News Contraception

Kansas Legislature Considers Letting Pharmacists Deny Drugs That “Might” Cause Abortions

Robin Marty

As long as the pharmacists "thinks" the drug could cause an abortion, well, that's good enough reason to refuse to dispense it.

A new bill working its way through the Kansas legislature could set a major precedent when it comes to defining how much latitude a pharmacist has in dispensing drugs.

According to the Kansas City Star, the new bill would “bar anyone from being required to prescribe or administer a drug they ‘reasonably believe’ might result in the termination of a pregnancy.”

“Reasonably believe” is a pretty big (and ambiguous) phrase.  After all, anti-choice pharmacists often state that they believe emergency contraception, and even regular hormonal birth control, inhibits the implantation of a fertilized egg and causes abortion, despite the medical evidence stating otherwise.

If pharmacists are allowed to dictate what prescriptions they will or won’t fill (or, in the case of Plan B, simply provide access to, since the drug is kept behind the counter) based on “reasonably believing” they could harm a “preborn child from the moment of fertilization,” well, what is to stop them from dispensing other items that “might” cause harm to a fetus?

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And in fact, what if we extend that to all clerks, tellers, waiters and so on, allowing them to use their discretion as to what women who are or could be pregnant should be allowed access, buy or eat based what these employees might “reasonably believe” could harm a “preborn child.”  Perhaps the server at a bar should deny a glass of wine to the woman who might be pregnant and not know it?  Or even a woman obviously pregnant and has simply decided to have a glass of wine?  Or the deli counter can refuse to serve lunch meat on the grounds that the pregnant woman purchasing it may eat some and possibly miscarry?

Oh, and don’t even try to walk out of that grocery store with a bag of coffee beans or a few cans of tuna fish.  Someone, after all, needs to look out for the potential baby.

As you can see, the “reasonable” possibilities are endless.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/28/3520963/kansas-house-agrees-to-extends.html#.T3RjR5Azu8w.twitter#storylink=cpy

Analysis Law and Policy

Dr. Tiller’s Murderer May Have New Chance to Argue That Anti-Choice Violence Is Justifiable

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Convicted murderer Scott Roeder is set to be re-sentenced in connection with the death of Dr. George Tiller while his associate Angel Dillard will stand trial for threatening another Wichita, Kansas abortion provider. These are particularly alarming developments at a time when anti-choice violence has spiked.

It only took a jury about half an hour in 2010 to convict Scott Roeder of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting death of Dr. George Tiller at Tiller’s church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder admitted during the trial that he had thought about and planned Tiller’s murder for years. He offered no witnesses in his defense. Instead, Roeder argued that he was justified in Tiller’s murder because it was the only way to end abortion in Wichita.

Roeder was sentenced to life with no chance for parole for 50 years, otherwise known as a “hard 50.” But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled juries, not judges, needed to make certain criminal sentencing decisions. Though a jury convicted Roeder of the crime of first-degree murder, a judge issued his sentence. That means Roeder’s underlying murder conviction stands, but the amount of time he’s supposed to serve is now up for grabs. On Wednesday, a judge ruled that a new jury will have to decide if Roeder’s “hard 50” sentence was justified. And with that potential new sentencing comes a fresh opportunity for Roeder and his attorneys to advance the radical legal argument that the murder of abortion doctors is justified under the law—a particularly alarming sentiment at a time when anti-choice violence has spiked.

The necessity defense invoked by Roeder is an actual, legitimate legal defense where the defendant argues they committed a particular crime in order to avoid a greater “harm or evil” being committed.  To that extent, it is not so much an “I didn’t do it” defense as it is a “there’s a good reason why I did it, and so you should go easy on me” defense. In Roeder’s case, as echoed by other anti-choice radicals, murdering abortion doctors is “necessary” to prevent the greater evil of legal abortion.

Not all states recognize the necessity defense; Kansas generally doesn’t. And suffice it to say that no court has recognized the defense in connection with the murder of a doctor for doing his job. But that didn’t stop Roeder and his attorneys from arguing it anyway, and it won’t stop them from doing it again this summer. 

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Nor, for that matter, did it stop Sedgwick County District Court Judge Warren Wilbert from saying Wednesday that Roeder may have a constitutional right to present his evidence for why the necessity defense should apply to his case. Essentially, Roeder and his attorneys can potentially outline for a new jury all the reasons Roeder felt his killing of Tiller was for the greater good. 

This is not the first time Wilbert has indicated a willingness to consider Roeder’s “necessity” defense. Wilbert also oversaw Roeder’s initial criminal trial and ruled that Roeder couldn’t specifically argue the necessity defense because Kansas law does not recognize it. But Wilbert did leave the door open for Roeder to present during his first trial evidence and arguments that he murdered Tiller to defend the lives of “the unborn.” That opening could have allowed jurors to find Roeder guilty of a lesser charge like voluntary manslaughter, defined under Kansas law as the “unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” That didn’t happen, thankfully, and the jury convicted Roeder of intentional first-degree murder, a crime that carries an automatic sentence of life in prison. Now, because of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, a jury will determine whether Roeder must serve at least 25 or 50 years of his life sentence before he is eligible for a parole hearing.

Roeder’s next scheduled hearing is on April 29, when Roeder’s attorneys have been instructed by the court to provide any “mitigating factors” a jury should consider in weighing Roeder’s sentence. Roeder’s actual sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Roeder’s re-sentencing may seem like one of those “procedural” issues that doesn’t change much. The chance of Roeder, who was 51 when convicted, of dying in prison is likelier than him ever being paroled. But it is a procedural issue that comes at an inauspicious time for the issue of violence against abortion providers, especially in Kansas.

Angel Dillard, a woman who claims to be a “minister” to Scott Roeder, is set to stand trial in Kansas on May 3 for claims she threatened Dr. Mila Means, another Wichita abortion provider, out of taking over Tiller’s clinic following his murder. According to reports, Dillard told Means in a 2011 letter that thousands of people across the country were looking into her background. “They will know your habits and routines,” the letter read. “They know where you you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live. You will be checking under your car [every day]—because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.” That letter prompted the Department of Justice to bring a Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act claim against Dillard. Initially, a federal court ruled Dillard’s letter was protected free speech, but a federal appeals court overturned that decision and ordered Dillard to stand trial.

During their initial investigation of Dillard, the Obama administration had tried, unsuccessfully, to find out what connection she had to Roeder after prison logs revealed Roeder had several communications with Dillard and Rev. Michael Bray. Bray, an Ohio anti-choice radical, also promotes the use of lethal force in the battle over abortion rights, and spent four years in prison in connection with attacks on several abortion clinics in the Washington, D.C. area.

When Dillard’s trial begins in May, the Justice Department could, through other evidentiary means, be able to make the specific connections between Roeder, Dillard, and Bray without relying on testimony from any of them. Justice Department attorneys may even be able to connect Tiller’s murder, and the threats against Means, to other Wichita-based anti-choice activists like Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman. When Roeder was arrested, for example, he had Newman’s second-in-command Cheryl Sullenger’s phone number in his car. Sullenger served almost two years in prison after pleading guilty to her role in a 1988 plan to bomb a California abortion clinic.

And, of course, the consequences of these operations reach beyond Wichita or anti-choicers’ direct contacts. Most recently Sullenger and Newman have admitted to their roles in “consulting” with the radical anti-choice Center for Medical Progress, an organization set up by David Daleiden and others to try and prove through infiltration that Planned Parenthood and other providers were selling unlawfully selling fetal tissue for profit. Planned Parenthood has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing. But CMP’s videos, and the dozens of baseless state and federal investigations they’ve inspired, have produced a significant uptick in violent threats and activities against abortion providers, such as the Black Friday siege of a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The attack ended in the shooting deaths of three people; the accused shooter, Robert Lewis Dear Jr., has said he committed the murders to “save the babies.”

Dear had initially said he planned to plead guilty to the murder charges connected with the Planned Parenthood attacks. He has apparently changed his mind and, if found competent to stand trial, would now like to plead not guilty.

There is no evidence, at least none disclosed, that Dear had any direct contact with anti-choice radicals like Newman or Sullenger, or that he even knows who they are. The Colorado Supreme Court recently ordered documents related to Dear’s arrest unsealed. They could be disclosed as soon as next week, and could provide more answers as to any relationships Dear has with the broader anti-choice movement.

Roeder, Dillard, Dear. All three cases will be going on this summer as anti-choice activists descend in July on Wichita to mark the 25th anniversary of the Summer of Mercy, a massive protest organized by radicals to try and make Wichita “abortion free.” Operation Rescue first orchestrated the 46-day campaign in 1991; Operation Save America (OSA) has since picked up the mantle. According to Rusty Thomas, director of OSA, July’s protest will focus on “states defying a tyrannical court” that recognized the right to an abortion.

“They must do their duty to interpose and nullify that lawless decree and protect the preborn,” Thomas told Christian Newswire.

Thomas insists July’s protests will be peaceful. But anti-choice radicals also insist their rhetoric and propaganda have no link to violence against abortion providers, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. So even if Thomas is correct and July’s protests produce no immediate acts of violence, the Roeder, Dillard, and Dear trials show “peaceful” anti-choice activity is an oxymoron.

Many anti-choice radicals hold Roeder up as a hero, and his re-sentencing hearing provides an opportunity to rally against the “lawless decree” of Roe v. Wade, as well as the courts that protect abortion rights and  convicted Roeder of his crimes. It also provides as a forum for Roeder and his attorneys to yet again advance, even fruitlessly, the legal argument that murder of an abortion doctor can sometimes be justified if the murderer really truly believes they are preventing a greater evil. Dillard will be arguing in her trial that her letter to Dr. Means suggesting she’d wake up to a bomb under her car wasn’t truly a threat because abortion providers should just expect those kinds of letters. Roeder, Dillard, and their attorneys will be in courts of law in Kansas arguing for not just the normalization of violence against abortion providers, but the legal justification for it. And Dear’s trial will be displaying the natural extension of that rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Thomas will be calling on their supporters and the courts to ignore the rule of law. That is troubling—to say the least.

Analysis Abortion

Five Ways the Kansas Legislature Replaces Medical Science With Anti-Choice Policy

Robin Marty

The attack on the medical profession is systematic and thorough.

With 70 full pages of anti-abortion, anti-contraception policy written into one massive bill, it’s not surprising that House Bill 2253 is a gold mine of misinformation passing as public policy. What is shocking about it is the blatant attack that the bill portrays not just on abortion, but on the medical profession itself.

Opponents of the bill have repeatedly pointed to HB 2253 as a series of anti-science political pandering to those in the “sanctity of life from conception to natural death” wing of the religious right. Despite the fact that last year’s version of the bill died out of fear of the University of Kansas Medical School losing accreditation in the face of new regulations, this year’s bill replaces medical best practices with anti-choice belief with near systematic precision.

1) “Life begins at fertilization.” Anti-choice advocates claim they are only enforcing the idea that the state has an interest in fetal life, one that has been supported by past Supreme Court rulings. But without a petri dish, it’s hard to discern when exactly fertilization even happens. There is a window during ovulation in which conception can occur, but even then the body doesn’t start secreting hormones like HCG until the fertilized egg implants, which is anywhere from seven to ten days after  ovulation but could even occur as late as 12 days. The point of fertilization is mostly guesswork in any non-fertility assistance situation. By a near magical deification of an egg at a non-medically specified point of fertilization, a typical pregnancy practice is revamped to compliment political ideology.

2) “Mental health is never a reason to get an abortion.” Called a “gotcha” amendment by bill supporters, reproductive rights advocates in the statehouse made a last-ditch effort to at least add exceptions for rape, incest, and mental health issues to the state’s already existing 22 week gestation abortion ban. That was shot down with the argument that there is never a time when a person’s mental health would benefit from an abortion. It’s a long-standing talking point from the National Right to Life, which claims that mental health exceptions are used to allow “abortion under any circumstance because the Supreme Court has defined ‘health’ to mean a general feeling of well-being or age or familial conditions or psychological factors.” Those lawmakers must have never come in contact with a woman who without such an exception would be forced against her will to continue to carry a child with no hope of survival. Now, doctors are unable to decide what is in the best interest of their patients at the point of 22 weeks gestation, and must instead defer to legislators.

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3) “Abortion (and birth control) causes cancer.” Written into the so-called “informed consent” portion of the bill is what Rep. Annie Keuther (D -Topeka) has been saying in the press is  “the Women’s Right to Be Lied to Act” which mandates doctors tell those who seek an abortion that there is a link between terminating a pregnancy and developing breast cancer. Despite denial by the National Cancer Institute, the anti-choice movement continues to say that they know far more than medical experts on the subject, and that they get to write the script for the doctors themselves.

4) “Doctors shouldn’t learn basic gynecological procedures.” This years version of the bill differs from last year’s version in that those medical students at the University of Kansas who want to learn to perform basic gynecological procedures like vacuum aspirations and D&Cs during their residencies will now not only need to leave campus, they will have to undergo a completely separate training program to ensure that no “taxpayer dollars” might mingle and potentially support abortion. By making the training inconvenient, it ensures doctors are less likely to obtain that training, regardless of whether the med students plan to offer elective abortions for the general public, but even for private patients who may need the procedure due to non-viable pregnancy, miscarriage management, or because her health is in danger. In essence, the Kansas legislature has stepped in to write the training curriculum for med students.

5) “Research on adult stem cells is just as effective as research done on embryonic lines.” The “life begins at conception” protections aren’t just a way to stop abortion and birth control. It probably isn’t any coincidence that at the same time that the state is approving a massive bill that “symbolically” protects life at the “point of fertilization,” it is also has created a bill for  an adult stem cell research and treatment center at Kansas University Medical Center. But according to the Lawrence Journal-World, “KU Med didn’t ask for the measure, and there is no funding in the proposal to start what would be called the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center.” Why didn’t the University ask for something the state is so obviously willing to give them? Because adult stem cells aren’t nearly as effective for research as embryonic lines are.

But don’t tell that to the Kansas legislature. After all, they are now medical experts.