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Stigma on Steroids: On Kansas Banning Abortion Providers From Schools

11:09 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Carole Joffe for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

No school district, employee or agent thereof, or educational service provider contracting with such school district shall provide abortion services. No school district shall permit any person or entity to offer, sponsor or otherwise furnish in any manner any course materials or instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases if such person or entity is an abortion services provider, or an employee, agent or volunteer of an abortion services provider.

Kansas High School

Kansas schools now forbid anyone with ties to abortion clinics.

The above provision is contained in a nearly 50-page bill that recently went into effect in Kansas. (A judge temporarily blocked two other provisions of the law, but allowed this one to remain.)

To be sure, the relentless assault on abortion that we are currently seeing in other state legislatures—Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina, among others—are far more consequential in the short run. Ambulatory surgical center (ASC) and hospital admitting privilege requirements really do have the capacity to shut down clinics. Should the Texas bill currently being considered become law—as is likely, despite the heroic efforts of the thousands of orange-shirters gathered at the capitol—the number of Texas abortion facilities would go from 47 to five in that huge state. Already, due to a similar ASC requirement, earlier rammed through the Pennsylvania legislature as a cynical response to the Gosnell scandal, a number of clinics in Pennsylvania have closed. And the bans on abortions after 20 weeks, adopted by a number of states, will affect a relatively small number of women, but typically those in desperate medical and/or social condition.

But other provisions of abortion legislation, of which the Kansas one cited above is a prime example, do a different kind of damage. They further the stigmatization and marginalization of abortion providers by making clear that these individuals are not welcome in that most central of community institutions: the schools. It is not just participation in sex education from which Kansas providers are barred. As Stephanie Toti, senior attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is challenging this law, told me, “This is unprecedented discrimination against abortion providers. … The prohibition on providers serving as ‘agents’ of a school district has the effect of barring them from serving as chaperones on field trips and engaging in most other volunteer activities.”

So abortion providers are at this moment banned from Kansas schools—and supposedly this will promote the safety of adult women getting abortions, as is the typical sanctimonious rationalization of the various laws we are seeing.

I asked several lawyer colleagues if they knew of other instances in which a whole occupational category was banned by law from volunteering in schools. They did not. Indeed, as far as I can tell, only sex offenders as a class are de facto banned from school grounds.

This shocking ban on abortion providers’ involvement in the schools leads me to recollect other instances I have encountered of attempts to isolate this group and keep them from community involvement. I think of a provider I’ve written about who I call Bill Swinton (not his real name), a family medicine doctor in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. He was deeply involved in both his church and his community, and served for three terms on the local school board. But he was defeated for a fourth term in the late 1980s, as the abortion wars intensified; needless to say, his status as a provider was the key factor in his defeat. I think as well of another doctor I’ve written about named Susan Golden (also not her real name), in a town in the Midwest, who integrated abortion provision into her family medicine practice. When she and her partner planned to take part in a community health fair, presenting on the care of newborns, the entire event was abruptly cancelled by the anti-abortion owner of the facility where the fair had been scheduled to take place.

As disturbing as these incidents were, they did not have the force, or the legitimization, of law. The Kansas provision does—and as such, takes the stigmatization of abortion providers to a new level.

Assuming the Kansas law, including this provision, is not overturned, we can only speculate as to what effects it might have. Speaking personally, I remember as a child the enormous pride I felt when my father, a cardiologist, came to my elementary school with his microscope and showed the class wondrous things. As a working mother, I recall how much I valued occasional volunteer stints in my daughters’ schools, getting to know both their classmates and other parents. It is very disturbing to contemplate that providers and their children will be deprived of these experiences. And it is equally disturbing to contemplate the messages that others in the community will receive from such a ban.

This provision truly is stigma on steroids.

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Legacy of Tiller’s Murder: Anti-Choice Terrorists Threaten Staff at Wichita Clinic

1:41 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Every community has its own unique history shaped its people, its geography, and its circumstance. Wichita, Kansas, has been home to such notable people as Carrie Nation and Wyatt Earp. Its geography has made it home to Indian settlements, cattle drives, and the aircraft manufacturing industry. It was the home to the first civil rights sit-in. It also earned notoriety as the home of the serial killer BTK. But another undeniable part of Wichita’s history is its place as the epicenter of the “abortion wars.” The 1991 “Summer of Mercy” (SOM), when thousands of anti-choice activists flooded into Wichita to protest Dr. George Tiller, marked the beginning of the use of extreme anti-choice tactics like harassing doctors, clinic staff, and women seeking abortions. As reproductive rights supporters in this community celebrate the recent opening of Southwind Women’s Care Center and the access to abortion care that it brings, they also brace themselves for a new wave of SOM-style tactics and a new round of anti-choice terrorist actions.

Nearly four years after Dr. Tiller’s assassination, anti-choice violence continues to percolate in Wichita. It started up again two years ago, with the harassment of Dr. Mila Means. Anti-choice terrorist Angel Dillard penned a letter threatening violence against the doctor, who sought to include abortion care in her private practice. That letter has resulted in federal charges against Dillard brought under the FACE Act. In addition to the letter, it was reported this week by RH Reality Check that the U.S. Department of Justice filed papers in court revealing that a Kansas county jail inmate said Dillard asked him last year to firebomb the home of Dr. Means.

The opening of the new abortion clinic has brought yet another round of frightening behavior from local anti-choice forces. The clinic’s executive director, Julie Burkhart, has been harassed at her home and has had to file a temporary restraining order against local terrorist Mark Hollick after he pointed a sign saying “Where is Your Church?” at her home (an obvious reference to the place of Dr. Tiller’s assassination). Meanwhile, Troy Newman, of Operation Rescue infamy, is already posting pictures and audio of a person who he claims is a new physician at the clinic.

A recent YouTube video posted by David Leach from the anti-choice group Army of God should cause local law enforcement officials to raise their local terrorist alert to red. The video is a recording of a recent jailhouse conversation with Scott Roeder, the convicted murderer of Dr. Tiller. What follows is a partial transcript of the video:

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“Black Genocide” Candidate Running as Democrat in Kansas House Race

8:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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An anti-choice Democrat running for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives isn’t really “news” in Kansas. It is infuriating, certainly, but also very common. During the 2013 legislative session 41 percent of the Kansas House Democratic Caucus cast anti-choice votes. In Kansas, The War on Women often entails Democrats and Republicans working together to build barricades to women’s health care through extreme and burdensome restrictions.

It is unusual, however, for an anti-choice Democratic house candidate to speak at local Tea Party rallies, be openly hostile to President Obama, and act as a community leader in propagating the extreme anti-choice myth of black genocide. Well, Kansas, meet your Democratic Party candidate for Wichita’s 89th House District… Peggy Elliott.

One of Wichita’s well-known anti-choice zealots and street harassers has managed to secure her place on a Sedgwick County Democratic primary election ballot. This is a maneuver she may have picked up from another former Wichita anti-choice zealot, Randall Terry, whose Democratic bid for the Presidency may have provided the inspiration for Elliot’s political aspirations, even though Terry’s scheme didn’t pan out for him in Kansas.

Ms. Elliott is very active within Wichita’s African-American community and also within the anti-choice community. Kansans for Life’s website lists her as their African-American Affiliate and provides the following description of her affiliation with that organization:

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Anti-Choice Medical Malpractice Shields Threaten to Permanently Alter Medical Care for Women

9:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Among the new restrictions appearing in anti-abortion bills nationwide, it is the medical malpractice liability shields that have the potential to alter, perhaps permanently, women’s relationship with the civil justice system.

Both Kansas and Arizona are advancing measures that exempt doctors from medical malpractice suits should they withhold medical information in order to prevent a woman from having an abortion. These bills also shield doctors from malpractice claims if a woman suffers an injury from a pregnancy as a result of information withheld from her to prevent an abortion. Georgia just snuck a liability shield into their 20-week abortion ban. We can expect more to follow.

Proponents of these “wrongful birth” bills argue they are necessary to stem the tide of lawsuits like one in Oregon where parents sued for costs related to the care of their daughter who was born with Down Syndrome. In that case the parents argued that the medical professionals were negligent in conducting the genetic testing and had they known their daughter would be born with a disability they would have had an abortion.

This is the kind of case that is destined to generate lots of headlines and some terrible legislation in its wake. In reality, less than half the states recognize a claim for wrongful birth and in those states that do, cases like this one are rare and these kinds of verdicts ever rarer. Nevertheless, anti-choice activists see an opening, and they are going to take it.

So far neither Kansas, Arizona, or Georgia has yet signed into law these malpractice shields. But assuming they do, the impact on medical malpractice law and the ability of women to justly compensated should they be the victim of sub-standard medical care cannot be overstated.

In order to successfully prosecute a claim for medical malpractice a plaintiff needs to prove that a medical professional violated the standard of care in delivering medical advice or care. This is no easy task. Determining what the standard of care is requires an objective look at the standard practices of similar professionals in similar situations and comparing that the the care delivered in the specific case at hand. Expert testimony is almost always required as other medical professional opine as to what course of treatment and advice was indicated given the specifics of a patient’s case.

The standard of care is considered, roughly in legal standards, to be the average care a patient can expect to receive. The care doesn’t need to exceed this standard but it can’t slip below it without it being considered negligence and doctors and hospitals being held liable for any injuries that come from that negligence.

Wrongful birth bills change all this. With these provisions dictating a specific course of treatment in the case of withholding information to drive a particular medical outcome the standard of care is essentially set by legislators. Say goodbye to a community of medical professionals determining best medical practices.

In practice this means that instead of an objective inquiry into the medical treatment and advice given to a pregnant woman based on what the profession as a whole considers competent medical treatment, the individual beliefs of the doctor will determine if advice given or care rendered was reasonable. In legal terms that changes the inquiry from objective to subjective meaning there is no real basis to judge conduct against. It will no longer matter what a doctor’s peers believe to be considered good medical care: it will only matter if that particular doctor thought the care would avoid an abortion.

Furthermore, that inquiry won’t be focused on advice given or care rendered in the scope of protecting the health and life of the mother, but instead on decisions and care motivated solely to perpetuate a pregnancy. This erases the mother as primary patient to at best, a secondary consideration. What the medical community considers to be competent advice and care will cease to be relevant as the only concern will be did this individual doctor make this individual decision based on his or her individual desire to prevent an abortion. In no other area of tort law do we allow this. And for good reason.

That’s because tort law is designed to compensate victims in the case of others negligence. These malpractice shields presume that withholding information from patients to impact a decision regarding care is an act of negligence. The bill itself proves the point. If providing medical advice based on personal moral beliefs instead of medically evidenced-based indicia was not considered medical malpractice shielding doctors from malpractice would be unnecessary.

The impacts on patient care will also be long-term. One of the effects of tort reform–and these malpractice shields are another form of tort reform– is to weed out dangerous and ineffective medical practices. Instead of providing women with all information necessary so they can make an informed medical decision the standard of care will be to make that decision for them, no matter what that decision happens to be. That means the persuasive force of tort reform will no longer exist in regards to reproductive health care in these states. In fact, these bills could have the opposite effect as the aspect of community review that takes place in determining a standard of care will become irrelevant. Bad doctors will be permitted to continue practicing bad medicine with no consequences, nor any threat of consequences.

That also means that women in states with wrongful birth bills can never be sure the medical information they are receiving is accurate and unbiased, nor can they sue in the event that its wrong or negligent. And that women in states without these bills will have to exercise even more caution and be even greater advocates for their own care as what constitutes good accepted medical practice is no longer easily determinable.

Pregnant women will, in effect be returned to the same legal standing of juveniles or persons under legal guardianship and conservatorship, devoid of the ability to consent to a full course of medical treatment on their own.

The impact of these bills will also reach far beyond just abortion politics. Birth injury cases represent a significant portion of medical malpractice cases in general, in large part because the costs associated with an act of negligence in pregnancy and delivery are so great. Insurance companies generally (and usually successfully) fight coverage for those costs meaning that malpractice recoveries often represent the only financial means of providing for a disabled child. These wrongful birth bills will allow those claims to go uncompensated as all health care professionals need to do to avoid liability in any case is to justify their course of treatment in terms of seeking to prevent an abortion.

The creation of a medical malpractice shield simply strips women of the ability to be compensated for sub-standard medical care rendered to them while pregnant and nothing more.

Couple wrongful birth bills with the federal medical malpractice bill that just passed the House of Representatives and it becomes clear that this push to strip women of the ability to challenge substandard medical care they receive is seen as the solution to that pesky legal reality that women’s bodies receive any legal protections to begin with. And since medical malpractice claims are always claims for money damages, there is no more straightforward a way to say that women’s lives have no value then to take away their ability to bring a claim based on the value of that life to begin with.

Kansas NOW’s Kari Ann Rinker Schools Kansas State Reps on Jobs, Abortion and “Rape is Like a Flat Tire” Comments

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Kansas NOW’s state director and special to RH Reality Check Kari Ann Rinker testifies before a committee of Kansas state representatives.  She asks exactly how the legislature’s obsession with restricting women’s rights will lead to more jobs, and reminds Rep. Pete DeGraaf that you can’t “prepare for rape” like you would a spare tire.

 

Also read Rinker’s piece today on predictions for Kansas in 2012.

In Kansas, A Public Conference Reveals Deep Contempt for the Poor and for Women

10:39 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

“This Governor failed!” This was my angry proclamation to Kansas Public Radio after listening to Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation speak in Kansas City, Kansas on the topic of childhood poverty. Robert Rector was introduced as the “intellectual godfather of welfare reform.” Mr. Rector was invited to Kansas to speak by Governor Sam Brownback.

Governor Brownback stated at the start of the conference that he was seeking bi-partisan solutions to the problem of high rates of children living in poverty within our state.  He declared “the best way to do it is to reach as far across the political spectrum and find someone as far opposite or different from you as you can and start to talk about strategy.” This advice is obviously meant for all of the left leaning and moderate folks in the room, because this far right, radical Governor brought in a far-right, radical talking head from the Heritage Foundation. This is how the Governor failed.

Robert Rector’s resume includes a piece he wrote titled “The Myth of Poverty”, claiming that the Census Bureau is overestimating the number of those truly living in poverty. He recently wrote a piece for the National Review, “How do the poor live? For starters, a poor child in America is far more likely to have a wide-screen plasma television, cable or satellite TV, a computer and an Xbox or TiVo in his home than he is to be hungry.” Mr. Rector backed up his resume of crazy by spouting off some of these doozies during the course of his 45 minute speech…

It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the means-tested welfare system to support children in the United States is predominately a support system that compensates for the erosion of marriage.

And… Read the rest of this entry →

In Pursuit of Health Care and Justice: My Day in Court with the ACLU

10:02 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Justice" by mindgutter on flick

"Justice" by mindgutter on flick

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

As some of you may have read here before, I am a participant in the ACLU lawsuit filed against the Insurance Commissioner of the State of Kansas.  I attended the first court proceeding on Friday, during which the ACLU sought an injunction to prevent continued implementation of the law passed on July 1.  My personal insurance policy is up for renewal on October 1, so this injunction is important for my daughter and myself, so that we may retain the insurance coverage for abortion that my current policy offers.

The ACLU’s suit focuses on three points: The law acts as an unconstitutional tax on women, it serves no legitimate state interest, and it constitutes gender discrimination.  Brigitte Amiri with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom project has worked to defend reproductive justice for the past 11 years.  Her constitutional knowledge on the subject is vast.  She spoke to all three of these points during Friday’s hearing. The brief submitted by the ACLU and to which she contributed provides legal and constitutional context to this debate. Read the rest of this entry →

Stop Entrapping Providers: What I Told the Kansas Department of Health and Environment

7:03 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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As Jodi Jacobson reported earlier today, public hearings were held in Kansas today for the abortion regulations created by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  I presented the following testimony on behalf of Kansas NOW.

I’m the State Coordinator for Kansas NOW, which means that I stand before you today as a grassroots women’s rights activist and equality advocate.   I stand before you today, as a voice for a whole lot of Kansas women who cannot be here to tell you how they feel about these regulations.  These women want me to express what they think about the possibility of losing their access to existing abortion clinics within their state.  These are good women who have either used these clinics personally, or simply take comfort in knowing that these facilities exist should they need them.

While I may not be a public health professional, my understanding as a graduate student of Public Administration is that government enacts regulations when a public need for protection presents itself, in the case of Kansas Department of Health and Environment, when some public health concern or externality needs to be addressed.  As employees of an agency that is supported by public tax dollars, deliberative, non-ideological processes are to be expected, especially with regard to the health and well being of the citizens they work for.  I do not believe that this regulatory process met those deliberative, non-ideological tenets. Read the rest of this entry →

Brownback Strips At-Risk Infants of Access to Health Care While Spending Millions on “Faith-based” Initiatives

12:07 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kari Ann Rinker for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The State of Kansas has a health care crisis that it should be addressing, but instead the Brownback administration is tied up restricting women’s access to low cost birth control and abortion care. The crisis that I refer to is this fact according to the latest data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation:

Kansas dropped to 40th in the country in infant mortality, and to worst in the nation for African-American infant mortality, said Christie Appelhanz, vice president of public affairs of Kansas Action for Children in Topeka.

Ms. Appelhanz explains:

We have to invest in our kids. We need to be protecting the crucial supports — nutrition, early education, college savings — anything we can do to be sure kids are growing up healthy.  I think it’s important that children have access to food stamps, quality education such as Head Start and Early Head Start and workforce development.

Governor Brownback’s budget, which he unveiled in January 2011, drew much criticism due to drastic cuts proposed for Head Start in Kansas.  Their funding remained uncertain through the entire legislative session, until, after much public criticism it was finally restored.  But the problem doesn’t begin and end with Head Start funding.

This administration is also upending the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS).  This agency is responsible for child protective services, child support enforcement, and child, adult and family well being services within the state of Kansas.  The state was on track to close 9 service centers, citing agency cost savings.  Public outcry has prevented one of those closures.  The City Council of Lawrence, Kansas has agreed to pick up the state’s tab and fund their own office to serve the most needy within their community. Yet, somehow the administration believes this agency can afford new and expensive “faith based initiatives” programs. For example, chief of staff Jeff Kahrs is making $100,000 a year in a new position. A deputy secretary leading a new faith-based initiative, Anna Pilato, is making $97,500.

They can also afford $13,000 closed door meetings to discuss their new push for faith programs within the state, where it was decided that polygamy is more in line with traditional values than same sex marriage.  Our Governor also is comfortable with applying for a $6.6 million dollar grant to promote marriage, while rejecting federal money for health care reform within our state and proceeding with the SRS office closures.   

Governor Brownback is promoting a “culture of life” from his mansion in Topeka and thinking of new ways to pimp out poverty stricken single mothers within the state while what we really need are healthy, empowered mothers, because healthy mothers lead to healthy children.  Health care, childcare assistance and educational opportunities should be the Governor’s focus.  Instead, the hypocrisy runs rampant and we wait for God and a big strong man to come along and save us from feminine handicap, meanwhile an increasing number of children are dying in the state of Kansas.

Anti-Choice Forces Adopt In-Your-Face Tactics and the Danger to Women is Real

8:08 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Cynthia Soohoo for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

If there are any lingering doubts about the danger anti-choice activists’ recent in-your-face tactics (from slashing funding for federal family planning programs to legalizing the killing of abortion providers) really pose to women’s access to reproductive health services, those doubts should evaporate after a close look at the latest developments in Wichita, Kansas.  Recently, Dr. Mila Means, a Wichita family practitioner agreed not to offer abortion services at the office building she leases after her landlord filed a lawsuit against her to block her from providing abortion. The agreement delays any further proceedings on the lawsuit, but will resume should she change her mind.  When the suit was filed the landlord argued that anti-choice protest activities would create “a clear nuisance” and disturb the “peaceful possession” of other tenants.   A judge subsequently blocked Dr. Means from providing abortion or making any changes to the facility that would allow her to do so. Given the extreme and sometimes violent nature of anti-abortion activism, it’s hard to argue that the landlord shouldn’t have been concerned, but deferring to the folks employing threatening and intimidating tactics is a lot like telling a child he can’t go to school because a bully might beat him up.  

And in this instance, the bullies are winning. … Read more