In Kentucky, This Is What the War on Abortion Rights Looks Like

kentucky_abortion_clinic_0413

By Lucy Westcott On 4/16/17 at 8:20 AM

Saturday is usually the busiest day for protests outside EMW Women’s Clinic in Louisville, the last remaining abortion provider in Kentucky that came dangerously close to shutting down last week.

As women walk to and from the clinic and the parking lot, volunteers dressed in bright orange vests walk alongside them, forming a human barrier against an angry and increasingly violent mass of protesters yelling hateful remarks and waving signs. One protester likes to shove her sign into the escorts’ faces. Another, known as Backwards Bob, preaches at the women as he walks backwards in front of them, forcing himself into their line of vision.

Kate Lafferty, a graduate student and volunteer at the clinic, says escorts are posted at different points in a one-block radius around the clinic where patients walk, including on street corners or in an alleyway that leads to a parking garage. On a Saturday in late March, Lafferty was one of 45 escorts at EMW protecting the women seeking abortions from roughly 75 yelling, crying and preaching protesters.

“We’re always in sight of one another,” she says. “You see the familiar [protesters] and it’s definitely shocking.”

A federal judge ruled this week that the Kentucky clinic serving thousands of women annually can stay open—for now. But state lawmakers are looking to shut down the facility in a move that would make Kentucky, which already has some of the strictest laws limiting women’s reproductive healthcare, the only state in the nation without an abortion clinic.

The battle in Kentucky reflects renewed efforts across the nation from Republican-led state legislatures and a GOP majority in Congress to limit women’s right to abortion access. The assault is also coming from the new White House, where President Donald Trump signed a bill Thursday allowing states to withhold federal Title X family planning funding from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions.

“Those of us who have been involved with access to abortion since the 1970s know that we’re more facing pre-Roe v. Wade days now than making any progress,” says Kate Cunningham, president of A Fund, an all-volunteer organization that has been helping Kentucky women pay for abortions since 1993. “Before Roe, there were women driving through the night to take women from Louisville to New York to access abortion. We hope and trust we don’t have to go back there, to those days, but that’s where we are. It’s so tough.”

In Kentucky, lawmakers argue that the Louisville clinic violates state requirements that such facilities have emergency medical agreements with a hospital and an ambulance service. Abortion rights activists note these kind of rules are excessive and not medically necessary, and in March, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Louisville clinic to try to keep it open.

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers issued a temporary restraining order in March against the state of Kentucky, which had threatened to shut down the clinic on April 3. That move would have made Kentucky the first state without a legal provider. Stivers then signed an order Monday to keep the clinic open until the lawsuit is resolved, and the clinic’s license has been renewed through May 31, 2018. The trial is set to begin in the first week of September.

If Kentucky does become the first state to lose all providers, it would result in even bigger barriers for women, says Elizabeth Nash, state issues experts at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank based in New York. Not only will women have to travel longer distances to receive care, but clinics in surrounding states will have a bigger demand that will likely result in longer waiting times for an extremely time-sensitive procedure.

“Travel costs money, so do hotel rooms,” says Nash. “Not everybody gets paid time off. Essentially, you would be losing out on earning money. It balloons.”

But order or not, getting a termination remains an enormous challenge in Kentucky. Lafferty, 29, has been escorting at EMW for the past four months with her husband, Patrick Danner. Originally from New Jersey, she says it was a jolt to arrive in Kentucky and see how difficult it is to obtain an abortion compared to her home state and most of the northeastern United States.

“Having people preaching at you, holding up signs,” she says. “That was definitely a shock to me.”

Lafferty says she’s been called a murderer and told by protesters that women’s bodies are only good for one thing: reproducing. “Clients are quite shocked” by it, too, she says.

Fausta Luchini, 61, has volunteered as a clinic escort at EMW for the past eight years. During that time, she has seen the situation outside the clinic deteriorate as protesters have become increasingly aggressive. Photos sent by Luchini to Newsweek show protesters shoving large signs in escorts’ face, or getting uncomfortably close.

“The goal of escorts is to hold space for the client so the client is empowered to do what they want to do. That means that we really ignore, or do the best we can to ignore, the protesters,” says Luchini. “Many clients are really upset. Being with somebody and doing that walk with somebody who is crying, who is just in distress; emotionally, it can be difficult that way.”

“Chasers,” or protesters who follow patients and talk, preach or cry at them, all while invading their personal space, are another issue for Luchini and the women she escorts. “One in particular likes to walk in front of them and walk backwards,” she says. “We call him Backwards Bob.”

Once, the protesters discovered Luchini’s name, Googled her and found her mother’s obituary, which was read out to her during an escorting session.

“That was kind of bizarre,” she says. “That was unsettling.”

Related: Kentucky’s last clinic saved from ‘imminent closure’

Part of Luchini’s job as an escort is figuring out the safest way to move patients from their car to the clinic while avoiding protesters who have become increasingly aggressive. Although there’s an eight-foot safety barrier between the clinic and the protesters, EMW opens onto the street, meaning demonstrators can essentially stand anywhere except inside the building. The majority of the patients Luchini escorts come from Kentucky, although some travel from Indiana, which has 11 abortion clinics in all, but only 44 percent of all women live in counties with such facilities.

A spokesperson for the Psalms 82 (P82), a Christian anti-abortion group with a strong presence outside the Louisville clinic, tells Newsweek that its members are “not surprised at all by the judge’s order to keep [EMW] open. We expected it.” The group is known to film clients as they go to their appointments, says Lafferty.

Nash says Kentucky is one of seven states that have a single abortion provider left, joining West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi and Wyoming. It’s part of a decades-long decline in abortion providers, whether it’s due to better access to contraceptives — and therefore fewer unintended pregnancies and fewer abortions — or state-level regulations that have kept new doctors from becoming abortion providers.

“The political landscape has changed in Kentucky and the Legislature has now made it its business to not only restrict abortion access through legislation, but also restrictions to family planning services,” says Nash, citing a recent law in Kentucky allowing the state to withhold state funds to clinics, including Planned Parenthood, that provide only family planning services. “There’s a real landscape change for reproductive health in Kentucky.”

Kentucky women unable to pay for a termination in their home state can obtain help from Cunningham’s A Fund. Last year, the organization helped 416 Kentucky women pay for abortions in seven states, including Kentucky; in 2015, that number was 314, says Cunningham. The average fiscal assistance provided by A Fund last year was $114, ranging from payments of $50 to $2,000.

“Many women find it more geographically convenient to go out of state for an abortion than come to Louisville,” says Cunningham.

Women in western Kentucky might go to Granite City, Illinois, while those in Bowling Green might go to Nashville, Tennessee. Women in northern Kentucky tend to travel to Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio for their abortions, and women in southeastern Kentucky go to Knoxville, Tennessee.

“Those states also have rather arduous so-called informed consent requirements, so women have to go and stay for a couple of days or make a couple of trips,” says Cunningham. “There’s nothing easy about it.”

Don Cox, a lawyer for EMW, is looking ahead to the first week of September, when the court case is set to begin. He says it’s “irrational that we should have to waste our time and effort dealing with stupid regulations and statutes like these.”

Related Stories

Cunningham, in the meantime, says she’s working with escorts and others to try and establish at 20-ft safety zone at the clinic’s entrance to better protect the “heroic” volunteers. Until then, EMW escorts will continue donning orange vests and walking women to the clinic doors, protecting their constitutional right to have a termination.

“When a woman comes to EMW to get an abortion, she has already overcome some tremendous barriers,” says Luchini. “The protesters are just the last hurdle. They don’t see themselves that way, but that’s all they are.”

“It’s the last thing they gotta conquer.”

CONTINUE READING…

Kentucky Reaches Settlement in Radioactive Waste Dumping

Image result for radioactive waste

Kentucky officials have reached a $168,000 settlement with one of the companies accused of being involved in the dumping of radioactive waste in a landfill.

| April 14, 2017, at 4:26 p.m.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky officials said Friday they reached a $168,000 settlement with one of the companies accused of being involved in dumping radioactive waste in an Appalachian landfill.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services said it reached the settlement with Fairmont Brine Processing, which operates a wastewater treatment facility in West Virginia.

Kentucky officials accused Fairmont Brine of arranging to dispose of radioactive waste in an Estill County landfill in eastern Kentucky. The company had appealed its more than $1 million civil penalty order issued by the state cabinet late last year.

The state said Fairmont Brine contracted with a Kentucky company called Advanced TENORM Services to pick up, transport, treat and dispose of the waste. Some of it ended up in Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County, the state said.

Fairmont Brine denied all liability but agreed to pay the $168,000 civil penalty over a 30-month period, the state said.

“All settlement proceeds will be directed to the Estill County Public Health Department,” cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said in a release. “The funds will be used for radiation-related public health issues in Estill County, particularly radon education and detection.”

Fairmont Brine was one of several companies targeted with civil penalty orders related to disposal of out-of-state radioactive material in Kentucky.

Fairmont Brine cooperated with Kentucky authorities, the cabinet said.

The company maintained it did not intend to violate Kentucky laws. When it contracted with Advanced TENORM Services to dispose its waste, Fairmont Brine relied on the other company’s claims that the waste would be safely and legally deposited in Kentucky, the cabinet said.

Monitoring and testing of areas at Blue Ridge Landfill have shown no evidence the disposal caused radiation or radioactive contamination above federal and state safety limits, the cabinet said.

When the state announced the penalties in 2016, it was also seeking fines from Advanced TENORM. The company is appealing the penalty order against it, the state said.

CONTINUE READING…

Executive Committee of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs will meet next week in Frankfort.

MEDIA ADVISORY

Contact: Colleen Pomper
502-564-2611
cpomper@ky.gov

Meeting Notice

Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs – Executive Committee

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 14, 2017) – The Executive Committee of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs will meet next week in Frankfort.

Who:

Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs

What:

Executive Committee Meeting

When:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
10:00 a.m. (EDT)

Where:

Boone National Guard Center
EOC Conference Room
100 Minuteman Parkway
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

###


Governor of Kentucky

Questions? Contact us

Legendary pot grower Johnny Boone, leader of Kentucky’s ‘Cornbread Mafia,’ back in U.S.

636270046066628711-boone.jpg

John “Johnny” Boone, the leader of Kentucky’s “Cornbread Mafia,” once the nation’s largest domestic marijuana producing organization, is back in the United States after eight years on the lam.

Boone, who was once featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” was apprehended in Canada in December 2016 and was ordered detained Wednesday after appearing in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont, about 90 miles south of Montreal.

He had been extradited to the U.S. and will be transported to Louisville soon, according to Kraig LaPorte, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Burlington. Wendy McCormick, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Louisville, said it could be a week or two before he is flown to Louisville on a U.S. Marshal Service flight.

Boone, 73, a legendary figure in central Kentucky, faces charges on a 2008 indictment that accused him of growing and distributing marijuana on his farm in Springfield, where more than 2,400 marijuana plants allegedly were found by Kentucky State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The government is also trying to force him to forfeit cash, vehicles, a handgun and an AR-15 rifle.

He fled after a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he faces up to life in prison if convicted.

►EARLIER COVERAGE: ‘Cornbread Mafia’ fugitive in court

Federal prosecutors in Vermont requested his detention, saying he faces a long prison term and at age 73 has a strong incentive to flee. The motion also noted that he’d lived illegally in Canada for eight years, “which alone renders him a flight risk.”

The Cornbread Mafia, a group of mostly Kentuckians, pooled their money, machinery, knowledge and labor to produce $350 million in pot seized in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, prosecutors said in 1989.

The organization operated on isolated farms in nine Midwestern states, some of which were guarded by bears and lions, and by workers described by the government as a “paramilitary force.” Boone’s exploits were the subject of a book, “Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code Of Silence And The Biggest Marijuana Bust In American History,” by Kentucky freelance writer James Higdon.

U.S. Attorney Joe Whittle said in 1989 that marijuana had been seized at 29 sites, including 25 farms outside Kentucky. Sixty-four Kentucky residents were charged, 49 of whom lived in Marion County.

The detention motion says Boone’s criminal history extends to 1969 and includes a 1985 conviction for marijuana possession with intention to distribute, for which he was sentenced to five years, and another conviction for unlawful manufacture of 1,000 plants or more, for which he was sentenced to 20 years and paroled in 1999.

Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189 or awolfson@courier-journal.com.

CONTINUE READING…

Donald Trump Jr. bagged bull elk on Kentucky hunting trip

Donald Trump Jr. at his father’s estate in Bedford, N.Y., Feb. 25, 2017. The president’s once-wayward eldest son has embraced his new role in business and politics on his terms. (George Etheredge/The New York Times)

By Fernando Alfonso III

falfonso@herald-leader.com

Donald Trump Jr. is an experienced hunter who has stalked elephants in Zimbabwe, pheasants in Hungary and, as of January, elk in Kentucky.

On Jan. 14, Trump used a bow and arrow to kill a bull elk on private property in Martin County, said Mark Marraccini, communications director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Marraccini said he believes Trump’s elk weighed about 700 pounds.

“It doesn’t really matter what you’re hunting, if you’re an archer, that’s a higher skill level than using a rifle. He made this kill with a bow and was probably 30 yards away,” Marraccini said. “To get close enough to make a kill with a bow, there’s a lot of skill involved in that.”

Trump was able to procure a hunting tag quickly thanks to the unique relationship the department has with certain private landowners, Marraccini said. There are about 40 of these landowner-cooperator tags in Kentucky.

“Say you’re a big coal company or a big power company and you own 40,000 acres of land. The department has entered into an agreement with some of those landowners that for every 5,000 acres that they will deed over to us to be used for public recreation year round, we would let them have one elk tag, and they can use that tag anyway they want,” Marraccini said.

For the rest of the public, obtaining a hunting tag takes luck.

In 2016, there were about 75,000 applications for elk hunting licenses in Kentucky put into a lottery. Nine hundred ten licenses were granted. The license drawing is random, Marraccini said.

This December marks the 20-year anniversary of Kentucky bringing seven elk into the state to establish a population, Marraccini said.

Marraccini said he has put his name into the lottery for an elk tag every year since 2001 and has never been chosen.

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

CONTINUE READING…

…Under (HB 315), a gang can be any three people who share a name, symbol or leader, or who have been identified as a gang by any state or the federal government…

The Kentucky House and Senate are poised to pass a bill this week that is both unnecessary and likely to be costly in terms of both money and human potential.

If it reaches him, Gov. Matt Bevin should veto House Bill 315, the so-called gang bill. It flies in the face of the evidence-based criminal justice reforms Bevin has pushed as governor.

Last June, Bevin appointed his non-partisan Criminal Justice Police Assessment Council, saying he wanted “a smarter, compassionate, evidence-based approach.Senate Bill 120, passed this session to improve employment opportunities for people leaving prison, was a result of CJPAC’s work.

HB 315 didn’t come from CJPAC, and that’s no surprise. There’s no evidence it would reduce gang activity but its broad and vague definitions and heavy-handed punishment provisions will mean that young people who have committed low-level, non-violent crimes could spend a long time in prison with little hope for the “second chance” Bevin so vigorously supports.

Sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said HB 315 is based on a similar law in California, prompting Senate President Robert Stivers to ask when Kentucky modeled itself on California.

Good question.

Even more concerning, California’s STEP Act, passed in 1988 to “seek the eradication of criminal activity by street gangs,” hasn’t achieved that goal. A 2009 study of the measure reported the opposite: “harsher sentences for minor gang related crimes may actually increase gang commitment because individuals are forced to join gangs and strengthen their gang ties in order to survive in prison.”

Without question, HB 315 would increase our already staggeringly high prison population — over 23,000 state inmates and a $530 million annual budget. The Corrections Impact Statement on HB 315 estimated the cost at over $38 million over time.

Criminal gangs are real and responsible for crimes that deeply damage our communities. People should be punished for recruiting others into gangs, as they can be under existing Kentucky law.

In the almost 20 years since that legislation passed, there have been 22 convictions under it, including six in 2015 and none in 2016.

There will be more convictions under HB 315 because it casts a wide net in defining gangs and what it takes to tag an individual as a gang member.

Under it, a gang can be any three people who share a name, symbol or leader, or who have been identified as a gang by any state or the federal government. Their “pattern of criminal activity” could be crimes committed by one or more members at any time over five years.

The evidence a gang actually exists includes identification by an informant, a member’s parent or guardian or participation in photos or social-media interaction with gang members.

Think about it: many young people have hundreds of social-media contacts: long-ago classmates, friends of friends, former co-workers and team members. If one of them is identified as a gang member, then so can all his or her “friends.”

The results are catastrophic if the gang label sticks. Judges lose most discretion over sentencing. A Class B misdemeanor such as harassment — now subject to up to three months in jail or simply a fine — would carry a mandatory sentence of 76 to 90 days. Felony charges must be prosecuted for one level more serious when the gang element is present and those convicted must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.

So, a Class C felony that carries one to five years in prison, with possibility of parole with 20 percent of time served becomes a Class B with five to 10 years and a minimum of 85 percent served before possibility of parole.

These mandatory prison terms not only fill up jails and prisons at enormous cost, they also discourage rehabilitation. Consider, a person sentenced to five years with the possibility of parole after a year, is motivated to participate in drug rehab or career-oriented classes.

But with a certain four-plus years inside, motivation shifts away from rehabilitation to survival. As noted in the California study, people join gangs to survive a long term in prison.

“Gang” is another in the long line of frightening terms invoked to bloat the criminal code, fill prisons and drain our treasuries while doing little to make us safer.

Bevin’s right in rejecting this trend. He should stay the course and veto this bad bill.

CONTINUE READING…

Kentucky congressman says ‘Hell No’ to Obamacare replacement bill

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., listened during a committee session in 2013.

By Fernando Alfonso III

falfonso@herald-leader.com

A tweet from a Northern Kentucky congressman went viral Wednesday afternoon after he used his voting card to double down on his disdain for the American Health Care Act, the Republicans’ attempt to replace Obamacare.

Rep. Thomas Massie’s tweet features a photo of his “new” voting card and the words “HELL NO” on it. Within two hours after sending the message, Massie, who manages his own Twitter account, could not believe it had collected more than 8,200 likes and 3,000 retweets.

“I didn’t expect it to go viral. I thought maybe we’d get 5 percent of that,” Massie said over the phone in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s another version of Obamacare, in my opinion, and it’s not as well thought out. We need to leave the socialism to the socialists. If I thought the bill were a glass half full proposition, better than the status quo, I’d vote for it. But I think it will make insurance premiums go up.”


Sen. Rand Paul predicts House will vote down GOP health plan

“It’s important for Republicans to understand that once we pass something, we will own it,” Sen. Rand Paul said of the GOP health care plan. “If what we pass is not going to work, it’s a bad thing to own.”

jbrammer@herald-leader.com


The AHCA would replace the subsidies in Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, with a flat tax credit that would not account for income or local insurance prices. The new law would also allow insurers to charge older people five times what they charge younger customers, compared to three times under Obama’s health care law, according to the Associated Press.

Massie, a Republican, has made his displeasure over AHCA clear on Twitter over the past week through hashtags like #sassywithmassie.

“(The proposal) just won’t work and Republicans will get blamed for escalating health insurance costs,” Massie said. “The bill doesn’t do enough to reduce the cost of health care. I feel the momentum is against the bill. I don’t see any of my colleagues changing their votes and they’ve had 24 hours to switch people from a no to a yes to no avail.”

Angry constituents confront U.S. Rep. Andy Barr about GOP health care bill

U.S. Rep Andy Barr faced angry constituents in Richmond, Ky., during a town hall on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Barr was defending the Republican proposal to replace the federal Affordable Care Act.

Daniel Desrochers ddesrochers@herald-leader.com

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

Related content

5 things to know about the CBO’s report on Paul Ryan’s ACA replacement

CONTINUE READING AND TO VIDEO!