Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has nominated Operation Rescue defense attorney Richard Macias to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised, that Governor Brownback nominated Operation Rescue criminal defense attorney Rick Macias to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts,” said Julie Burkhart, executive director of Trust Women PAC, and a former colleague of Kansas physician Dr. George Tiller.
The Board of Healing Arts is tasked with licensing and disciplining Kansas physicians, a role that is particularly sensitive given that both Brownback and the Kansas legislature have worked tirelessly to pass and enforce legislation that is specifically targeted at abortion providers. Just last Friday, a federal appeals court blocked enforcement of medically unnecessary regulations aimed at closing down the three clinics providing abortions in the state.
“This [nomination] is just another example of Brownback’s obsession with restricting access to women’s reproductive health in Kansas,” said Burkhart.
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According to the Midwest Democracy Project, Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones praised the Wichita lawyer, who will serve until June 30, 2014.
“Mr. Macias is a well-qualified and very respected attorney who will continue the reforms needed at the Board of Healing Arts,” Jones said.
Extremist politicians in Kansas, including Brownback, have made the specious claim that the regulations created specifically for abortion providers, such as prescribing the dimensions of a janitor’s closet, are intended to “protect women.” Yet the Kansas Board of Healing Arts has itself been under fire in recent years, according to MDP, for moving slowly to deal with bad doctors. At one, point the board ranked 41st nationally in its discipline of doctors. A 2006 audit of the board concluded the panel was slow to discipline doctors and didn’t investigate many complaints of poor care.
The problem came to a head in 2007 when federal authorities accused a Wichita-area doctor of illegally distributing medications. Fifty-six of his patients died from overdoses. Victims and their families had complained to the state board for years about the doctor, but nothing was done until federal charges were filed.
Kansas, it seems, is preoccupied with regulating women’s bodies while ignoring the safety and care of patients with non-gynecological or pregnancy-related problems.
Burkhart noted that she is “especially concerned about Mr. Macias’ apparent conflict of interest in regulating health care providers when he has been so involved with those charged with blocking and disrupting clinic access and violating the privacy of patients.”
“Our hope is that Mr. Macias will use his important position on the Board to work in the best interest of Kansans, and not merely to advance the agenda of his special interest clients,” Burkhart continued.
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, told MDP that Macias is not an “activist by any stretch.”
“He just just seems to be a level-headed, well-rounded attorney,” Newman.
Newman said Macias has done work for Operation Rescue in the past. He said Macias’ appointment is the result of a change in elected leadership at the statehouse.
“Elections have consquences, deal with it,” Newman said. “Now, Sam Brownback gets a chance to appoint who he wants to lead these organizations and staff these committees.”