Kansas women protest anti-abortion advocate Governor Sam Brownback, 2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
2012
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Topeka, Kansas
Goals: 
To prevent the state legislature from passing any version of SB 62, and subsequently to prevent the governor of Kansas from signing House Substitute for SB 62 into law.
 

In January 2011, Governor Sam Brownback took office in the U.S. state of Kansas. In rapid succession, strict new anti-abortion legislation passed through both houses of the state legislature.

Brownback signed into law new restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion, parental consent clauses for minors, blocks on Planned Parenthood funding (including that for non-abortion services), and limits on late-term abortion. Many of these measures went into effect during summer 2011.

On 26 January 2011, the Kansas Senate’s Committee on Judiciary introduced Senate Bill (SB) 62. The bill, nicknamed the “conscience” bill, allowed heath care providers to elect whether to provide birth control or participate in abortion procedures, even in life-threatening cases. Under the bill, pharmacists could elect not to dispense drugs if they believe they could terminate a pregnancy. Physicians would also be protected from repercussions for refusing to refer patients to other doctors who would conduct abortion procedures.

The bill also included a stipulation that abortion providers would be required to tell patients that abortion would raise their risk of developing breast cancer—a claim that has been refuted by a large number of cancer research and OB/GYN physicians’ groups worldwide. The bill was received by the House of Representatives on 16 February, and referred the next day to the House Committee on the Judiciary. Lawmakers discussed and amended the bill in committee for about a year following its introduction.

On 27 February 2012, as work on the bill neared completion, Governor Brownback reiterated his campaign promise to sign any anti-abortion bill brought to him.

Around 13 March 2012, reports emerged that a group of OB/GYN doctors had announced their intention to hold a sex strike in protest of the bill. A Texan organization called Liberal Ladies Who Lunch also announced their support of the idea and their intention to organize protest of the “Conscience” bill in Kansas. Founder Annette Maxberry-Carrara stated that the sex strike was a necessary tactic for demonstrating the value of contraception and abortion access for both men and women. The strike was reportedly organized in cooperation with an Occupy Wall Street solidarity group in Kansas.

Organizers used word-of-mouth, Facebook event announcements, and posts on internet forums to promote awareness of the strike. Forum posts from as early as 15 March 2012 indicate organizing efforts for a one-week sex strike from 28 April – 5 May. Organizers stated that women would tell their partners that if they had any questions, concerns, or frustrations about the sex strike, that they should call Governor Brownback’s office to complain.

Simultaneously, the group began using a tactic of “sarcasm-bombing” Governor Brownback’s social media pages. Comments from both men and women flooded Brownback’s Facebook page, asking about sexual health and contraception. The satirical posts, which all emphasized Brownback’s decision-making authority, included satirical requests to schedule pap smears asking “Aren’t you taking care of all this now?” and requests to “turn in” to Brownback any wives who failed to conceive following intercourse. Brownback reportedly deleted a large number of comments on 15 March, but blogs and other online sources had by then already copied and republished the content, further publicizing the group’s criticisms of Brownback.

On 29 March 2012, the House passed its substitute bill for SB 62 after more than a year of deliberations and alterations.

On 28 April 2012, 300 people marched in Topeka to protest the bill passed by the House. Protesters marched from the Brown v. Topeka memorial to the steps of the state capital building. That same day marked the first day of the highly-publicized one-week sex strike. On 2 May, while the sex strike was still ongoing, the Senate approved the House Substitute for its original bill. The sex strike ended on 5 May. 5 days later, Governor Brownback signed the bill into law. The law went into effect beginning 1 July 2012.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The choice of lysistratic nonaction as the central tactic was influenced by several campaigns, including a 2006 campaign in Colombia, a 2009 campaign in Kenya, and a 2011 campaign in Belgium. (1)

Sources: 
Associated Press. “Kan. Senate Passes Abortion Bill, Sending It Gov.” Associated Press State Wire: Kansas (KS), May 3, 2012. http://docs.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/s/InfoWeb/aggdocs/AWNB/13E87A7078708C20/644AAFF92FD74F1AAF1EE7B0E444B16E?s_lang.

Celock, John. “Kansas Abortion Bill: Governor Sam Brownback Likely To Sign Sweeping Legislation.” Huffington Post, February 29, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/kansas-abortion-bill-governor-sam-brownback_n_1307076.html.

Cooper, Brad. “Brownback Signs ‘conscience Act’ Letting Pharmacists Refuse to Provide Drugs They Believe Might Cause Abortion.” Wichita Eagle, The (KS), May 14, 2012. http://docs.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/s/InfoWeb/aggdocs/AWNB/13EC985B1460A4F0/644AAFF92FD74F1AAF1EE7B0E444B16E?s_lang.

Edwards-Levy, Ariel. “‘Sex Strike’: Liberal Women’s Group Finds New Way To Support Contraception Coverage.” Huffington Post, March 13, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/sex-strike-contraception-_n_1342266.html.

Freeman, Kate. “Kansas Governor Deletes ‘Sarcasm Bombing’ from Facebook Wall.” Mashable, March 16, 2012. http://mashable.com/2012/03/16/kansas-governors-facebook/.

Hanna, John. “Kan. Abortion Foes Struggle to Get Bills Passed.” Topeka Capital-Journal, The (KS), April 22, 2012. http://docs.newsbank.com.proxy.swarthmore.edu/s/InfoWeb/aggdocs/AWNB/13E54DE9EAC785D8/644AAFF92FD74F1AAF1EE7B0E444B16E?s_lang.

June, Daniel. “Women’s Group Calls for Sex Strike to Bring Opponents of Contraceptive Mandate to Their Knees.” JD Journal, March 13, 2012. http://www.jdjournal.com/2012/03/13/womens-group-calls-for-sex-strike-to-bring-opponents-of-contraceptive-mandate-to-their-knees/.

Kansas Legislature. Bills and Resolutions: H Sub SB 62, May 11, 2012. http://www.kslegislature.org/li_2012/b2011_12/measures/sb62/.

KansasExposed.org. “Women’s Rights Groups March on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.” Kansas Exposed, April 29, 2012. http://kansasexposed.org/2012/04/29/womens-rights-groups-march-on-kansas-governor-sam-brownback/.

Norman, Bud. “Sex Strike in Kansas.” The Central Standard Times, March 27, 2012. http://centralstandardtimes.com/2012/03/27/sex-strike-in-kansas/.

Peterson Beadle, Amanda. “Kansas Anti-Abortion Bill Would Force Doctors To Warn Women Of False Cancer Risk,” May 4, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/05/04/478174/kansas-anti-abortion-bill-would-force-doctors-to-warn-women-of-false-cancer-risk/.

proud2BlibKansan. “Women to Go on Sex Strike in Response to Brownback’s Bill - Democratic Underground,” March 15, 2012. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002430007. Forum post.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Mar Firke 06/04/2014