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Still Burning Witches in Kansas

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.

Although Dr. Neuhaus now has no medical practice, having herself placed her medical license in inactive status while studying for a master’s degree in public health at the University of Kansas Medical Center, where she sees patients on welfare, the rabid fundamentalist thugs doing Brownback’s political bidding on the Board of Healing Arts are nonetheless continuing their inquisition against her.

A negative ruling by the board permanently revoking Neuhaus’s medical license would be bad enough, but Neuhaus and her husband worry that this would only be the beginning. There are rumors that state and county prosecutors in the pocket of the governor have been preparing to jump in after that with a criminal indictment against her. As the family (the couple have a teenage son) is already in dire financial straits because of the years of unrelenting attacks by the anti-abortion movement and the political charlatans playing this Medieval theme for all it’s worth in this Bible-belt state, even an indictment could land her in jail, unable to post bail.

It’s time for all those Americans out there who like to think that they would have stood up against the witch-burners of Salem to take that stand now in defense of this current victim of the same kind of religious witch-hunting. Stand up for Ann Kristin Neuhaus and women everywhere against the politically grandstanding Gov. Brownback and his religious fanatic backers.

For information, articles about the case, transcripts of last fall’s Board of Medical Arts hearings, to sign a petition of support, and to offer any financial help you can, please go to: http://brownbackistan.wordpress.com

For an excellent story about Dr. Neuhaus, go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/950

And be sure to listen Sunday at 5 pm Eastern time (4 pm Central) to Mike Cadell’s Radio Free Kansas “Secular Sunday” radio program on Blog Talk Radio.

Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia. 

 

 

 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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