Follow-Up: Dan Johnson and the Abolition of Abortion in KY Act

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It’s only been 2 months since State Representative Dan Johnson pre-filed the Abolition of  Abortion in KY Act. We wrote about it here.

Just this morning, a 5-part investigative series on Dan Johnson’s past criminality and many outrageous claims was posted at http://longcon.kycir.org. (Content warning: sexual assault). As it happens, the “Pope” of Heart of Fire Church has a 30 year criminal record (including alleged sexual abuse, arson, and illegal liquor sales) and a history of unverifiable, fantastical claims, up to and including the raising of the dead. Johnson’s outrageous claims include setting up a makeshift morgue at Ground Zero on 9/11 since he just happened to be visiting NYC at the time.

On October 28, 2017, Operation Save America figure and head of Apologia Studios, Jeff Durbin, visited Louisville. While in town, Durbin conducted at least 2 separate interviews with Johnson. One interview was outside EMW Women’s Surgical Center and the other was a sit-down interview filmed in a different location. Durbin introduced Johnson on Next Week, his “late night” interview show saying, “He’s bold, he knows the truth, and he knows how we need to go about ending abortion in the states.”
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During the interview, Durbin brings up 9/11. “There’s a 9/11 everyday” and Johnson concurs. Johnson then uses his “first responder” status to justify ending safe, legal abortion:

“Of course being there when all that happened, I watched that happen. I was the chaplain. I did last rites and blessings for everyone out of the towers. And the thing that I live with, and this is the realness… And through the aftermath and the months following…” (Johnson begins tearing up) “…they would use tarps and they would gather up pieces of bodies and parts and what was literally like mush. Most of that had been shoveled up. In these tarps maybe 10, 15, could be 20 people. Pieces and parts of mush. I believe there’s some things that are so so horrid, that humans should never see it. And what was sometimes just floating around in the bottom of the tarp, with big fireman carrying out of what was now known as Ground Zero—this is what I thought about then and there—this is abortion. And you could see hands and fingers, sometimes breasts, parts of bodies, faces in this muck, if you will, of human carnage. Mothers and fathers should never have to see that. I have children, like that young girl. But you know what, maybe there’s a mother out there listening. Maybe there’s a father who knows there’s a child coming. We think about the terrorist attack and we think about horrible bin Laden and the terrorists who brought this about. However you view that, but would you do that to your child?”05E848AA-DE74-4A29-8369-900A152349DC

In a different section of this interview, Johnson says, “This generation is the generation that’s saying why. We’re about to uncover a lot of things that have been covered up for a long time. The reasons for it had to do with people’s own self-interest…” Johnson was talking about an end to abortion, but he may as well have been speaking about his hidden, sordid past. It’s been a long time coming, but Johnson’s status as a controversial lawmaker has dragged his past malfeasance into the light.

 

Sidewalk Snippet 12/07/17

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Typically, I would avoid writing about the rare incidents which involve violating the Louisville Clinic Escorts’ Points of Unity. Maintaining non-engagement is important to our mission of assisting patients seeking healthcare, but I violated that this morning. I seldom break our strict non-engagement policy, but today I was just pushed too far and had to say something to our antis. Our non-engagement policy exists for very good reasons. Our antis want to escalate situations in order to prove that escorts are violent, loud, and evil. Non-engagement de-escalates the situation on the sidewalk, making a calmer environment for patients.

Near the conclusion of our escorting shift this morning, a homeless man walked up to the clinic in order to ask our antis for any money they could spare. I was standing on clinic property about 10 feet away when one of our antis pointed to me and said I was the guy the homeless man needed to speak to. The homeless man approached me and I told him I was sorry but that I didn’t have any money on me. He looked confused and walked back to the antis. The anti once again pointed him to me and I repeated that I did not have any money.

Watching our antis make a sick sport of some of our city’s most vulnerable citizens was too much for me to tolerate. I walked up to this and anti calmly stated that the way they treat homeless people is excessively cruel. This anti said something attempting to rebuff me (I can’t remember his exact words…I was too furious to concentrate). I repeated that they’re excessively cruel, then I walked back to my spot on the property line.

The homeless man once again asked for money from the antis and he was directed to me again. This time, he was angry and confused. He yelled at me that he had a black belt in karate and that he would kick my ass. He then walked away. As I left the sidewalk this morning, this anti yelled after me “Bring some money next time!” I turned to reply but thought better of it and continued walking to my car.

Since I began escorting, I’ve been screamed at, called names, and suffered multiple assaults, but I’m typically able to maintain our non-engagement policy. The main anti in this story is one of the elderly Catholics who protests multiple times a week. He likes to think of himself as my bully. He questions my manhood and has called me “Rocket Man,” a reference to Trump’s insult of Kim Jong Un and a reference to my mixed-race parentage. Those I can weather, but I just couldn’t let his cruelty slide this morning. Do not let the “sweet grandfather/mother” appearance of the elderly antis fool you. We’ve written before about our antis using homeless people as proxies to verbally or physically assault escorts. This morning was just the latest example.

 

BOLD the Future!

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This week, All* Above All, The National Network of Abortion Funds, member funds like Kentucky Health Justice Network, and others are creating spaces for conversations and action planning all around North America. #BOLDtheFuture is this year’s campaign to raise awareness about the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is the federal law which has, for 42 years, defined abortion as the ONLY medical procedure for which medicaid recipients cannot access aid, thus requiring Abortion Funds to make up the difference.

Through these spaces and conversations we make a commitment to be boldly unapologetic in demanding and working for Reproductive Justice. Part of our commitment is to #BeBoldEndHyde through a political strategy to eliminate the amendment. Hyde is not permanent, so first we will vote our way back toward bodily autonomy from municipalities and states to Washington DC, and do away with this unjust law that hurts all of us.

Today, legislatures at state and federal levels are still working regulate people’s bodies and attempt to control our lives – but you know what? We will be bold, and brave, because we have to – and also because we all deserve better.

This video features a POWERFUL message about the kind of oppression that we see five days as week on the sidewalks at EMW. Please watch, and be inspired, then read on to learn more about this week of action. Join us as we #BoldTheFuture right now, and move forward knowing that it’s always the right time to talk about why abortion access is important.

Video transcript here.

Visioning a Bold Future – from National Network of Abortion Funds

IN THE FUTURE… Each of us lives with dignity and respect, and without politicians dictating our decisions.

IN THE FUTURE… The Hyde Amendment no longer punishes low-income people by banning insurance coverage for abortion. No one is forced to delay care, stopped from getting an abortion, or pushed deeper into poverty.

IN THE FUTURE… We get the care we need. Without obstacles, free of shame. With respect, support, and coverage.

When our vision is uncompromising, we BOLD the Future.

For abortion funds and network leaders committed to funding abortion and building power, Bold the Future Week of Action is an opportunity to organize at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice and to center those most impacted and their communities to leverage political and cultural change.

BOLD The Future empowers new and experienced leaders to co-create spaces where they can speak truth to power, connect with others, and devise plans of action that are meaningful to the people impacted.

The National Network of Abortion Funds believes in grassroots, community-led organizing. We believe that sharing stories and connecting around our lived experience begets trust and that, with enough trust, we are willing to take more risks together, make bigger demands for justice together. When we know that our personal narrative is connected to the heartbeat and rhythm of communities we care about all across this network, it becomes clearer what we must do, and it becomes easier to do so unafraid. With a wave of anti-abortion legislation and harassment affecting people we love, it is important now more than ever to dig deep, to build roots of trust, interdependence, and resilience.

To learn more about becoming an individual member of NNAF click here. We suggest you anchor your membership with Kentucky Health Justice Network to stay engaged in what’s happening in Kentucky!

Sidewalk Snippet, 11/9/2017

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Sometimes clients will attempt to explain to antis their reasons for coming to the clinic.

Most times, it is countered with the same often-heard-spiel they give to everyone: “sin,” “God,” “murder,” “irresponsible,” “regret that sort of thing…” Pretty much, the same ones that I have listened to over the years.

Today, though, was a new one to me. A young anti began asking very personal, very detailed, very invasive medical questions of a client, after being repeatedly graciously declined on offers of adoption.

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Young seminarians.

If someone has politely asked you to leave them alone, your next question should not be about the status of their internal reproductive organs.

On the possible parole of Dr David Gunn’s killer.

Last week, a call to action went out asking Clinic Escort groups, and other abortion access supporters to write letters expressing concerns ahead of the upcoming parole hearing for the anti-abortion extremist who murdered Dr David Gunn in Pensacola FL in 1993. David Gunn Jr and family are petitioning the Parole Commission in Tallahassee on November 1, 2017.

Michael Griffin also shot a clinic escort when he killed Dr Gunn. Of course we wanted to write a letter.

 

Here is the letter we sent to the Parole Commission:

To: Parole Commission, Tallahassee FL

From: Louisville Clinic Escorts

October 26, 2017

Dear Parole Board,

It’s come to our attention that the United States Parole Commission will be reviewing the case of Michael Frederick Griffin on November 1, 2017. We want to take this opportunity to express concerns about his possible parole.

This letter is from individuals who volunteer as clinic escorts in Louisville KY. We have first hand experience with truly frightening people who hold extreme beliefs about justifiable homicide, or stopping abortions by any means necessary. Staff and volunteers at clinics everywhere endure verbal aggression and physical threats daily from people who draw inspiration from Michael Griffin. To them, Mr. Griffin is a hero for shooting Dr. Gunn, and a clinic escort in 1993. For that reason we want to submit a firm request to this parole board that you consider the implications of a ripple effect that could be triggered by an early release of this murderer, who may appear reformed before your panel, while in fact being poised to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Already, we’ve seen extreme behaviors from followers of Griffin, and a willingness to break the law up to and including murdering doctors. In 2009 Scott Roeder murdered George Tiller with a bullet to the head in his church in Wisconsin. More recently in 2015, Robert Dear invaded Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains with explicit intent to kill people there with a personal firearm, as well as home-made explosives. In the spring of 2017 we saw members of extremist group Operation Save America intentionally violate federal law at our one Kentucky clinic to test the DOJ’s willingness to persecute FACE Act violations. We know that copy cats like Roeder and Dear draw inspiration from Griffin, and we would see it as Mr Griffin’s responsibility – if reformed – to denounce these behaviors publicly, specifically to anti-abortion groups and individuals. We would ask the parole board to consider Mr Griffin’s perceived willingness to do exactly this and incorporate this demand into potential parole terms.

We also ask that you consider how Mr. Griffin may be accountable for his actions going forward, considering that the approach of restorative justice asks perpetrators to repay their debts by repairing the damage done to those who suffered due to the actions of those who are supposedly reformed. We ask that if Mr Griffin is released, he make a commitment to ensure that others do not draw inspiration from his crime.

Mr Griffin’s actions caused irreparable harm to the friends and family of Dr. David Gunn, as well as clinic staff and volunteers everywhere who’ve had to ask if this work is worth risking our lives, considering that the mindset of extremists like Griffin cannot be jailed. In our minds, justice has not been served for the Gunn family.

In addition to the pain and suffering felt by Dr. Gunn’s family and colleagues, there has been immeasurable impact to countless individuals who did and would have sought care from Dr. Gunn, who were instead forced to seek care from another provider, or go without.

We believe that people can change. If Mr. Griffin has truly had a change of heart, perhaps an adaptation to the original life sentence given to him is reasonable. The responsibility of this parole board in determining whether or not Mr. Griffin is a threat to society is a great one. We ask that any terms of his potential parole be proactive to prevent further damage by actions similar to Mr. Griffin’s.

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some dangerous results that could be triggered by Mr Griffin’s release, even if he himself is not a threat at this time.

Signed:

Louisville Clinic Escorts

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Michael Griffin’s actions didn’t happen in a vacuum, and extremist beliefs cannot be jailed. We think that if Griffin is reformed, there is responsibility beyond being locked up if justice is going to be served, so that people will be able to provide and obtain safe, legal healthcare without needing to worry about personal safety.

Louisville Receives 1.5 Out of 5 Stars in Reproductive Health Index

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Louisville Clinic Escorts and Kentucky Health Justice Network urge City Leaders to Take a Stand and Expand Protections for Reproductive Freedom.

National Institute for Reproductive Health Releases First-Of-Its-Kind Initiative to Evaluate and Lay a Blueprint for Advancing Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice Policies in Cities

About the Local Reproductive Freedom Index

Louisville KY – The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) just released the Local Reproductive Freedom Index, a first-of-its-kind initiative to evaluate the reproductive health, rights and justice policies of 40 U.S. cities including Louisville, which received 1.5 out of five stars.

View the Louisville report HERE!

Louisville Clinic Escorts and Kentucky Health Justice Network are calling upon Louisville Metro Council and Mayor Greg Fischer to advance and protect reproductive freedoms in light of the constant threat from state and federal governments.
Since the GOP took control of the Kentucky legislature in 2015, we have seen multiple unconstitutional abortion restrictions passed into law, plus the satellite location of EMW, which was in Lexington, permanently closed, leaving just one abortion clinic in the entire Commonwealth. Between the legal efforts to eliminate clinics, and consistent verbal and physical attacks and intimidation tactics on the sidewalk outside EMW, we know that access to legal abortions is under constant threat here.
The Local Index focuses on more than just abortion access, though, and shows us that Louisville has a long way to go, especially if city officials want to live up to the “Compassionate City” branding which they so proudly claim with words, while actions tell a different tale.
Using 37 unique policy indicators, NIRH’s Local Reproductive Freedom Index calculates how individual cities are protecting and advancing reproductive rights across a range of categories including access to abortion clinics, funding and coverage for reproductive health care, support for young people and families and advancement of inclusive policies. NIRH also provides a Model City roadmap that can be used to inspire and guide better policies at the local level.
Final scorecard
The Index shows that some cities have already started stepping up to resist the Trump administration’s assault on reproductive healthcare. We are calling on Louisville to use the Index as a guide to improve reproductive freedom and lead the way for the rest of Kentucky.
Local advocates have been working for more than a year to ask Metro Council to make safer sidewalks outside of the only clinic here. Now more than ever we recognize a need for access, and we will continue to work with partners to hold Metro Council accountable, but also to stand firm in Frankfort, as Matt Bevin, Dan Johnson, and others remain determined to put the lives and bodies of individuals at risk for the sake of their beliefs, rather than protecting the rights and families of Kentuckians who deserve access to safe and legal healthcare.
“As the federal government works to strip women of control over their reproductive and sexual lives, and many states move to pass even more draconian anti-abortion restrictions than in previous years, local action is becoming increasingly important,”said Andrea Miller, president of NIRH and the NIRH Action Fund.“Right now, Louisville has an opportunity to advance and protect reproductive freedom, and the Local Index provides a blue print for actions that cities can act upon.”
“The launch of the Local Reproductive Freedom Index is taking NIRH’s city-based advocacy model to the next level,” Miller said.“We know that radical progress starts local–and that now is the time for cities to hold their own and protect their residents.”

Marcie Crim, Executive Director, Kentucky Health Justice Network said “We’re lucky to have some elected officials in Louisville who support reproductive freedom, but we also know there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. With the Local Index, we now have a roadmap of how our city can improve the reproductive health and lives of city residents.”

Advocates, policymakers, and citizens can visit localrepro.org to see how their cities fare and to learn about specific actions they can take to influence positive community change. NIRH will be hosting a public webinar to introduce the Local Index on October 19th and invite folks to join by registering here.

About the National Institute for Reproductive Health

The National Institute for Reproductive Health builds power at the state and local level to change public policy, galvanize public support, and normalize women’s decisions about abortion and contraception.
Using a partnership model, we provide state and local advocates with strategic guidance, hands-on support, and funding to create national change from the ground up. We are a force multiplier–we form strategic partnerships with a wide range of organizations to directly impact there productive health and lives of women across the country. Since 2008, NIRH has provided direct grants and hands-on support to more than 145 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in 37 states and 50 localities across the country.
At the national level, we go where others don’t, engaging in groundbreaking public opinion research, proactive policy initiatives, and innovative advocacy campaigns to shape a new national conversation about reproductive freedom.
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GOOD NEWS!

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In late August, anti-abortion groups successfully purchased the building that Dr Leroy Carhart was operating a clinic in, and terminated the lease abruptly, forcing the clinic to close.

This impacted people from all over the US, and delivered a palpable blow to patients, providers, and abortion funds who had appointments, or made referrals to that clinic.

The good news is: a handful of weeks later (which can translate to higher risk of complications AND a few extra THOUSAND dollars when we’re talking about needing to wait or travel for an abortion) Dr Carhart has been able to secure a new location for his Maryland practice, and is on track to open in just a few days.

This is GREAT news for access! CONGRATULATIONS to all involved in this wonderful development!

What it takes

Infographic from the Third Wave Foundation

The Abolition of Abortion in Kentucky Act

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As you may have seen in recent news reports, a bill has been pre-filed in the Kentucky legislature to outlaw abortion in the state. Due to its cruel and unconstitutional nature, it’s unlikely that the bill will pass and become law, but it may be useful to understand this proposal as it represents an extremist goal post for reproductive healthcare.

070CF9EE-E301-4B56-A1F5-6C50E43FF8E4This bill comes from Representative Dan Johnson, out of Bullitt County. Johnson is the head of Heart of Fire Church on Bardstown Rd, a church with a shocking amount of guns featured on their YouTube page. Johnson is most famous for racist remarks he made on his Facebook page leading up to his election. Despite comparing the Obamas to chimpanzees, he won election into the KY legislature.

The most striking and extreme of the changes to Kentucky Revised Statutes in this bill is the change to Kentucky’s Fetal Homicide laws. Under the Abolition of Abortion in Kentucky Act, Fetal Homicide Laws would apply both to a physician who performs an abortion as well as the person receiving the abortion. This bill would make abortion a capital offense though the death penalty is prohibited.

Curiously enough, KRS 311.760, which defines when a KY woman can receive an abortion (during the first trimester) is left intact. This is likely an oversight which speaks to the incompetent nature of the bill’s authorship.

Laced throughout this bill is language establishing Kentucky state law and the Kentucky state constitution over the laws and judicial decisions of the United States government. If this law were to pass the KY legislature and get signed by Governor Matt Bevin, it certainly would not hold up in court. It is blatantly unconstitutional and contradicts 40+ years of Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights. It’s unlikely to even make it out of the legislature and go to Bevin’s desk, but this GOP-led legislature together with Bevin have a habit of wasting money and resources on bad laws. How much money will KY waste in a vain attempt to antagonize federal authority?

This terrible bill speaks to some of the end goals of the anti-choice movement. Not only does this movement seek to punish abortion providers, but they want the ability to charge anyone who seeks an abortion with a capital crime.

Rusty Thomas Is Lying

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The thing about public records is that they’re public.

Yesterday, September 19, the 11 members of Operation Save America arrested in May had a pre-trial date for their criminal trespassing charges. A member of Louisville Clinic Escorts was present to observe the proceedings, which were over quickly. They were unable to speak with a prosecutor or anyone connected with a case, so we weren’t sure exactly what happened in the proceedings.

Soon after, Rusty Thomas posted a Facebook Live video declaring that the charges had been dismissed by the city and that OSA had found “incredible favor with the city of Louisville.” Needless to say, the LCE community was concerned.

After looking at the public records this morning, it’s clear that the charges against the 11 OSA members have NOT been dropped. Not only that, but the no-contact order for these 11 people is still in place through at least May 14, 2018.

It’s hard to comprehend why Rusty and OSA would be lying about this, especially considering this exists in public record. Rusty’s other assertion in the video, that the federal government would need state charges to be in place to prosecute a FACE Act violation, is also not true.

So to be clear, the Louisville trial for OSA continues May 14, 2018. FACE Act charges have not been filed yet but we hope they will be soon.

Persist

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Supporting abortion access in Kentucky is an unending struggle. Whether the opposition is the Kentucky state government under Matt Bevin’s leadership, the clinic invaders Operation Save America, or their combined efforts, supporters of reproductive justice persist for the benefit of those seeking reproductive healthcare.

When OSA left at the end of July, they did so without ending abortion in KY; without causing a single appointment to be missed; and they did so after galvanizing Louisville, causing citywide disruptions and animosity. The successful resistance to OSA was the result of months of hard work and planning by numerous pro-choice groups in concert with support from Kentucky residents. As EMW Women’s Surgical Center’s case proceeds in District Court this week, Louisville Clinic Escorts would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of these pro-choice organizations as they are and will be instrumental in the coming days, no matter the outcome of the federal trial.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, are directly involved with EMW’s case. Their participation and resources have been integral in building EMW’s case and protecting abortion access.

A Fund is the oldest abortion fund in KY. They help provide abortion funding to hundreds of women yearly.

Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN) provides a range of reproductive support services including direct funding, transportation and interpretation. Additionally, KHJN provides support for trans healthcare services.

-You can also support Louisville Clinic Escorts by sending PayPal donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com

If you’d like something that involves personally showing up for reproductive justice, the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (KRCRC) is sponsoring a rally in support of EMW at the Federal Court House on Tuesday, September 5 at 7PM. Louisville Clinic Escorts are not directly involved with this rally, but welcome the support KRCRC provides.

Finally, LCE would like to thank the community for avoiding pro-choice counter-protests at EMW. Counter-protests often escalate the aggression of anti-choice protestors and create more chaos on the sidewalk. This chaos only creates greater challenges for patients entering the clinic. Please continue respecting the wishes of LCE and EMW staff in this regard.