Commentary Abortion

In Kansas, Employees of Abortion Providers Not Allowed to Volunteer at Schools

Kari Ann Rinker

It distresses me that anti-choice politics could threaten my relationship with at-risk middle school students.

Kansas now has five of the most harmful abortion restrictions in the nation—restrictions that exist to create barriers to abortion access and shame women and their doctors. One outrageous example of this public shaming can be found on page two of Kansas’ 70-page omnibus abortion bill. As originally proposed, the bill would prevent anyone who works for an abortion provider from volunteering at their child’s school.

The original bill read:

“No school district, employee or volunteer thereof, or educational service provider contracting with such school district shall provide abortion services. No school district shall permit any person or entity to offer, sponsor or otherwise furnish in any manner any course materials or instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases if such person or entity is an abortion services provider, or an employee or volunteer of an abortion services provider.”

Legislators included this language in part to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing age-appropriate sex education in schools—a topic of heated debate in local communities. The bill’s supporters ultimately want to see students taught abstinence-only sex education, despite studies showing that  such education methods don’t work in lowering teen pregnancy rates. Beyond the implications to Planned Parenthood as an entity, the bill makes a clear statement: Abortion is bad, anyone who is associated with abortion is bad, school children must be “protected” from these people and their ideas, and abortion providers must be publicly shamed and punished.

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If the bill text doesn’t convince you of these facts, then some of the comments made during the hearing should do the trick. As the Huffington Post reports, “[State Rep. J.R.] Claeys said that while he supports volunteerism, he believes ‘it is important that we don’t have people who are advocates for abortion to our children in school settings.'”

Repeat: Abortion is bad, anyone who is associated with abortion is bad, school children must be “protected” from these people and their ideas, and abortion providers must be publicly shamed and punished.

The Lawrence Journal World reports that “[s]tate Rep. Emily Perry, D-Mission, provided an amendment to allow volunteers in the classroom. But state Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R-Grandview Plaza, opposed it, saying, ‘If we’re having people in our education system, I don’t want them involved in any way, shape or form or manner in killing children, killing babies.'”

Abortion is bad, anyone who is associated with abortion is bad, school children must be “protected” from these people and their ideas, and abortion providers must be publicly shamed and punished.

You get the picture.

At the urging of pro-choice lobbyists, lawmakers eventually agreed to amend the bill, substituting the word “agent” for “volunteer” in one instance, though they refused to change the word “volunteer” elsewhere in the bill. It’s not yet clear what implication that word change will have on enforcing these rules.  There will surely be more debate when the bill comes up for a vote of the full House. The point is that they tried.  While anti-choice lobbyists stated that the text was from a Missouri bill that passed a few years ago and they meant no harm…the word “volunteer” is not found in the Missouri bill.  I believe this makes their true intent clear…they really want to keep “evil doing” supporters of reproductive freedom out of their schools….even mere volunteers.

Meanwhile, other people who really do have the potential to be violent influences on children are free to associate with Kansas schools in any way they please. Let’s take a look at a few such folks from my Wichita, Kansas, community:

  • Cheryl Sullenger, employed by the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, was convicted of attempting to firebomb a California abortion clinic. Her phone number was also found in the car of Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of the late abortion provider George Tiller.
  • Local anti-choice zealot Angel Dillard recently gained notoriety after sending a threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means and is currently facing prosecution under the Freedom of Access to Clinical Entrances (FACE) Act. She recently tried to invoke clergy privileges to keep her conversations with Roeder out of these proceedings.
  • Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, won’t hesitate to befriend (and employ) the most extreme members of the terrorist anti-choice movement. I’m sure he also applauded the work of his friends in Germantown, Maryland, who thought it was appropriate to picket outside of a middle school with a sign that read “Please Stop the Child Killing” and included a photo of a student’s father.
  • Mark Holick, the man behind the planned “pro-life memorial” in Wichita, recently stood in front of the home of a woman who is attempting to bring abortion care back to Wichita with a sign that read “Where is Your Church?”—an obvious reference to the Tiller murder, which look place in a church.

As I have written previously at Rewire, I am a mother of three school-age children. I am a pro-choice feminist who used to work as a lobbyist for the Kansas National Organization for Women (NOW) and would not hesitate to work for Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider. I firmly reject the “abortion is bad” school of thought. I also volunteer weekly at my daughter’s middle school, working with a group of young women who are at risk of dropping out. I provide them with moral support and encourage them to develop and employ effective decision-making skills. I celebrate these girls and invite them to realize their maximum potential. They are a joy to me, and I believe they benefit from our relationship.

But it distresses me that anti-choice politics and hatred for women’s reproductive freedom could ever put my relationship with those middle school students at risk. And it distresses me that under the law I could be considered “immoral” for supporting a woman’s right to have an abortion.

There are currently three young women in my middle school group. Statistics show that one of them will have an abortion in her lifetime. My hope is that the none of them will be exposed to shame and harassment surrounding their decisions and that anti-choice legislative efforts will dissipate over time.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”


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