A few hundred years ago in colonial Massachusetts, the theocratic fascist men who ran that society had a way of dealing with free-thinking women in their midst: they burned them at the stake or drummed up hordes of frightened and unthinking neighbors to stone them to death.
Most of us today imagine that if we had lived in those dark times, we would have stood up against such an outrage. Now is the time to find out.
Salem, Massachusetts of 1690 is alive and well in the state of Kansas, where a thuggish regime of charlatans currently led by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and supported by the terrorist organization Operation Rescue have been hounding doctors who have dared to provide desperate pregnant women of the Midwest with access to safe abortions out of business and literally to death. (It was after a botched attempt by these theological fascists to charge and convict Dr. George Tiller of operating his abortion clinic in the state illegally that Scott Roeder, a fevered backer and confidante of activists in Operation Rescue, made the decision to kill the doctor, shooting him in the face as he greeted parishioners at his church on Sunday.)
Today, the target of Gov. Brownback and his fellow women haters and religious fanatics is Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus. A courageous physician, Neuhaus was long one of the few doctors in this benighted state, dubbed Brownbackistan by Neuhaus and her journalist/farmer husband Michael Cadell, to offer abortions. From 1999-2007 she acted as a consultant to whom Dr. Tiller could refer women and young girls — many the victims of rape and incest — for a second opinion required by the state.
The urgent issue today is a hearing, set for March 8 — ironically on International Women’s Day — of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts — a body that oversees the licensing of doctors, chiropracters and other medical professionals. This board has been stacked over the years of Republican control of state government with hacks and shills for the anti-abortion movement, including people with close links to Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion organization that has terrorized women seeking abortions at clinics across the country, and that has inspired a number of clinic bombings and even the murders of abortion doctors. Some of the members aren’t even doctors. For example, a recent Brownback appointee to the board was Rick Macias, a lawyer for Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion organizations.
Neuhaus’s problems began in 2006, when a convicted felon, Cheryl Sullenger (who served time in federal prison for her role in a 1988 plot to blow up a California abortion clinic, who was and is a close associate of Roeder and who is a senior policy advisor to Operation Rescue), filed a complaint with the Board of Healing Arts, alleging on no evidence that Dr. Neuhaus had not been adequately evaluating the women seeking abortions at Dr. Tiller’s clinic, or properly documenting their files.
During a lengthy investigation, based upon the word of this convicted felon, the board used lies and deception to steal Dr. Neuhaus’s confidential patient medical files, first asking her to bring them with her to a hearing “for reference purposes,” with the promise that they would not be taken from her, and then confiscating them all at the hearing.
Dave Lindorff is the founder of the news site ThisCantBeHappening.net, now a news collective consisting of journalists Lindorff, John Grant, Linn Washington and Charles M. Young.