Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is something the matter with Kansas? Or are we pretty normal?

This headline on MSNBC caught my eye tonight:

Kansas is deadly epicenter in abortion debate
Mass protests, lawsuits and killing of doctor keep issue on front lines

I can personally attest that the abortion issue seems to have been front and center in all the time I have lived in Kansas. In high school, I was co-founder of a (small) group of students calling ourselves Students for Choice. We testified before a state senate subcommittee on the issue of parental notification. (We even made the evening news!) My friends went to Wichita in the summer of 1991 to act as escorts at Dr. Tiller's clinic. (My father had heart surgery that summer, so I stayed home to take care of him, or I would have gone, too.)

I moved back to Kansas in 2001. Since then, abortion has never been far from the front page because of Phill (yes, he really does spell it that way) Kline's election to the office of Attorney General in 2002. Once in office, he relentlessly pursued investigations into Dr. Tiller and the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Kansas City suburbs. There has been almost constant litigation since, including at least 2 (3?) cases before the Kansas Supreme Court. Kline's single-minded focus on abortion became the major issue in his re-election campaign in 2006. (That and his tenuous grasp on the professional rules of conduct.) But even when we the people ran him out of office in 2006, he somehow landed on his feet as the District Attorney with jurisdiction over the Planned Parenthood clinic. So the madness continued. And the silly charges that Kline filed against Dr. Tiller managed to stick around until a jury finally took all of about 20 minutes to acquit the doctor this spring. And, of course, with Sunday's awful incident, every major newspaper in Kansas has at least 3 stories daily about Dr. Tiller's murder.

So seeing this article on MSNBC made me wonder: do we in Kansas have a skewed perception of how big the abortion fight is? Are stories about abortion regularly in the news in, say, Michigan or Washington or New Hampshire? I know that it is a hotly contested issue everywhere, with deeply-held beliefs on both sides. I guess I'm just wondering if we really have been subjected to a more ever-present, in-your-face type debate here in this state.


Meryl said...

I think a lot of Kansans are very practical about it all, actually. For example, I can't think of anyone I know that would force a woman to have a baby if the mother's life/health were seriously at risk, even if it was pretty late in the pregnancy. Definitions of "health" may differ, of course, but on the general principle I think there are very few people who would really disagree.

At the same time, it often seems that there's so much mistrust and nasty rhetoric that it makes it hard to find that common ground. Statistics are never neutral, which makes it hard to believe anything the "other side" is saying. In my humble opinion, if you could get past the propaganda that there are legions of women using abortions "as birth control", that right there would solve a lot. But I don't know what you compromise from the anti-abortion point of view to get there. I mean, do women have to prove that they were at least trying to use some form of birth control to be allowed to get an abortion? I certainly can't agree to that.

What was the question again?

Oh yeah, is Kansas worse.

I think it is. I think the "battle" has been at least somewhat already been won on the coasts--although a few bad judicial picks could change that--but, like fashion trends, sometimes progressive views take longer to reach the Midwest. So maybe it's not that Kansas is worse, maybe it's just that we're ten or twenty years behind?

PunditMom said...

Phill was in my law school class. I hate what he has done and am so ashamed to think his law degree came from the same place as mine. :(

S said...

I would love to know what Phil-double-l was like in law school. (But I am not asking you to spill stories; I am just pondering in my own mind.)

I would also feel ashamed if he had graduated from my law school, but then, I'm sure that if I looked through the graduates of my school, I would find one or two doing things now that I find reprehensible.

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