte of former Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry a position on the library’s board of trustees, despite his past protests at the White House or his featured role in a reality TV show about “hating the government.” The news that he publicly burned the Quran appeared to be the final straw, and his appointment was rescinded.
Andrew Beacham, the extremist who lost his library post, is the face of what many patients have to deal with when they access a clinic — yelling, graphic, bloody photos, harassment. Yet when it came to covering the Supreme Court’s Wednesday hearing about the constitutionality of buffer zones around abortion clinics, many in the mainstream media painted protesters outside medical centers as unassuming, non-threatening “grandma” types.
They aren’t. In fact, most of them are loud, aggressive, and will first implore and then shame the patient, even interacting with her after she leaves the clinic afterwards. Media Matter takes apart the myth of the “grandma” protester. In Colorado, their own providers and politicians worry that a decision to strike down the Massachusetts buffer could effect their own buffer law, too.
The court won’t make a ruling until June.
The Court did give us some good news this week by refusing to hear the Arizona “20 week gestation” abortion ban, which was blocked by a lower court. However, as I wrote at Talking Points Memo, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t jump if the “right” 20 week ban came their way.
State legislatures are just starting to meet, and already they are working on more ways to block access to abortion and birth control. A New Hampshire bill would ask for massive personal information on each patient obtaining an abortion, a move that has many concerned about the violation of medical privacy, especially if a patient could be identified by the information. Besides the already pre-filed bills on dual parental consent and super-sized waiting periods, Missouri also proposed a law to protect the rights of crisis pregnancy centers, especially when it comes to passing themselves off as medical centers without having to provide accurate medical assistance or information. Their “priority legislation,” however, is a TRAP bill to up clinic inspections and provide more regulations of clinics, in an attempt to close the only provider in the state. A Kentucky bill that would require an in person consultation with a doctor prior to a waiting period, mandating two trips to a clinic, has made it through a senate committee, but has been killed in the past in the House and hopefully will die there again this year.
A Planned Parenthood in Birmingham, Ala., has closed indefinitely, bringing that state down to just four active clinics. But an abortion clinic regulation bill approved last year could still bring that number even lower, especially if the requirement for admitting privileges for doctors is ever unblocked in the courts. Michigan will not be taking the “rape rider” abortion insurance bill to the full state for a vote, after abortion rights advocates realized they didn’t have enough time to get the signatures needed for a ballot amendment. Colorado proposes an all out abortion ban (again), while one Colorado Tea Party candidate compares pregnancy to having cancer. Except, you know, he gets to make his own medical decisions with cancer.
Do we have an abortion clinic desert? Yes, says Katie McDonough at Salon. To many of the providers she interviewed, today access to abortion for many pregnant people is nearly as bad as it was in the days before Roe. If there was any worry that the doctors were exaggerating, just read this article about how hard it is currently to get an abortion in some parts of Texas.
North Dakota saw the least abortions performed in the state in over a decade. One lawmaker says that’s because her heartbeat ban (which was blocked by the courts) convinced pregnant people to carry to term. Odds are, though, more people left the state and went to Minnesota instead.
Finally, Slate’s Will Saletan says we need to recognize that most people who oppose abortion do actually support birth control, regardless of what people like me say. Maybe he’s right, and three out of four abortion opponents are pro-birth control. Unfortunately, that one in four who doesn’t seem to be the one making the laws.
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