Tuesday, March 25, 2008

If Issues Were Names....

It’s an election year, which means the crazies are bound to come out of the woodwork. It seems like everyone and their dog thinks that if they could just get on the ballot, surely they’d win and do a better job than the yahoos in DC. Too bad a fair portion of those trying to get on the ballot are yahoos themselves. Take for example Marvin Richardson of Letha, Idaho. Marvin’s an organic strawberry farmer and active political junkie. Marvin’s also a stark raving lunatic. Not too long ago, he got the bright idea to change his middle name to “Pro-Life.” He wanted to make sure when he put his name on the ballot for governor of Idaho in 2006, everyone knew he was certifiable. But, Idaho state law barred ole Marvin from using his full name because it was also a slogan. Marvin wised up this year though, now his name is just “Pro-Life,” like Cher, or Bono, or the Unabomber. Can’t you hear the crazy cackling coming from a distant strawberry field right now?

Since Pro-Life is his full and only name, Idaho state officials have no choice but to allow just that to be printed on the ballot. Pro-Life has vowed to run for the highest office in the state every 2 years for the rest of his life while advocating murder charges for doctors who perform abortions and women who obtain them. Charming. This year, he’s going for Senator Larry Craig’s seat, another charming fellow, who if he ran again, could use the name Larry “Not Gay” Craig. Catchy, huh? Of course, that name probably would have been more useful before he stepped into that airport bathroom.

Crazy as Pro-Life is, the concept of a candidate changing his or her name to reflect their views may not be such a crazy idea. The whole process would probably be a lot easier if you had to choose between Tree-Hugger and War-Monger. Here’s to an entertaining election!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brownback's Backdoor Anti-Abortion Bill?

Senator Sam Brownback is not well-known outside the state of Kansas. You're likely scratching your head trying to figure out why you recognize his name. Think back to very early in the Republican race, when the debates were populated by 11 different candidates. The guy on the outer wings, the one who said that he didn't believe in evolution and that he'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, the one with the curly hair and the Kansas drawl, that's him.

Sen. Brownback is known for his extreme conservatism. It's not just fiscal restraint and state's rights with this guy. He has members of the far-right saying, "Wow, this guy is hard-core." Not surprisingly, Sen. Brownback is thoroughly anti-choice. He does not believe that there are any circumstances under which a termination of pregnancy is acceptable, not even in cases of rape or incest. So it's not a shock that he's introduced another bill regarding abortion. The knee-jerk reaction is to assume that any bill coming from Sen. Brownback regarding this issue is inherently flawed and a thinly veiled effort to undermine women's rights, which is why everyone who has read the bill or anything about it is finding themselves a little confused, because that's not what this bill is.

Here's what the bill does:

For women and families whose prenatal testing has indicated that the fetus has a genetic disorder, physicians will be required to provide "access to timely, scientific, and nondirective counseling about conditions being tested for and accuracy of such tests." Additionally, the bill would create a nation-wide list of families who are willing to adopt children with special needs and referral to support services, including a national clearinghouse of coping resources.

While he may be getting cheers from some, Sen. Brownback's efforts smack of an inability to grasp the difficulty of the heartbreaking choices some families must make. A diagnoses of Down Syndrome does not always mean that a family will give birth to a living child with Down's. What it can mean is that the disorder is such that their baby will die from Down's. The same is true for many genetic and chromosomal disorders. There are degrees of severity and some of them simply are not compatible with life.

The spirit of this bill is laudable; anything that allows women and families to make the decision that is best for them is a step in the right direction. But one step doesn't get you to a destination. If Sen. Brownback is serious about reducing abortion, then it's time to focus on the causes and impact of unplanned pregnancy. In fact, knowing Brownback's typical M.O., one has to wonder if this is an attempt to lull everyone into a false sense of security before tacking on a bunch of amendments that undermine a woman's right to choose.

Sen. Brownback says that this bill is an effort to promote the "culture of life." But the so-called "culture of life" has to be about more than preventing abortions, it must be about making it easier to access information, birth control and the resources parents need to raise children in today's world.

The fact is that the "culture of life" is not being promoted in this country, period. Families are not guaranteed paid medical leave, not all women can access the preventative health care necessary to decrease and detect birth defects, students are not given honest and thorough sex education, and when given the chance to cover low-income children for healthcare, the Congress (Sen. Brownback included) said "no."

What are we to make of a culture that focuses more on the pre-born than they do the pre-schooler? There must be a broad and sweeping overhaul in how this country deals with issues like poverty, health care and education before anything can be done to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Julie Burkhart

Kansas Legislators Choose Their Own Morality Over Liberty

Every legislative season the people of Kansas are forced to endure the same outrage: righteous legislators wasting the taxpayer’s time and money intruding upon women’s reproductive decisions.

The bills are endless: more reporting, more regulations, more rights for the fetus at the expense of the woman, more legislation targeting Dr. Tiller and just more burdens for women to bare in order to exercise their legal rights.

Brazen legislators are using their own families as examples of why their own private reproductive decisions must be the same choice required of everyone else. (This, from the men and women who talk about keeping the government out of our lives).

During recent testimony, several state legislators grilled a man for having the nerve to support his wife’s decision to come to Kansas for an abortion due to the terrible abnormalities of their unborn child. The man appeared stunned. To defend what should have been their own private decision and have it openly disputed in a legislative body as if they were monsters is just the worst example of government abusing citizens.

Legislators in turn gave their own pompous and cruel statements to the press about how they too had children with severe abnormalities and had rightly made a different decision.

Last year a female legislator divulged she had an abortion but later regretted her decision Thus, it was only reasonable to argue that her change of mind was some sort of rationale as to why no other woman should be able to make her own decision. This is the level of discourse and deep thinking by our legislative body. In a word: stupid.

The hypocrisy is enormous and self-evident but no one in Kansas should ever believe for a minute that this legislature holds an august body of stellar individuals working for the good of the state. Too many work for the good of their own morality and act prouder than a peacock when they pass a lame bill on license plates or work to deny women the dignity to make their own health care decisions.

In Plato’s Republic, one philosopher argues that “justice” is the “advantage of the stronger”. Clearly, in Kansas what is right is based on who has the power to abuse others, and if might continues to make right, there is little hope for women in their most vulnerable hour unless the public demands real justice to prevail. In Kansas, that could continue to take a long time when morality trumps liberty again and again.

Vickie Sandall Stangl

Friday, March 07, 2008

All Hail the Prince

If you live in Kansas, even better, if you’ve ever sought reproductive health care services in Kansas, your medical records are likely the most talked about thing in the state Legislature. They just can’t get enough.

This tale of privacy violation goes back a few years, clear back to the election of Attorney General Phill Kline in 2002. It was clear from the beginning that Kline had a gift for sniffing out imaginary crime. He was convinced that if he could just rifle through the medical records of women who’d had abortions, surely he’d find some malfeasance to unearth: statutory rape, coercion, illegal late-term abortions. And thus began Kline’s crusade. The subpoenas went out, the records were confiscated and Kline, in all his noise and fury, never suspected that people may not agree with what he was doing. It never occurred to him that regardless of the personal views people had about abortion, hardly anyone thought he was justified in prying into private medical records. He was summoned a fairly loud and abrupt wake up call on Election Day 2006 when he was booted out office in what can only be called a mandate.

Kansans breathed a sigh of relief as we watched Phill and his clinic x-ray specs head out the door (only to have him set up shop as the Johnson County DA, but that’s another blog for another day.) Anyway, little did we know what was brewing in the Kansas state Legislature. The Legislature is full of busy bodies; legislators who can’t stop thinking, talking or writing bills about abortion or really anything that has anything to do with any action occurring below the belt. But the busy-bodies cannot function as an indefinable mass, they need a leader. Unfortunately for anyone who values privacy, they’ve crowned the new heir since Phill Kline’s departure. We have known thee Prince Panty-Sniffer, and thy name is Rep. Lance Kinzer!

Kinzer has quickly emerged as the new anti-choice pied piper. This year, the prince squatted down and dropped what we like to call the “Trail-Mix” abortion bill. There’s a little something for everyone in this 18-page whopper. One needs a fork lift to haul it around and the stamina of a marathoner to read the whole thing in a single sitting. The provisions in this bill make it sound as if Kinzer would only be mollified if he were allowed to personally supervise every abortion in the state of Kansas. Here are just a few choice nuggets from the 17 provisions:

If your second cousin twice removed feels that you were coerced into an abortion, she can take it upon herself to sue the doctor who performed the procedure on your behalf, sweet of her, isn’t it?

It gets better, if a local DA (say a de-throned AG withering away in Johnson County) wants access to a local clinic’s records, well heck, all he has to do is ask. For that matter if a group of 10 or more interested parties feel that they just aren’t getting enough data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, they can compel the agency to hand over more information. Hm, I wonder who that one is for? Looks like Troy Newman at Operation Rescue and his goonies could get some serious jollies off with that particular provision.

But wait, there’s still more! Because women are too mentally feeble to know what they’re doing, great big signs need to be posted in every reproductive health care facility alerting them to the fact that they should feel free to leave the building that they’ve already entered of their own volition and free will. Obviously they’re not smart enough to act on changing their minds without a reminder from our friendly legislature. Following that logic, someone should post similar signs at JC Penny whenever they have a door buster sale for those who feel that they can’t leave the store until they’ve purchased a couple armfuls of merchandise at 40% off. “You don’t have to buy the pencil skirt! You can walk away!” Think of how many cases of buyer’s remorse could be prevented!

The thing goes on and on and on this way. If we gave you a snarky bit about every provision, this blog would end up roughly the same length as Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” and just as appropriately named.

Will the bill go anywhere? That remains to be seen. The legislature is still in session and really, if Dorothy can click her heels to come home, then just about anything is possible in Kansas.