Laura Wilkerson

Laura Wilkerson
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Salon.com
JUNE 8, 2012 3:23PM

Kansas, Bloody Kansas

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            A story caught my eye the other day about a Federal Judge denying a temporary injunction against Angel Dillard who had written an alarming letter to abortion provider Doctor Mila Means.
            Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled that the letter Ms. Dillard sent, in which she advised Dr. Means that, “thousands of people are looking into your background,” and that the Doctor should be, “checking under your car everyday because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.”
            Judge Marten reasoned that, “The First Amendment is the absolute bedrock of this country’s freedom, and I think the ability to express an opinion on a topic that is important to one—even if it’s controversial—has to be protected so long as a line is not crossed to become a true threat. I don’t know if this letter constitutes a true threat.
            Dr. Means is slated to begin offering late-term abortion services in Wichita, Kansas. There are only two clinics nationwide that offer abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy. The clinic in Wichita has been closed ever since the murder of Doctor George Tiller in 2009 who was shot dead while attending services at his Church.
            Angel Dillard, a long-time anti-abortion activist and devout Republican who was featured in the film What’s the Matter With Kansas?
            Judge Marten did concede that the letter written by Ms. Dillard was “intimidating,” so it’s hard to understand how he could opine that the Federal Government’s civil case against Ms. Dillard under the Freedom of Access to Clinics Ace (FACE Act) is “pretty questionable” when the FACE Act specifically makes illegal “intimidation and threats of violence against abortion providers and those seeking reproductive health services,” and Ms. Dillard, in addition to warning Dr. Means that, “They will know your habits and routines. They will know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live,” has also expressed admiration for, and maintained written contact with, Scott Roeder, the man convicted of the murder of Dr. George Tiller.
            This made me curious to find out more about Judge J. Thomas Marten. I found that he had been appointed to the Federal bench by President Bill Clinton and that he had recently blocked a law designed to block funding to Planned Parenthood in Kansas, but it was another, earlier case that really caught me attention.
            Back in 2006, radical Republican Attorney General for Kansas, Phill Kline, issued an opinion that a 1983 law that mandated the reporting of suspected cases of child sexual abuse also include consensual sexual activity between peers. Before the law was interpreted to give mandatory reporters discretion in reporting sexual activity occurring between peers and only mandated reporting when an adult was involved in a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent; which would be 16 in Kansas, or a person in a position of authority was taking sexual advantage of someone under their care and control.
            The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging Attorney General Kline’s interpretation of that law, arguing that such reporting, “discourages adolescents from seeking counseling and medical treatment and violates their rights to informational privacy.”
            At issue was the question of whether underage sex is always injurious as a District Court in Kansas had already enjoined Phill Kline back in 2003 from enforcing this interpretation of the statue on the grounds that it would mean young people, especially young women, seeking contraception or young people who discuss getting to first base with a peer to a counselor or therapist would be turned over to the State for investigation. The District Court held that sexual exploration by same-age peers is not always “injurious,” and that reporting must be left on a case-by-case basis. There had been no question that sexual relations with an adult, sexual relations with anyone under the age of twelve, and incest must always be reported.
            When elected Attorney General of Kansas, Phill Kline launched an “Inquisition,” which is the actual legal term under Kansas law, to secretly investigate Planned Parenthood and Dr. George Tiller for supposed violations of Kansas law. Attorney General Kline then subpoenaed the medical records of every woman who had underwent an abortion at Planned Parenthood in Kansas in the guise that he was investigating child sexual abuse and Planned Parenthood’s alleged failure to report such abuse. The Kansas Supreme Court eventually ruled in 2006 that Planned Parenthood hand over 29 redacted medical reports, which it did at around the same time Phillip Kline was defeated for reelection.
            Even though he had been fired by the people as their Attorney General, Attorney Kline was appointed District Attorney of Johnson County to complete the term of the man who defeated him, Paul Morrison, by the Republican Party.
            As Attorney General, Paul Morrison reviewed the records and concluded there had been no criminality afoot and dropped the case. Not so easily thwarted, Phill Kline, who had made copies of the redacted records, and, despite a Court Order to return the records which he had stored in various unsecured places, District Attorney Kline kept the records and used them as a basis to file 107 charges against Planned Parenthood which a Grand Jury in Johnson County rejected.
            Dr. George Tiller, who was being tried misdemeanor charges that one of the doctors who provided separate opinions in late term abortion cases was not truly independent as required by Kansas law, was acquitted of all 19 charges in April, 2009; one month before he was murdered by Angel Dillard’s pen-pal.
            In addition to finding that underage sex was not always injurious, Judge Marten also noted the “huge hypocrisy” inherent in the interpretation. Attorney General Kline had testified that “only significant penetrative acts,” had to be reported and that while oral sex performed on a female had to be reported, oral sex performed on a male need not be; apparently in the belief that penetration of the vagina with a tongue is “significant” while penetration of the mouth by a penis is not; while Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulson, also named as a defendant in the case, testified that any type of sexual activity, even over the blouse fondling of a female’s breast, must be reported by anyone who suspects that sort of thing is going on.
            The Kansas State Legislature later amended the 1983 law to make clear they did not intend to mandate the reporting of sexual exploration between same-age peers and that reporting in such cases should be left to the mandated reporter’s discretion while Phill Kline, who lost his election campaign to try and hold on to Paul Morrison’s old job and was then santioned with the indefinate suspension of his license to practice law in Kansas over ethical violations relating to his actions in the Planned Parenthood case, went on to become a Visiting Professor of Law at the seriously misnomered Liberty University located in the perfectly named Lynchburg, Virginia, where he teaches classes on, among other topics, Constitutional Law, Prolife Legal Advocacy and “Lawyering Skills.”   
            In saying that over-the-blouse fondling between two 15-year-olds could be construed as “child sexual abuse” it makes one wonder if, like in Tennessee, hand-holding would be considered “gateway sexual activity,” to the mortification of every parent of a young child just trying to cross the street.
            It seems the problem with such a worldview, one that considers children personal property to be molded into the image of the parent, is that childhood is just one point on a continuum to adulthood and all of our personal choices go in to making us the people we are today. It seems these people not only want to be free to raise their children as they see fit, they also expect society at large to conform to their narrow worldview.
            Many of these Conservatives who push for stringent anti-abortion laws and abstinence only sex education in schools are also the sort of Conservative people who push the notion of “Courtship Dating,” on their children under the philosophy of, “young adults seeking each other under their parents' supervision for the purpose of finding a spouse in the will of God.” This world view holds that, “Your parents have first and final approval on all the people you are likely to be romantically involved with,” and commands one to, “submit yourself to God.” All physical contact, including hand-holding, is forbidden until after marriage.
            It is often heard from those of the Right that “People of Faith should not be excluded from the Public Square,” but we have seen time and time again, With the Catholic Church, with Jimmy Swaggart, with Jim Bakker and with Ted Haggard the “People of Faith” does not always equate with good moral value so perhaps instead of holding an amorphous “People of Faith” up as a shining example to follow we instead value in the Public Square those people of Good Moral Values rooted in the Constitutional Ideals of Individual Liberty and grounded in shared common virtues whether they those virtues are extrapolated from The Golden Rule or the Prime Directive and the rest of the hypocrites can follow St. Matthew’s advice and go back into their closets to pray being careful not to let the door hit them where the Good Lord split them.

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As much as I abhor that message and the viewpoint it represents, I have to agree with the judge that the writer is not really threatening action.