Repro Wrap: Kansas Governor Recalls ‘Summer of Mercy,’ While Alabama Loses Another Clinic

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 The news that he publicly burned the Quran appeared to be the final straw, and his appointment was rescinded.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.

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons


Michael T.
Michael T.2 years ago


Thanks for your comment.

And a green star to you too!

Michael T.
Michael T.2 years ago

Judy B writes: Abortion is murder plain and simple. Its not as simple as it sounds. Women who choose abortion over birth control are killing a human being who has a purpose. Rape is different but to just abort a living human even if it is in a unwanting womans body is wrong.

Wow Judy, you should really do some more reading.
The fetus that is being aborted isn’t really a human being yet.

So rape is different but women should still carry a fetus to term if it was caused by being raped?

Yes, I’ll recommend that all women use birth control before they are raped and to carry a condom so that they can offer it to their rapist before he rapes them.

Judy Boyko
Judy Boyko2 years ago

Abortion is murder plain and simple. Its not as simple as it sounds. Women who choose abortion over birth control are killing a human being who has a purpose. Rape is different but to just abort a living human even if it is in a unwanting womans body is wrong. There are ways to prevent pregnancy and any woman who chooses abortion is a murder.

pam w.
pam w.2 years ago

Marianne "So survival at such an early gestational age is still a crapshoot. For almost half of these preemies, "survival" will not mean a successful or flourishing life. It will mean only basic existence."

+++++++++++++ Not to mention an enormous burden financially, emotionally and socially for the entire family. The anti-choice mob want us to believe that life with a damaged child will ultimately become uplifting, I guess, instead of possibly an inolerable burden!

pam w.
pam w.2 years ago

Karen H.......THAT is INTERESTING!

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se2 years ago


Karen H.
Karen H.2 years ago

There’s a lot of hypocrisy around this issue. Anti-abortion Tea Party Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who is also a physician, pressured his mistress to have an abortion, and court documents show that his wife had TWO abortions while they were married.

A F.
Athena F.2 years ago

Thank you, sad state we're in now, we must rise above it!

Marianne C.
Marianne C.2 years ago

I have more information on that alleged less-than-22 week fetus in Florida:

A 21 week, six day gestation WOULD be amazing for a preemie born alive. The problem is that anti-choice has leaped on this baby as if she were going to e their anchor for forbidding all abortions. And they did it without actually counting her TRUE gestational age.

The baby was in the womb for 21 weeks and six days. However, she had a head start of over a week: this was an in vitro fertilization, and the egg that became the implanted embryo was developing in a petri dish for 8 days prior to implantation.

21 weeks and six days PLUS 8 days of pre-implantation development comes to an actual gestational age of 23 weeks and 1 day. 23 weeks is a threshold of sorts; born at 23 weeks, 17% of preemies do survive. Born at 22 weeks, survival is much less likely: either 5% or 9%, depending upon whose figures you believe.

At birth via C-section, the baby was just 9½ inches long and weighed less than 10 ounces.

Following birth, she grew and gained weight, but suffered respiratory and digestive problems, as well as a "mild" brain hemorrhage. She was in an incubator in the pediatric ICU for four months, and still required oxygen when she was finally allowed to go home.


Marianne C.
Marianne C.2 years ago

Continued from above:

The baby was delivered because her mother suffered complications and was in danger if the pregnancy continued. Doctors said shortly after her birth that if they had been fully aware of her short duration in the womb, they would have held off on intervention, but testing and measurements showed a fetus they reckoned to be at 23 weeks -- which she actually was, counting the first 8 days before implantation.

The doctor who delivered her "cautioned against rushing to redefine the medical standards for fetus viability."

People magazine ran a picture of the baby when she was 9 months old. She was still quite small and delicate, weighing only 14.5 pounds. She could still not sit up unassisted, and seemed to have trouble holding up her head. Since then, her parents have been cautious about making public appearances.

Preemies born between 22 and 25 weeks have significant rates of neurodevelopmental impairments that appear later in infancy. At 22 weeks, 43 per cent of children in two 2013 studies had moderate to severe impairment and 31 per cent had severe impairment. But the number of surviving children in this gestational group was small -- only 12 combined in the studies. At 23 weeks, the rate of moderate to severe impairment was 40 per cent and the rate of severe impairment was 17 per cent.