Under a new law signed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas late last month, private health insurance plans in that state are no longer permitted to cover abortion unless the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life.
When the proposal was still being debated in the legislature, a Republican state representative asked one of the bill's key proponents to consider women who'd been the victims of rape.
Here's an account of that exchange from the McPherson Sentinel:
Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican who supports abortion rights, questioned whether women would buy abortion-only policies long before they have crisis or unwanted pregnancies or are rape victims.
During the House's debate, Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who supports the bill, told her: "We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"
Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?"
DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have spare tire on my car."
"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."
What seemed to be a sexual violence/flat tire analogy earned Mr. DeGraaf some national attention and the Kansas chapter of NOW was quick to act on it -- they launched a PR campaign, asking for five dollar donations to help deliver actual spare tires to Rep. DeGraaf. Kansas NOW's message, they said, was "Keep your spare, women would rather have their dignity.” Kari Ann Rinker, NOW's state coordinator in Kansas, says the organization has already received $3,000 in donations from all over the country to fund the effort to send spare tires to Rep. DeGraaf.
But yesterday was the official adjournment of the Kansas legislature, so Ms. Rinker and the folks from Kansas NOW headed to Topeka to deliver a few of those tires to Rep. DeGraaf in person, at the Capitol building.
And that's when things got interesting.
First, Ms. Rinker and her spare tires were escorted out of the building itself by Capitol police:
Then, Ms. Rinker moved the NOW press conference and the spare tires to Capitol steps and, from the looks of this tape from KTKA and KWCH, it seems as though she had some more trouble with the Capitol police.
What's with all the misunderstandings about where and how the folks from Kansas NOW are allowed to set up and speak? Here's what some of my former colleagues at KWCH are reporting:
Police twice shut down a press conference by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Wednesday in Topeka. ... espite receiving permission in advance, NOW says they were initially blocked from entering the statehouse with the tires. The group says it was given the go-ahead to bring the tires to the Capitol steps. NOW also says they received permission from the Capitol Police to set up outside the Housechamber.
Police dispute this and say they were deceived about what NOW planned to do in the building. “They went up to the House side and set up their dirty tires,” said Lt. Hatcher.
An officer then came and removed the tires and said told the group they were not allowed to have the tires in the building.
At eleven Wednesday morning, NOW set up their press conference on the South steps as originally planned. Security initially refused to allow the group to set up the tires, but backed down after State Senator David Haley (D-Kansas City) intervened.
Police said they didn’t interfere in the protest on the steps and denied they asked the group to remove the tires. Video from our news partners at KTKA-TV shows police telling NOW leaders to get rid of the tires.
When asked to provide the policy on what items are allowed in the Statehouse and on the capitol steps, the Department of Administration and Capitol Police said they would provide a copy, but later said a formal records request was needed.