Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2011

Brownback draws fresh criticism for choice of appointment to state medical board

July 7, 2011, 11:17 a.m. Updated July 7, 2011, 3:36 p.m.


— Abortion-rights supporters condemned Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's appointment of an attorney who has previously represented anti-abortion protesters to the state board that licenses and regulates doctors, including those who terminate pregnancies.

Attorney Richard Macias of Wichita said Thursday that while he personally opposes abortion he can be fair in analyzing issues before the State Board of Healing Arts. He said his duty as an attorney is to uphold the law.

Kansas already has drawn national attention over new health department regulations for abortion providers, telling them what drugs and equipment they must stock, requiring them to give the department access to their medical records and setting requirements for room sizes and temperatures. The rules have been blocked by a federal judge until a lawsuit from providers is resolved.

Even with such rules, the Board of Healing Arts still would regulate individual doctors, consider allegations of misconduct against them and have the power to fine them or suspend or revoke their licenses. Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican, announced the appointment this week — several weeks after Macias actually joined the medical board.

Federal court records show Macias represented anti-abortion protesters in lawsuits arising from "Summer of Mercy" protests in Wichita in 1991 and 2001. His clients included the national group involved in the protest, Operation Save America, which used to be called Operation Rescue.

"This is yet another play in a full-on war against abortion in Kansas," said Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing abortion providers in the lawsuit against the state's regulations.

Macias said he served as a local lawyer for the group and individual protesters and that most work was handled by "attorneys out of D.C." As for the criticism of him, he said, "They don't know who I am."

"I think if people give me a chance, I think they'll see I do a pretty good job on most issues," he said. "You follow the law."

In the past, abortion opponents have accused the Board of Healing Arts of being too lax in regulating doctors, particularly abortion providers. Anti-abortion groups were especially critical of the board when Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, an abortion-rights supporter, was governor in 2003-09.

State lawmakers adopted resolutions critical of the board in 2008 over multiple cases, leading to the resignation of its longtime executive director and legislation designed to improve the board's oversight.

"Mr. Macias is a well-qualified and very respected attorney who will continue the reforms needed at the Board of Healing Arts," said Brownback's spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag.

The governor appoints the board's 15 members, but their four-year terms are staggered. Macias is the first board member appointed by Brownback, who took office in January.

Macias has handled adoptions for nearly 25 years and says on his website they represent three-quarters of his practice. A Republican, Macias has served as a small-claims court judge for two decades.

He also represented defendants in a 1991 lawsuit brought by two Wichita abortion clinics and the late Dr. George Tiller over protest tactics that limited or blocked access to their buildings. A federal judge ruled against the protesters, but an appeals court later overturned him.

Both of the clinics in that lawsuit have closed. Tiller was murdered in 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.

The other lawsuit involving Macias was filed in 2001 by protesters and Operation Save America after the city refused to grant a permit for two-hour parades twice a day around Tiller's clinic. A federal judge eventually ruled that their rights to free speech and due legal process had been violated.

Macias said the key issue in both cases was the protesters' civil rights and upholding the rule of law.

"I've never been out to protest at a clinic," Macias said. "I do have core values, but again, I just analyze what's before us. I'm a big rules-follower."

Julie Burkhart, founder of the abortion-rights political action committee Trust Women, said anyone who examines Macias' activities will have questions.

"I think his level of objectivity is minimal," said Burkhart, who formerly worked for Tiller. "This could be another tool that's used by the anti-choice administration — I would say the overreaching administration — to harass certain physicians, and those physicians are abortion providers."

Troy Newman, president of the group that now uses the Operation Rescue name, said abortion-rights supporters have had "cronies" in state government for a decade.

"They're going to complain about anybody unless they're part of their pro-abortion clique," Newman said.

A scheduling conference in the lawsuit against the new health department regulations for abortion providers is set for Aug. 16. The department drafted the rules under a new law requiring providers to obtain a special, annual license to continue terminating pregnancies.

The state also enacted laws this year to tighten restrictions on late-term procedures, restrict private health insurance coverage for abortions and require doctors to obtain written consent from parents before performing abortions on minors.

Brownback's critics contend his administration has spent too much time on abortion, diverting attention from the economy.

"Nobody thinks he has his eye on the ball," said Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon.

The governor insists his administration is not distracted, and held a news conference Wednesday to tout work on economic issues.

He said almost all of the proposals on abortion he's signed were passed previously but vetoed by his abortion-rights predecessors, Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

"These are not new topics in the state of Kansas," Brownback said. "It hasn't taken my eye off the ball of us growing and pushing for jobs and job creation."


Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't know why anyone is surprised, this guy was a lousy senator and is a lousy governer. This facist theocrat has made his religious crusade completely visible, and the addled voters have elected him. Live with it. Next time do some thinking. The Islamic Republic of Kansas is closer than you think.


zzgoeb 2 years, 9 months ago

Has anyone noticed it always seems to be men deciding what women can or should do with their bodies? In a country where a fetus is a citizen, money is speech, and corporations are citizens, what could possibly go wrong?


redmoonrising 2 years, 9 months ago

I guess my biggest laugh in this whole article was his saying, at least twice, "You follow the law." And who is making that law?


laughingatallofu 2 years, 9 months ago

"What luck for rulers that men do not think."

Not sure who said it, but Sam has sure taken that and run with it.


Agnostick 2 years, 9 months ago

I love watching the new crop of weeds spring up in the summer...


lunacydetector 2 years, 9 months ago

i like what brownback is doing. he is giving kansas a good reputation. it's long overdue.


Stain 2 years, 9 months ago

Lots of people are figuring out what Brownback's "family values" really are. I don't think people knew what they would be getting when they voted for him. Now they are getting an inkling.


Pastor_Bedtime 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure this guy will be his own worst enemy, will overstep his bounds, and with luck will wind up being run out of town on a rail... just like Phill Kline (but with luck this time he won't have a trunkful of private folks' abortion records in his trunk).


rockchalker52 2 years, 9 months ago

TheSycophant sez:

"Republicans purely for fiscal reasons but are otherwise moderate on social issues need to think long and hard before they support this wingnut of a Governor for re-election."

I wish that would fit on a bumper sticker. What in the world is going on with these people? Brownback, Perry, Bachman, Palin? I mean what kind of kool-ade are they serving at this tea party? You repubs better get a handle on your party or change your zip code to Zealotville.


pace 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't think the government or even citizens have the right to impede a woman's legal civil rights . I respect that some people's religious beliefs are against some of the things that are legal. Some faiths don't allow drinking, dancing, pictures of Mohammad, medical care, medical procedures, abortions. I think church and state should be separate. . I think civil rights should be protected by the government.


average 2 years, 9 months ago

Exactly what is his connection to medical issues?

I mean, the rest of the board are all medical professionals, save Brenda Sharpe, who was the CEO of a non-profit health care related foundation. Macias, is, um, an adoption lawyer?

Just seems like another horse-show-planner-running-FEMA kinda deal to me.


verity 2 years, 9 months ago

"I think if people give me a chance, I think they'll see I do a pretty good job on most issues," he said.

"pretty good job on most issues"

Not exactly a resounding endorsement of himself. Don't think I'd be hired if I said that in a job interview.


Bob Forer 2 years, 9 months ago

I went to law school with Rick. A nice guy, but not what you would call an "intellectual heavyweight." If he is qualified to serve on the State Board, then any Kansas attorney is. This is obviously a rank political appointment based on Rick's strong anti-abortion views. Brownback's choice is hardly surprising, as it is very apparent that Brownback intends to do everything he humanly can to foist his narrow religious beliefs upon the rest of us. Folks who vote Republicans purely for fiscal reasons but are otherwise moderate on social issues need to think long and hard before they support this wingnut of a Governor for re-election.


cowboy 2 years, 9 months ago

The writer is being quite coy in this article.

Macias is the attorney for Operation Rescue , the domestic terrorist anti abortion organization who were quite responsible morally for the murder of George Tiller.

You are judged by the company you keep Brownhack , domestic terrorists !


yourworstnightmare 2 years, 9 months ago

Yet another move by Brownback in the culture wars. Ideological purity is a must under any theocracy. Just ask Iranians.


TheStonesSuck 2 years, 9 months ago

It's not really confusing, these nutjobs are theocrats in power. Can you say Taliban? I'm sure an amendment to change the state to Kansistan is on the horizon. These guys hate us because of our freedom...never had much meaning for me until now.


autie 2 years, 9 months ago

and they support the rights of the fetus, but the feat is to keep supporting the fetus after it becomes a feed us. Then the boys have a big disconnect cause then they just need to get a job.

and here's the rub, it is legal and only your religious based morality makes it murder..depending on who you talk to of course. The bible of those "christians" claim in many places that it is not a life until born. so it all becomes very confusing you see. then add in the health risk in some cases, incest, gross deformity and becomes even more confusing.


Barclay 2 years, 9 months ago

Here's the rub. Abortion is not a "healing art." It is murder and should be illegal. How in the world did taking the life of an unborn child come to be called women's health care?


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