Ten years ago it was evolution. Kansas was the ﬁrst of many states to attempt to remove evolution from its Science classrooms. The good news is this insanity woke up Kansans, who worked to remove the zealots from the state board of education and restore evolution to the Science curriculum. The bad news is most people outside of Kansas donʼt realize this and still assume our kids are taught creationism instead of evolution. And this started the ball rolling for several other states to challenge the teaching of evolution.
Now it looks like Kansas has started yet another ball rolling, this time about abortion. In November, the most radical group of far right (mainly tea party) folks were elected to the state legislature. Thankfully, the state Senate remained more moderate, but they were out shouted by the extremists in the House.
pointing out that asking both parents to consent placed an unreasonable burden on the patient). Another law bans abortions of ʻunborn childrenʼ who are capable of feeling pain.
But the new law that is getting the most attention is the clinic licensing law. First a little background. Kansas became a battleground for abortion 20 years ago, when a far right group of anti-choice zealots invaded Wichita in the summer of 1991 to stage a months long sit-in and protest in front of the medical clinic of Dr. George Tiller, who performed not only abortions, but late term abortions. Many of those who came to protest chose to stay in Kansas, became involved in state politics, and are now skating to victory with the laws passed this past legislative session. They form the foundation of a group called
Operation Rescue. But Operation Rescue not only works on electing candidates, they also inspire illegal activity. In 1993, a woman active in Operation Rescue named Shelly Shannon shot Dr. Tiller. He survived and kept his clinic open and Shannon was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
Then 2 years ago, on Sunday, May 31, 2009, Scott Roeder, an anti-choice zealot from the Kansas City area, shot and killed Dr. Tiller inside the doctorʼs church, in front of parishioners and children. Roeder was an unemployed former mental patient and ex-felon who had served time for possession of explosives. Even though he claimed to be penniless, and was sleeping on a friendʼs couch, Roeder managed to drive 200 miles to Wichita for every day of Dr. Tillerʼs trial on misdemeanor charges (Tiller was acquitted) just a month before he murdered Dr. Tiller.
The day before the murder, Roeder was caught vandalizing an abortion clinic in Kansas City. He was well known to the staff of the clinic, as he had been a regular out front protesting for years. When the manager caught Roeder trying to super glue the locks at the clinic, he called the police who took
a report but didnʼt arrest Roeder, claiming this was a federal offense and the FBI needed to be involved. (Following several high proﬁle shootings and murders of abortion doctors in the 1980s and 1990s, federal legislation protecting clinics was passed but itʼs largely unenforced and useless since clinics are still being harassed and doctors are still being assassinated.) So Roeder drove to Wichita, spent the night in a
motel, got up the next morning and used a gun he had recently purchased to murder Dr. Tiller.
When he was arrested just a few hours later, Roeder had the cell phone number of the senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, Cheryl Sullinger, in his car. Sullinger, a former Californian, had moved to Kansas after serving two years in prison for conspiracy to blow up an abortion clinic. She is also the director of Kansans for Truth in Politics, a conservative activist group that supported several candidates who were elected to the state legislature in 2010 and spent the majority of the 2011 session
passing laws aimed at eliminating abortion in Kansas.
The clinic licensing law is draconian. It stipulates the size of exam rooms, procedure rooms and janitor closets. It calls for a temperature range in exam and procedure rooms. And it also says that clinics must maintain records and make them available to the governor or his appointee at all times. This is another battle the anti-choice zealots have waged in Kansas - medical records. If they could only see those private records, they could prove doctors are violating state laws regulating abortions. After years of
attempting to access these records, (the former state attorney general is in the midst of hearings right now to revoke his law license because he is accused of sharing private medical records from Dr. Tillerʼs clinic) the anti-choice zealots ﬁnally made it legal for the state to see these records.
So whatʼs the matter with Kansas? A lot. The religious right has taken over, thereʼs no more privacy, and if the Operation Rescue nuts win this round, there will be no abortions available from Columbia, MO to Denver, Co -- 750 miles.
KSMom is a lifelong Kansan and Democrat. She is the mother of two grown sons and has been married for 36 years to another Kansas Democrat. Her parents were conservative Democrats who were active politically and taught her the importance of being aware and involved. She was educated in Catholic schools when students were taught to value social justice and to make their lives matter by leaving the world a better place. KSMom is active in her local and state Democratic parties and many progressive causes. She has been an active participant in the peace movement for 40 years. KSMom has been active in Democracy for America and is a past scholarship winner to Netroots. She is also active in her local NOW chapter and in her union. Because she is employed as a public servant in red state hell, she wishes to remain anonymous.