In the debates over pre-abortion ultrasound bills, advocates often say such measures are vital to ensuring that women have all the relevant information. The argument is often based in part on the idea that abortion providers make money off of the procedures—and therefore may try to trick women into terminating their pregnancies. The reasoning also assumes that when deciding to have an abortion, a woman should know the physical details of the fetus, like how many fingers and toes have developed. That’s why—in a messaging win for social conservatives—the pre-abortion sonogram requirement is often called a “Woman’s Right to Know” legislation.
But, Kansas Republicans may spoil all the fun. The state House is working on legislation that would allow doctors to withold information if it will help prevent an abortion, as well as requiring doctors to tell women that abortions increase odds of getting breast cancer—a theory many public health organizations reject. Forget right to know—the proposal promotes misinformation and distrust between doctors and patients. And that’s hardly the only disturbing part of the bill, which ostensibly is meant to cut back access to abortions.
The latest bill — which is scheduled to be discussed by a legislative committee for a second time on Wednesday — contains a number of provisions which would give the state one of the most sweeping anti-abortion laws in the nation. Among the provisions is one which would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withhold information — in order to prevent an abortion — that could have prevented a health problem for the mother or child. A wrongful death suit could be filed in the event of the death of the mother.
Other provisions include requiring women to hear the fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion, taking away tax credits for abortion providers and removing tax deductions for abortion-related insurance. The bill also requires that women be told that abortions would increase the risk of breast cancer, a controversial theory that the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and gynecological groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have said is incorrect.
The bill was scheduled for discussion on Wednesday, but it looks like technical amendments have it stuck in committee a bit longer. But, Kansas’ state House is among the most far right in the country and will likely pass the measure—the Senate, on the other hand, is up in the air. In the meantime, Celock reports that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback—a vehement social conservative—is friendly towards the bill.
If passed, the bill would make it much harder to make the already dubious claim that the pro-life movement is all about giving women “the facts.”
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, March 1, 2012
Less than a year before the 2012 presidential voting begins, Republican legislatures and governors across the country are rewriting voting laws to make it much harder for the young, the poor and African-Americans — groups that typically vote Democratic — to cast a ballot.
Spreading fear of a nonexistent flood of voter fraud, they are demanding that citizens be required to show a government-issued identification before they are allowed to vote. Republicans have been pushing these changes for years, but now more than two-thirds of the states have adopted or are considering such laws. The Advancement Project, an advocacy group of civil rights lawyers, correctly describes the push as “the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.”
Anyone who has stood on the long lines at a motor vehicle office knows that it isn’t easy to get such documents. For working people, it could mean giving up a day’s wages.
A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that 11 percent of citizens, 21 million people, do not have a current photo ID. That fraction increases to 15 percent of low-income voting-age citizens, 18 percent of young eligible voters and 25 percent of black eligible voters. Those demographic groups tend to vote Democratic, and Republicans are imposing requirements that they know many will be unable to meet.
Kansas’ new law was drafted by its secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who also wrote Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. Voters will be required to show a photo ID at the polls. Before they can register, Kansans will have to produce a proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
Tough luck if you don’t happen to have one in your pocket when you’re at the county fair and you pass the voter registration booth. Or when the League of Women Voters brings its High School Registration Project to your school cafeteria. Or when you show up at your dorm at the University of Kansas without your birth certificate. Sorry, you won’t be voting in Lawrence, and probably not at all.
That’s fine with Gov. Sam Brownback, who said he signed the bill because it’s necessary to “ensure the sanctity of the vote.” Actually, Kansas has had only one prosecution for voter fraud in the last six years. But because of that vast threat to Kansas democracy, an estimated 620,000 Kansas residents who lack a government ID now stand to lose their right to vote.
Eight states already had photo ID laws. Now more than 30 other states are joining the bandwagon of disenfranchisement, as Republicans outdo each other to propose bills with new voting barriers. The Wisconsin bill refuses to recognize college photo ID cards, even if they are issued by a state university, thus cutting off many students at the University of Wisconsin and other campuses. The Texas bill, so vital that Gov. Rick Perry declared it emergency legislation, would also reject student IDs, but would allow anyone with a handgun license to vote.
A Florida bill would curtail early voting periods, which have proved popular and brought in new voters, and would limit address changes at the polls. “I’m going to call this bill for what it is, good-old-fashioned voter suppression,” Ben Wilcox of the League of Women Voters told The Florida Times-Union.
Many of these bills were inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business-backed conservative group, which has circulated voter ID proposals in scores of state legislatures. The Supreme Court, unfortunately, has already upheld Indiana’s voter ID requirement, in a 2008 decision that helped unleash the stampede of new bills. Most of the bills have yet to pass, and many may not meet the various balancing tests required by the Supreme Court. There is still time for voters who care about democracy in their states to speak out against lawmakers who do not.
By: The New York Times, Editorial, April 26, 2011
Even by Washington’s low standards, the House’s Republican freshmen are turning pandering into a high art. At a recent transportation hearing in his home district, Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma heaped praise on a panel of private sector witnesses. Three of the four executives so publicly favored were later discovered to be donors to Mr. Lankford’s campaign.
Nothing illegal in that, nor in the enthusiasms of another freshman, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, dubbed the Congressman from Koch for championing the conservative agenda of the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David. They contributed handsomely — $80,000 worth — to Mr. Pompeo’s campaign kitty. Once elected, Mr. Pompeo hired a former Koch Industries lawyer as his chief of staff.
Mr. Pompeo said he ran for Congress because as a businessman (whose business included some Koch investment money) he saw “how government can crush entrepreneurism.” His contributions to the House Republicans’ budget-slashing legislation included two top priorities of Koch Industries: killing off funds for the Obama administration’s new database for consumer complaints about unsafe products and for a registry of greenhouse gas polluters at the Environmental Protection Agency.
The congressman said he was concerned that the database would encourage false accusations about good products and that the registry would increase the E.P.A.’s power and cost jobs. Those arguments are nonsense, but Mr. Pompeo represents an early warning of the shape of things to come when the Supreme Court’s misguided decision to legalize unfettered corporate campaign donations fully kicks in next year.
The Koch brothers are planning to spend tens of millions in the 2012 campaign, as are Democratic power brokers and unions. Ordinary voters may be making a show of demanding real political change, but they are being increasingly outbid at the big money table where American politics happens.
By: Editorial, The New York Times, March 30, 2011
Here in Washington, the immigration debate is in stalemate. But in Kansas, there has been a breakthrough.
This striking achievement came about this week during a meeting of the state House Appropriations Committee on efforts in Kansas to shoot feral swine from helicopters. Republican state Rep. Virgil Peck suddenly had an idea. “Looks like shooting these immigrating feral hogs works,” he commented, according to a recording posted by the Lawrence Journal-World. “Maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem.”
Brilliant! Shooting immigrants from helicopter gunships! Why didn’t they think of that in Congress?
There are a few logistical problems with Peck’s idea, including the fact that Kansas isn’t a border state. But maybe Oklahoma and Texas will grant overflight rights for immigrant-hunting sorties.
Peck, the Republican caucus chairman for the state House, later suggested his brainstorm was a joke, although he also defended himself: “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person.”
Kansans may be surprised to learn that the immigrant-shooting idea was offered in their names, but they wouldn’t be the only Americans getting unwelcome news from their state legislators now that many Tea Party types have come to power.
When Louis Brandeis called state legislatures “laboratories of democracy,” he couldn’t have imagined the curious formulas the Tea Party chemists would be mixing in 2011, including: a bill just passed by the Utah legislature requiring the state to recognize gold and silver as legal tender; a Montana bill declaring global warming “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana”; a plan in Georgia to abolish driver’s licenses because licensing violates the “inalienable right” to drive; legislation in South Dakota that would require every adult to buy a gun; and the Kentucky legislature’s effort to create a “sanctuary state” for coal, safe from environmental laws.
In Washington, the whims of the Tea Party lawmakers have been tempered, by President Obama and Senate Democrats, but also by House Republican leaders who don’t want the party to look crazy. Yet these checks often do not exist in state capitols. Though many of the proposals will never become law, the proliferation of exotic policies gives Americans a sense of what Tea Party rule might look like.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip public-sector unions of their power has gained national attention, as have various states’ efforts to imitate Arizona’s immigration crackdown. Arizona, meanwhile, moved on to an attempt to assert its authority to nullify federal law; the last time that was tried, we had the Civil War.
Less well known is what’s going on in Montana. Legislators there have introduced several bills that would nullify federal law, including health-care reform, the Endangered Species Act, gun laws and food-safety laws. Under one legislative proposal, FBI agents couldn’t operate in the state without the permission of county sheriffs. Legislators are also looking into a proposed resolution calling on Congress to end membership in the United Nations.
A “birther” bill, similar to proposals in various other states, would require presidential candidates — they’re talking about you, Obama — to furnish proof of citizenship that is satisfactory to state authorities. Montana has also joined the push in many states to restore the gold standard, and a Montana House committee approved legislation invalidating municipal laws against anti-gay discrimination.
Then there’s House Bill 278, authorizing armed citizens’ militias known as “home guards.” With the home guards mobilized, Montana would no longer have to fear a Canadian invasion. And while Montana repels the barbarians from Alberta, New Hampshire is contemplating a state “defense force” to protect it from the marauding Quebecois.
Some of the proposals are ominous: South Dakota would call it justifiable homicide if a killer is trying to stop harm to an unborn child.
Some are petty: Wyoming, following Oklahoma, wants to ban sharia law, even though that state’s 200-odd Muslims couldn’t pose much of a sharia threat.
Some are mean-spirited: Iowa would allow business owners to refuse goods and services to those in gay marriages.
Some are fairly harmless: Arizona took actions to make the Colt Single Action Army Revolver the official state firearm and to create a Tea Party license plate.
And some are just silly: A Georgia bill would require only “pre-1965” silver and gold coins for payment of state debts.
Even if the Tea Party gets its way in the legislature, it won’t be easy to stop residents of Georgia from using their greenbacks — at first. But compliance will undoubtedly increase once the state calls in those helicopter gunships from Kansas.
By: Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, March 15, 2011