Commentary Violence

In the Wake of Newtown: Still Clinging to Guns, Religion, and Abortion in Kansas

Kari Ann Rinker

Now, I don’t claim to know the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon, but considering most of the men in the Kansas Legislature don’t know the difference between a vulva and a cervix and are a-okay with legislating my body parts, I will go ahead and give voice my strong opinion.

The quote deemed disastrous during President Obama’s 2008 campaign about small town people “clinging to their guns and religion” rings true in Kansas. You cannot throw a rock in the Kansas legislature without hitting a pro-gun, anti-choice politician. This is a land awash with golden wheat fields, tornadoes, and contradictions. A land where, indeed, there is no appropriate place to “draw the line” on gun control, but a Kansas politician will not hesitate to find six ways from Sunday to restrict a Kansas woman’s access to abortion and contraception

This gun toting, fetus-worshiping mentality is an extension of the rampant and wildly patriarchal viewpoints, practices, and policy that abound in this red state legislature.  That is why, in the wake of a mass murder in Connecticut, rather re-considering wildly un-restrictive gun laws, we can expect to see even more “guns and religion” in Kansas and, perhaps, other red states across the nation. The gun-toting, man-splaining political egos will simply see this as the next item on their agenda. They stand ready to impose their views on the masses, because Daddy knows what is best and “an armed society is a polite society”, doncha know? 

Case in point… Representative Forest Knox, an outspoken advocate of the right to conceal and carry firearms in Kansas. He introduced and shepherded legislation that would allow those with conceal carry licenses to carry their firearms wherever they darn well please.

Representative Knox confirmed to Rewire that there will be more pro-gun legislation in 2013 and he will be the one introducing it. This in spite of the fact that Kansas already has been ranked as having some of the most egregious gun laws in the nation.  When asked by Rewire what his thoughts were on the Newtown shooting, he responded…

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“When this tragedy occurred, I read through the list of names on the Internet and I thought, this is indeed, a terrible situation.  I also thought, you know what stopped him?  He shot himself.  These people kill themselves, because they are not courageous.  If the principal would have had a gun locked up in her office and merely shot to let the attacker know that she was armed, I believe the shooting would have ended…because he would have shot himself.  That’s what these guys do. Crime and murder and serious crime are down across the nation, perhaps due to conceal carry.  In this world we live in…if we are going to be safe, we need guns.  Whatever criminals have, I would want to be able to defend against.”

In spite of Representative Knox’s assertions USA Today’s data show that violent crime is on the rise and the City of Chicago saw 500 homicides this year.

Representative Knox is abiding by the NRA viewpoint that the answer to mass murders in America is to arm more civilians. Representative Geraldine Flaharty strongly rejects that notion. Geraldine is a retired teacher and served on the House Education Committee.   

“I have no desire to operate a gun.  I don’t know many teachers who would and the armed guard at any school is going to be at automatic disadvantage against an assault weapon.  He would probably be the first casualty.  Now, I understand that these men in the Kansas Legislature all grew up watching John Wayne westerns, but we don’t wear white hats and black hats and we don’t have perfect aim.  Ordinary sane people aren’t motivated to kill first and think later.” 

Unfortunately, the NRA has opened this can of worms and red state legislatures and school districts will soon be taking the NRA’s words of wisdom to heed. It has already started in Utah, where teachers are receiving free gun training in response to the shooting and, in Arizona, Sheriff Joe is sending armed volunteers to schools.

It’s not as if the Kansas pro-gun patriarchy needs much prodding in that direction. In Wichita, gun rights groups successfully lobbied the City Council to allow citizens to carry guns in 111 public owned buildings… but not where the City Council meets. In our state capital it is somehow seen as acceptable to speak about shooting human beings from helicopters like “feral pigs.” In 2010 a Hutchinson, Kansas man brought two loaded guns into a paternity hearing and was later only sentenced one year in prison. Just two days after the Newtown shootings, two Topeka police officers were shot and killed in a grocery store parking lot. This didn’t stop Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp from “shooting off” his mouth just days later on national TV, however.    

Now, I don’t claim to know the difference between a semi-automatic and an automatic weapon, but considering most of the men in the Kansas Legislature don’t know the difference between a vulva and a cervix and are a-okay with legislating my body parts, I will go ahead and give voice my strong opinion. We need more gun control.  

I have written here about my twin daughters, they are seven years old and in the first grade… just like those first graders in Newtown. And this I know… when a child is shot 11 times while sitting in their classroom, it is time for change. When 20 children are shot in this manner… it is time for drastic change. I will not allow my children to be victims of terrorist acts committed by a gun-toting madman, nor will I allow them to be a prop for the NRA to sell more weapons to their cult-like masses, nor will I remain silent while the Mike Huckabees of the world to use this tragedy to push a Christian agenda into my public school. 

People have questioned whether gun control is a feminist issue. In a state like Kansas, embracing gun control may lose the support of some pro-choice, gun-owning feminists.  But I believe that women are powerful and should not shirk from lending their voices to this debate, even if we lose a few supporters along the way. Guns, religion, and abortion restrictions go hand in hand. It only makes sense that we might fight them with equal and infinite passion.  

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

Analysis Abortion

Legislators Have Introduced 445 Provisions to Restrict Abortion So Far This Year

Elizabeth Nash & Rachel Benson Gold

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

So far this year, legislators have introduced 1,256 provisions relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Of these, 35 percent (445 provisions) sought to restrict access to abortion services. By midyear, 17 states had passed 46 new abortion restrictions.

Including these new restrictions, states have adopted 334 abortion restrictions since 2010, constituting 30 percent of all abortion restrictions enacted by states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. However, states have also enacted 22 measures this year designed to expand access to reproductive health services or protect reproductive rights.

Mid year state restrictions


Signs of Progress

The first half of the year ended on a high note, with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down the most significant abortion decision in a generation. The Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down abortion restrictions in Texas requiring abortion facilities in the state to convert to the equivalent of ambulatory surgical centers and mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital; these two restrictions had greatly diminished access to services throughout the state (see Lessons from Texas: Widespread Consequences of Assaults on Abortion Access). Five other states (Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia) have similar facility requirements, and the Texas decision makes it less likely that these laws would be able to withstand judicial scrutiny (see Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Nineteen other states have abortion facility requirements that are less onerous than the ones in Texas; the fate of these laws in the wake of the Court’s decision remains unclear. 

Ten states in addition to Texas had adopted hospital admitting privileges requirements. The day after handing down the Texas decision, the Court declined to review lower court decisions that have kept such requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin from going into effect, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced that he would not enforce the state’s law. As a result of separate litigation, enforcement of admitting privileges requirements in Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma is currently blocked. That leaves admitting privileges in effect in Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah; as with facility requirements, the Texas decision will clearly make it harder for these laws to survive if challenged.

More broadly, the Court’s decision clarified the legal standard for evaluating abortion restrictions. In its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Court had said that abortion restrictions could not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy. In Whole Woman’s Health, the Court stressed the importance of using evidence to evaluate the extent to which an abortion restriction imposes a burden on women, and made clear that a restriction’s burdens cannot outweigh its benefits, an analysis that will give the Texas decision a reach well beyond the specific restrictions at issue in the case.

As important as the Whole Woman’s Health decision is and will be going forward, it is far from the only good news so far this year. Legislators in 19 states introduced a bevy of measures aimed at expanding insurance coverage for contraceptive services. In 13 of these states, the proposed measures seek to bolster the existing federal contraceptive coverage requirement by, for example, requiring coverage of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved methods and banning the use of techniques such as medical management and prior authorization, through which insurers may limit coverage. But some proposals go further and plow new ground by mandating coverage of sterilization (generally for both men and women), allowing a woman to obtain an extended supply of her contraceptive method (generally up to 12 months), and/or requiring that insurance cover over-the-counter contraceptive methods. By July 1, both Maryland and Vermont had enacted comprehensive measures, and similar legislation was pending before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). And, in early July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed a measure into law allowing women to obtain a year’s supply of their contraceptive method.


But the Assault Continues

Even as these positive developments unfolded, the long-standing assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights continued apace. Much of this attention focused on the release a year ago of a string of deceptively edited videos designed to discredit Planned Parenthood. The campaign these videos spawned initially focused on defunding Planned Parenthood and has grown into an effort to defund family planning providers more broadly, especially those who have any connection to abortion services. Since last July, 24 states have moved to restrict eligibility for funding in several ways:

  • Seventeen states have moved to limit family planning providers’ eligibility for reimbursement under Medicaid, the program that accounts for about three-fourths of all public dollars spent on family planning. In some cases, states have tried to exclude Planned Parenthood entirely from such funding. These attacks have come via both administrative and legislative means. For instance, the Florida legislature included a defunding provision in an omnibus abortion bill passed in March. As the controversy grew, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that administers Medicaid, sent a letter to state officials reiterating that federal law prohibits them from discriminating against family planning providers because they either offer abortion services or are affiliated with an abortion provider (see CMS Provides New Clarity For Family Planning Under Medicaid). Most of these state attempts have been blocked through legal challenges. However, a funding ban went into effect in Mississippi on July 1, and similar measures are awaiting implementation in three other states.
  • Fourteen states have moved to restrict family planning funds controlled by the state, with laws enacted in four states. The law in Kansas limits funding to publicly run programs, while the law in Louisiana bars funding to providers who are associated with abortion services. A law enacted in Wisconsin directs the state to apply for federal Title X funding and specifies that if this funding is obtained, it may not be distributed to family planning providers affiliated with abortion services. (In 2015, New Hampshire moved to deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood affiliates; the state reversed the decision in 2016.) Finally, the budget adopted in Michigan reenacts a provision that bars the allocation of family planning funds to organizations associated with abortion. Notably, however, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a similar measure.
  • Ten states have attempted to bar family planning providers’ eligibility for related funding, including monies for sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prevention of interpersonal violence, and prevention of breast and cervical cancer. In three of these states, the bans are the result of legislative action; in Utah, the ban resulted from action by the governor. Such a ban is in effect in North Carolina; the Louisiana measure is set to go into effect in August. Implementation of bans in Ohio and Utah has been blocked as a result of legal action.


The first half of 2016 was also noteworthy for a raft of attempts to ban some or all abortions. These measures fell into four distinct categories:

  • By the end of June, four states enacted legislation to ban the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. The Mississippi and West Virginia laws are in effect; the other two have been challenged in court. (Similar provisions enacted last year in Kansas and Oklahoma are also blocked pending legal action.)
  • South Carolina and North Dakota both enacted measures banning abortion at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilization, which is equivalent to 22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This brings to 16 the number of states with these laws in effect (see State Policies on Later Abortions).
  • Indiana and Louisiana adopted provisions banning abortions under specific circumstances. The Louisiana law banned abortions at or after 20 weeks post-fertilization in cases of diagnosed genetic anomaly; the law is slated to go into effect on August 1. Indiana adopted a groundbreaking measure to ban abortion for purposes of race or sex selection, in cases of a genetic anomaly, or because of the fetus’ “color, national origin, or ancestry”; enforcement of the measure is blocked pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) vetoed a sweeping measure that would have banned all abortions except those necessary to protect the woman’s life.


In addition, 14 states (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) enacted other types of abortion restrictions during the first half of the year, including measures to impose or extend waiting periods, restrict access to medication abortion, and establish regulations on abortion clinics.

Zohra Ansari-Thomas, Olivia Cappello, and Lizamarie Mohammed all contributed to this analysis.