Analysis Abortion

How Will Egg-as-Person Legislation Fare in Kansas?

Kari Ann Rinker

How will a so-called personhood amendment fare in Kansas?  We're going to find out. Kansans for Life is already publicly skeptical, saying they are "afraid of pushing the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court."

While the normal and expected initial reaction to hearing about any attempt at personhood legislation should be met with a certain amount of alarm by women and reproductive rights supporters, those of us on the ground fighting such attempts must push past the initial alarm, stop and partake in some careful analysis.  This is especially important in Kansas, where the assaults are numerous and resources are thin.  Best practice is to stop, breathe, take stock and prioritize.  This step of course follows the part where I’ve packed my tornado shelter full with tampons, maxi pads, oral contraception, condoms and whatever other items associated with women’s reproductive capacities that I believe might be legislatively stripped from me next.

When the news of Kansas personhood broke on Friday and I was scrambling around in tornado shelter mode, answering press calls and cursing a lot, I knew that this was to be taken seriously.  This is Kansas and in sessions past, especially since last session, under the leadership of Governor Brownback, the anti-choice crowd has pretty much gotten anything and everything on their legislative plate that they could possibly want.  They have gone back for seconds, even thirds… their gluttonous appetite for eliminating reproductive choice and access simply cannot be suppressed.

Even when the top dogs in leadership have attempted to restrain them, they have found a way to be fed by their respective legislative abortion kitchen compatriots.  Last session, the abortion insurance ban was pushed through in conference committee in violation of the joint rules stating that language must have passed at least one chamber.  Neither chamber had a hearing on the insurance ban of abortion.

Senator David Haley had this to say about the rules violation:

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MR. PRESIDENT: I vote “NO” on the conference committee report to HB 2075,
time-honored rules of the Kansas Legislature; specifically Joint Rule 3, Section F, of the Joint Rules of the House and Senate to, in this instance, insert new language (on abortion based insurance policy riders) which has never passed either chamber is foul…..and cheats our honor. Sure, twenty-one of us can make a new rule here as we go along. But the eyes and ears of all law-abiding Kansans are watching and listening. Perverting the rules of the Senate to subsidize any political agenda or issue cheapens the respect that each of us should demand of this body and this process. A “YES” vote on this measure dims the light in the chamber; tarnishes the gild.

In spite of Senator Haley’s poignant words, it was brought to the House floor at 4:00 in the morning.  Evidently, this legislative abortion kitchen serves its customers 24 hours, like Denny’s.  How would you like your eggs?  Fertilized of course, with some toast on the side… please?

So, back to Kansas personhood.  After the pacing and cursing, I began reading what was being reported in the press and imagine my surprise when I read this in the Kansas City Star:

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said she’s afraid of pushing the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. She feared the court could reaffirm the legality of abortion given its current makeup. Culp said abortion foes already have won a number of legislative victories that she thinks are effective and will ultimately be upheld in court.

“Therefore, we do not and cannot recommend a Kansas Personhood Initiative, nor a similar provision known as the Heartbeat Bill, nor do we consider support or opposition of these initiatives as an indication that an individual or a candidate is pro-life,” Culp said in a statement issued late Friday.

What we had been hearing about the strategic divide in the anti-choice camp is most certainly true and this quote confirms the extent of that divide.  Kansans for Life calls the shots in Kansas abortion politics.  We have a plethora of groups eager to strip away the right to legal and safe abortion and even birth control, Operation Rescue, The Catholic Conference, Kansas Coalition for Life, Mark Holick with the Spirit One Church, Concerned and Women for America are some of the groups that exist to harass women either legislatively or through grassroots terroristic actions. 

However, Kansans for Life doles out the cash and many in the statehouse value an endorsement from Kansans for Life.  So, for this group to come out and say, “This one’s a freebee, no negative points will be assigned, you will not receive harassing phone calls, go ahead and vote Nea and we’ll just look the other way.”  Well, that is a very big deal. 

See, Kansans for Life knows that its strategy has been effective for them thus far.  Kansans for Life has had their plate filled up whenever they have rung the supper bell. They may have seen what went down with personhood in Mississippi, and it has caused uncertainty.  They are afraid that the outrage over the extreme nature of this legislation will turn some people off and they might not be fed to their liking. 

Beyond that analysis, a ballot initiative requires an approval of a two-thirds majority from both chambers.  They may have those votes in the House, but the Senate has moderate, thinking Republicans.  That body has successfully sustained the vetoes of former Democratic Governors Kathleen Sebellius and Mark Parkinson in legislative sessions past. 

Those sustaining Democrats and moderate Republicans are representative of the values of most Kansans.  They are the same Kansans that elected Kathleen Sebellius twice and booted Attorney General Phil Kline out after one term of his abortion witch-hunt. 

As Robin Marty reported, this vote would take place during the primaries.  Primaries are fertile ground for the conservative element of the Republican Party.  Many conservative Republcian gains in electing extremists have been made here.  The conservatives are hoping for the primary edge.  Almost every moderate Republican has a conservative primary challenger.  Conservatives have great hopes of overtaking the Senate, providing them with full reign in both chambers and the Governor’s office. 

Placing a personhood initiative on the August ballot adds a level of uncertainty to this primary process.  Will the voters come out in droves to vote Yea or will the voters come out in droves to vote Nea?  That is a gamble that the conservative wing of the party may not be willing to make, in spite of all of the excitement that taking away birth control and eliminating abortion would bring. 

The personhood pushers do have one last trick under their sleeve.  They have put forth the following explainer for their bill:

A vote against this proposition would not amend the constitution, in which case the current federally mandated legal status of preborn humans would remain that of a class of human beings that can intentionally be killed.

Read: Vote for this bill or you will be a supporter of killing people. 

Now that ought to serve as an appeal of reason to the moderates, shouldn’t it? 

News Politics

David Daleiden Brags About Discredited Smear Campaign at GOP Convention

Amy Littlefield

Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the Center for Medical Progress' anti-choice smear videos.

David Daleiden, a year after he began releasing secretly recorded and deceptively edited videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials were illegally profiting from fetal tissue donation, appeared to boast about the videos’ purported impact at a luncheon during the Republican National Convention (RNC).

“I think it’s very clear that one year later, Planned Parenthood is on the brink, they’re on the precipice,” Daleiden said at the event, co-hosted by the Family Research Council Action and the Susan B. Anthony List. “Their client numbers are down by at least 10 percent, their abortion numbers are down, their revenues are down and their clinics are closing.”

The luncheon took place at the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, near the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, where the Republican National Convention is underway. Also in attendance at Wednesday’s luncheon were a slate of Republican anti-choice politicians, including Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx.

Daleiden—who is under felony indictment in Texas and the subject of lawsuits in California for his actions in filming the undercover videos—touted efforts to defund Planned Parenthood by state Republican legislators and governors, who used the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) smear videos as a basis for investigations. Those defunding attempts have been blocked by federal court order in several cases.

He celebrated Planned Parenthood’s announcement that it would close two and consolidate four health centers in Indiana, an effort Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said would “allow patients to receive affordable, quality health care with extended hours at the newly consolidated locations.” Daleiden made no mention of last month’s Supreme Court decision overturning abortion restrictions in Texas, which dealt the anti-choice movement its worst legal defeat in decades.

“One year ago now, from the release of those videos, I think it’s actually safe to say that Planned Parenthood has never been more on the defensive in their entire 100 years of history, and the pro-life movement has never been stronger,” Daleiden said.

While his tone was victorious, Daleiden appeared to avoid directly claiming credit for the supposed harm done to Planned Parenthood. In a federal racketeering lawsuit brought against Daleiden and his co-defendants, Planned Parenthood has argued that Daleiden should compensate the organization for the harm that his smear campaign caused.

Republican congressional lawmakers have held at least five hearings and as many defunding votes against Planned Parenthood in the year since the videos’ release. Not a single state or federal investigation has produced evidence of wrongdoing.

Daleiden’s claims about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood contrast with a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that support for Planned Parenthood has increased in the aftermath of the CMP smear videos.


News Politics

Anti-Choice Group Faces Fundraising Gap in ‘Topsy-Turvy Year’

Amy Littlefield

“I will tell you that this has been the toughest year we have faced since I’ve been executive director of National Right to Life—and I came here in 1984—for our political fundraising,” David O’Steen announced at the annual National Right to Life Convention Friday.

Less than two weeks after the Supreme Court dealt the anti-choice movement its most devastating blow in decades, one of the nation’s leading anti-choice groups gathered at an airport hotel in Virginia for its annual convention.

The 46th annual National Right to Life Convention arrived at what organizers acknowledged was an unusual political moment. Beyond the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion restrictions in Texas, the anti-choice movement faces the likely nomination later this month of a Republican presidential candidate who once described himself as “very pro-choice.”

The mood felt lackluster as the three-day conference opened Thursday, amid signs many had opted not to trek to the hotel by Dulles airport, about an hour from Washington, D.C. With workshops ranging from “Pro-Life Concerns About Girl Scouts,” to “The Pro-Life Movement and Congress: 2016,” the conference seeks to educate anti-choice activists from across the United States.

While convention director Jacki Ragan said attendance numbers were about on par with past years, with between 1,000 and 1,100 registrants, the sessions were packed with empty chairs, and the highest number of audience members Rewire counted in any of the general sessions was 150. In the workshops, attendance ranged from as many as 50 people (at one especially popular panel featuring former abortion clinic workers) to as few as four.

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The attendance wasn’t the only sign of flagging enthusiasm.

“I will tell you that this has been the toughest year we have faced since I’ve been executive director of National Right to Life—and I came here in 1984—for our political fundraising,” National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen announced at Friday morning’s general session. “It’s been a topsy-turvy year. It’s been, for many people, a discouraging year. Many, many, many pro-life dollars, or dollars from people that would normally donate, were spent amongst 17 candidates in the Republican primary.”

O’Steen said the organization needed “$4 million that we do not have right now.”

When asked by Rewire to clarify details of the $4 million shortfall, O’Steen said, “You’re thinking this through more deeply than I have so far. Basically, the Right to Life movement, we will take the resources we have and we will use them as effectively as we can.”  

O’Steen said the organization wasn’t alone in its fundraising woes. “I think across many places, a lot of money was spent in these primaries,” he said. (An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found presidential candidates and affiliated groups spent $1 billion on the presidential race through March alone, nearly two-thirds of it on the Republican primary. Anti-choice favorite Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) spent more than than $70 million, higher than any other Republican.)

The National Right to Life Board of Directors voted to back Cruz in the Republican presidential primaries back in April. It has not yet formally backed Donald Trump.

“I really don’t know if there will be a decision, what it will be,” National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias told Rewire. “Everything has [been] kind of crazy and up in the air this year, so we’re going to wait and kind of see everything that happens. It’s been a very unusual year all the way around.”

Some in the anti-choice movement have openly opposed Trump, including conservative pundit Guy Benson, who declared at Thursday’s opening session, “I’m not sure if we have someone who is actually pro-life in the presidential race.”

But many at the convention seemed ready to rally behind Trump, albeit half-heartedly. “Let’s put it this way: Some people don’t know whether they should even vote,” said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. “Of course you should … the situation we have now is just a heightened version of what we face in any electoral choice, namely, you’re choosing between two people who, you know, you can have problems with both of them.”

Another issue on the minds of many attendees that received little mention throughout the conference was the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down provisions in Texas requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and mandating clinics meet the standards of hospital-style surgery centers. The case did not challenge Texas’ 20-week abortion ban.

“We aren’t going to have any changes in our strategy,” Tobias told Rewire, outlining plans to continue to focus on provisions including 20-week bans and attempts to outlaw the common second-trimester abortion procedure of dilation and evacuation, which anti-choice advocates call “dismemberment” abortion.

But some conference attendees expressed skepticism about the lack of any new legal strategy.

“I haven’t heard any discussion at all yet about, in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, how that weighs in strategically, not just with this legislation, but all pro-life legislation in the future,” Sam Lee, of Campaign Life Missouri, said during a panel discussion on so-called dismemberment abortion. “There has not been that discussion this weekend and that’s probably one of my disappointments right now.”

The Supreme Court decision has highlighted differing strategies within the anti-choice community. Americans United for Life has pushed copycat provisions like the two that were struck down in Texas to require admitting privileges and surgery center standards under the guise of promoting women’s health. National Right to Life, on the other hand, says it’s focused on boilerplate legislation that “makes the baby visible,” in an attempt to appeal to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast a key vote to uphold a “partial-birth abortion” ban in 2007.

When asked by Rewire about the effect of the Texas Supreme Court case, James Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, appeared to criticize the AUL strategy in Texas. (Bopp is, among other things, the legal brain behind Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for corporate spending on elections.)

“This case was somewhat extreme, in the sense that there were 40 abortion clinics—now this is just corresponding in time, not causation, this is a correlation—there were 40 abortion clinics and after the law, there were six,” Bopp said. “That’s kind of extreme.”

Speaking to an audience of about ten people during a workshop on campaign finance, Bopp said groups seeking to restrict abortion would need to work harder to solidify their evidence. “People will realize … as you pass things that you’re going to have to prove this in court so you better get your evidence together and get ready to present it, rather than just assuming that you don’t have to do that which was the assumption in Texas,” he said. “They changed that standard. It changed. So you’ve gotta prove it. Well, we’ll get ready to prove it.”