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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back in Kansas Over Abortion

It’s been almost four years since George Tiller was murdered in the narthex of his church while serving as an usher, and the fight over a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions is still up for grabs in the state of Brownbackistan.

On Wednesday, a foundation named Trust Women opened the South Wind Women’s Center in the same space where George Tiller practiced medicine in Wichita. The founder of Trust Women, Julie Burkhart, used to work with Tiller, and SWWC has engaged three doctors to work there to provide a full range of women’s reproductive medical services, including abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and referrals elsewhere thereafter. As you might imagine, Operation Rescue and Kansans for Life are not at all happy about this. They failed to prevent SWWC from opening, and now they are preparing their usual protests and disruptive actions to try to force them to close.

Two days later, up the road in Topeka, the overwhelmingly GOP-led legislature passed a sweeping new anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-science bill and sent it to Governor Brownback’s office for his inevitable signature. From the Wichita Eagle:

The Kansas House voted late Friday to send a bill to the governor defining human life as beginning at fertilization and mandating that abortion doctors must provide controversial information to patients of a theorized link between abortion and breast cancer.

Earlier in the day, the Senate approved the final version of the bill after a bruising debate with references to the Taliban and the Dred Scott decision that once upheld slavery.

House Bill 2253 was one of the final bills in a late-night marathon meeting that wrapped up the regular legislative session for the year. Gov. Sam Brownback has indicated he would sign any anti-abortion bill the Legislature sends him.

The House vote was so little in doubt that no members went to the podium to speak in favor of it, although four of the outnumbered Democrats in the chamber harshly criticized the bill.

The GOP in Brownbackistan is well-known for their opposition to science, and the pseudo-scientists behind this bill continue along that same path. Actual scientists at the National Cancer Institute, on the other hand, note that current medical research concludes “that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.” Never mind that, says the GOP — we require that women be presented with inaccurate information should they inquire about abortion.

A question for any lawyers in the audience here: Can someone sue the state GOP for practicing medicine without a license?

And then there’s that nifty new “life begins at conception” provision. The legislative summary of the bill [pdf] describes it like this:

. . . the bill would add a new statutory provision that would declare the life of each human being begins at fertilization, with all state laws to be interpreted and construed to protect the rights, privileges, and immunities of the unborn child, subject only to the U.S. Constitution and the judicial decisions and interpretations of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Then there are the tax law changes. No deducting medical expenses related to an abortion on your state taxes any more. The bill is silent, however, on whether you can take an additional exemption on your taxes for that 16 cell blastocyst floating in your womb on New Year’s Eve that came about after some Christmas Day celebrating, even if that blastocyst does not implant and leaves your body during your next period.

The debate on all this was raucous, even by Kansas standards. A GOP senator compared Roe v Wade with Dred Scott, which prompted Democratic Senator David Haley (of the same Haley clan made famous by Roots) to take umbrage at the “narrow, Taliban-like philosophies” of the abortion opponents. He later backtracked a little, in the interests of comity, but noted that this Dred Scott-Taliban kerfuffle “does bring into crystal clear focus how many people feel repressed, especially women, by some of the views that emanate from this chamber … that are telling women what they cannot do with their own bodies.”

No kidding.

And before you folks outside of Brownbackistan simply laugh at the goings-on in Topeka, ponder this: Sam Brownback IS going to run for president in 2016. He’s passed a set of tax law changes that employ almost every item of the fiscal conservatives’ wish list, and he continues to lead the charge against abortion on multiple fronts, from building code changes to tax law to this bill passed last night, to the great delight of the social conservatives. All these debates in Topeka are coming to the national GOP, and if you don’t like them, tough.

Did you notice who gave the GOP response to President Obama’s radio address this morning? That’s right: Sam Brownback. He’s running, folks, and this is his platform.

Kudos to Trust Women and the South Wind Women’s Center, for sailing into some very rough waters, and to all those who have helped to get them up and running.


photo h/t to David Shankbone, and used under Creative Commons, which notes that to use this image, “You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.”

Fair enough. I don’t know what Mr. Shankbone would think of this post, and my use of the photo should not be taken to imply he agrees with me. On the other hand, I think I’m on pretty safe ground in saying that the guy with the beard in the photo might like this post.

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.