Wendy Wright: A Testimony in Kansas
President, Concerned Women for America
September 7, 2007
Editor's Note: Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, offered the following statement at a joint committee hearing of the Senate and House in Topeka, Kansas.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for holding these hearings to evaluate whether Kansas law on late-term abortions is being enforced. I have found it very informative, and I appreciate you taking the time to look into this troubling situation.
I am Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization, representing 500,000 women. We equip citizens to be engaged in public policy.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. These hearings have shed light on an important law that is clearly not being enforced. And what happens in Kansas does not stay in Kansas. This lack of enforcement affects other states.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's preliminary report on Abortion in Kansas for 2006, 98 percent of third trimester abortions committed in Kansas are on out-of-state women. George Tiller aggressively markets his late-term abortion business nationally and internationally.
States have the legal and moral right to protect women, unborn life and the integrity of the medical profession from abortion, a right upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Legislators work hard to pass these laws to protect their citizens. Yet a letter from George Tiller reveals that he takes advantage of other states' restrictions to recruit women to Kansas to evade their laws. It states:
"I have seen an increase in the number of patients from outside of Kansas as other state laws have become more restrictive." [Emphasis added]
George Tiller is, in essence, boasting that his late-term abortion business has benefited from other states passing laws on abortion. But Kansas has laws restricting abortion. That leads a person to ask: What makes Kansas different from other states?
In other marketing materials, George Tiller brags:
"Wherever you are in the North American continent, someone from your area, state or country has been a patient at Women's Health Care Services."
If you type "Montana abortion" in Google, up comes a listing for Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, Kansas (George Tiller's abortion clinic).
Numerous other state listings for abortion services refer to Women's Health Care Services in Wichita, Kansas, including: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. For Puerto Rico, Tiller's clinic is the first one listed.
There is not an overwhelming lack of medical professionals throughout the United States. Ninety percent of Tiller's late-term abortion clients do not come to Kansas because there is a dearth of doctors in their states.
The fact is that the vast majority of medical professionals will not do late-term abortions. It is undisputed that late-term abortions are more dangerous to women. Even Roe v. Wade recognized that states can restrict late-term abortions because the risk to women increases as the age of the baby increases.
The Supreme Court in Gonzalez vs. Carhart refers to the need for people to learn that late-term abortions are not without consequences to the woman, explaining:
"The State's interest in respect for life is advanced by the dialogue that better informs the political and legal systems, the medical profession, expectant mothers, and society as a whole of the consequences that follow from a decision to elect a late-term abortion."
Serious physical and psychological complications from a late-term abortion may not come to light until the patient returns home. The trauma caused in Kansas does not stay in Kansas - it is exported with the women back to the states which tried to protect them.
Just as health professionals have sound medical and moral reasons for not performing late-term abortions, states have legal and moral reasons for restricting late-term abortions.
The U.S. Supreme Court stated in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, and reaffirmed in Gonzalez vs. Carhart, that "the government has a legitimate, substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life."
It also stated, "The government may use its voice and regulating authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman."
The Supreme Court sees a role for the law to restrain doctors in order to protect the medical community's ethics and reputation. The medical community benefits from legal restrictions.
In Gonzalez it explained, "The government undoubtedly has an interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession."
Laws help ensure that patients, customers and citizens are not at the mercy of those providing a product or service who stand to gain financially.
Laws and regulations shield people from decisions that can have long-term, detrimental consequences. A house may look fine to a buyer, but the government requires an inspection that can detect a cracked foundation. The law guards the buyer from damage that may not show for years to come.
Having a law on the books regarding abortion but not enforcing it gives a false assurance to patients that abortionists are meeting state qualifications and regulations. That is a form of fraud.
Women in Kansas, and those who come to Kansas, fully expect that Kansas enforces its laws and that the state ensures its medical practitioners follow directives intended to protect patients.
However, through these hearings we have learned that George Tiller is defining what the law allows, and the governing officials tasked with overseeing the law have given him free rein to abort viable babies, putting women at great risk.
Allowing the people or industry that a law addresses to be the ones to decide what the law means would be like allowing Enron to define accounting regulations. It would permit the target of the law to have, in essence, a veto over the law.
Prior to Gonzalez vs. Carhart, the courts used to rule that abortion doctors' opinions trumped all others. An abortion doctor could effectively veto laws restricting abortion and override the better judgment of other doctors by suing to overturn the law.
But the Supreme Court changed that in Gonzalez v. Carhart. It declared:
"The law need not give abortion doctors unfettered choice in the course of their medical practice, nor should it elevate their status above other physicians in the medical community."
Tiller's performance of late-term abortions for virtually any reason disguised as a threat to impairing a major bodily function has the practical effect of nullifying Kansas' law.
If Kansas officials do not enforce its law, it effectively emasculates the law. Tiller has taken advantage of the lax attitude of Kansas officials tasked with overseeing the law to aggressively market in other states, in effect rendering other states' laws ineffective.
Even though there has been national attention to Tiller's flaunting of the law, some of these officials claim they cannot know what is going on unless a complaint is filed.
A complaint is only one way to detect illegal or immoral actions. Reports can also detect illegitimate activity. Reporting requirements spread sunshine - they help to identify suspicious activity. Income tax forms are scrutinized by the IRS for discrepancies, campaign finance forms are dissected for evidence of corruption.
The required reports are how we've all learned that Tiller was reciting the law rather than providing individual diagnoses for every late-term abortion and that over 90 percent of his late-term abortion clients came from outside Kansas. Yet Kansas officials - whose job is to monitor these reports and detect suspicious activity - simply filed them.
Remember the last scene in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the long-sought Ark of the Covenant is deposited in a government warehouse? The audience knows that the Ark is as securely lost as it had been for thousands of years.
Reports filed with Kansas authorities on late-term abortions should not follow the fate of the lost Ark of the Covenant, entrusted to government agencies whose mishandling ensures nothing will be done with them.
I would like to address one last item. We have heard testimony regarding babies with Down Syndrome. Presumably the point was that these children should be aborted regardless of their gestational age. Sadly, 90 percent of Down Syndrome babies are aborted. The New York Times recently reported that parents of children with this anomaly have joined in a campaign to educate doctors and parents of the richness of their children's lives. Many of these parents were dissatisfied with how their doctors treated the diagnosis and their baby.
The pressure to abort a disabled baby - especially from the medical community - is intense. The testimony given to this panel from some doctors and genetic counselors reveals this negative attitude toward disabled children.
But that is not what this hearing is about. This hearing is on the Kansas law that addresses the mother's condition and to investigate whether that law is being enforced.
The evidence suggests that many, if not most, of the late-term abortions Tiller has committed were not for the life of the mother or for severe and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. There has been no evidence that the abortions Tiller committed were for, as one witness posited, the pre-diagnosis of post-partum depression that would create future Jeffrey Dahmers.
Too often the messenger is shot so that the message will be ignored. These hearings have helped shed light on the message that Kansans need to hear:
The law on late-term abortion is clear.
George Tiller has mocked this law.
Kansas officials tasked with enforcing the law have not done their job.
Thank you for your attention.
1015 Fifteenth St. N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone: (202) 488-7000
Fax: (202) 488-0806