She knew immediately what was happening. Her boss had been through the same thing, as had other people in Wichita -- doctors who performed abortions, nurses who worked at the clinics, clinic staffers, too. As spokeswoman for the infamous Dr. George Tiller, Bowman knew it was only a matter of time before anti-abortion protesters showed up to picket in front of her neat brick duplex.
Still, she was startled by the sight of Bryan J. Brown on her front stoop. About two dozen people lingered behind him at the street. One man sat in a wheelchair holding a bullhorn. Another had handcuffed his wrists and locked his ankles in chains; bloody fetus pictures hung from each shoulder.
Brown asked Bowman to come outside and pray.
"I said, 'No, and get off my property. I'm calling the police,'" Bowman recalls.
The clutch of Christians by the curb began to sing hymns.
"I was just frantic," Bowman says. "And then I thought, give me a break. You are crazy people. I'm not going to let this do me in."
Bowman put her portable stereo in the window, cranked the volume and popped in a CD. "Kenny Rogers drove them away," she says. By the time the police arrived, only the man in chains continued to march in front of Bowman's house. Brown and the rest were long gone.
He would return a decade later, in January of this year, as a deputy attorney general -- one of the most powerful lawyers in the state of Kansas. (Brown responded to interview requests after this story went to press. Read an interview with him here.)
The announcement that newly elected Attorney General Phill Kline had hired Brown to head the state's Consumer Protection Division was buried in a January 15 press release listing new employees in the attorney general's office. As expected, Kline had flushed key staffers from Carla Stovall's administration to make room for some of his most loyal campaign workers and a few friends or friends of friends.
Kline had been in the public eye since he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House in 1986, when he was in law school. His first election was to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1992, and he distinguished himself during eight years there with his charm, his conservative Christian ideals, and his willingness to do battle with more moderate leaders of his party no matter what influence it cost him.
Until he ran for attorney general last year, he hadn't shown much interest in using his University of Kansas law degree and had let his Kansas law license lapse more than once. But despite heavy criticism from moderate politicians and the media, Kline defeated his Republican opponent, Kansas Senator David Adkins, in the August primary and in November won a narrow victory over Geary County District Attorney Chris Biggs.
In his January announcement, Kline listed ten new employees. Among them were Whitney Watson, who would be the attorney general's spokesman. Former Dickinson County Attorney Eric Rucker became his chief of staff. Kline tapped Derrick Sontag, once an employee of State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger, to be director of budget and legislative affairs. Kline named his nephew as special assistant to the attorney general.
Media outlets noted these appointments. But it was Kline's choice to head up his Consumer Protection Division -- the attorney who enforces the state's no-call list and investigates shady business practices -- that had reporters scanning their archives.
Yes, the man Kline's statement identified as a private-practice lawyer from Mississippi was that Bryan J. Brown. The Bryan J. Brown who had been arrested multiple times during 1991's infamous "Summer of Mercy" abortion protests in Wichita. The Bryan J. Brown who had refused to pay a federal judgment against him in Indiana for the same kind of activism. The Bryan J. Brown who had left Wichita to go to a Christian law school in 1993, then gone on to work for the legal arm of the American Family Association, an aggressive Christian activist group based in Tupelo, Mississippi.
A round of editorials followed the reporting of these basic facts. The Kansas City Star called Brown "an unrepentant scofflaw." Steve Rose of The Johnson County Sun suggested that Kline was calculating a run for governor and had hired Brown to throw an early bone to his religious-right supporters so that he could spend the next four years appearing reasonable enough to lure the moderate vote.
Brown spent a couple of hours answering reporters' questions about his past, and Kline released a statement calling Brown the "most qualified" candidate for the $68,000-a-year job leading the Kansas Consumer Protection Division.
When the Pitch asked to interview Brown later, he refused. "As you may already know, Deputy Brown sat down with reporters on January 27th in this office for about 2 hours and discussed his background, qualifications, views, etc., much of the same territory you propose to cover in your interviews," wrote Bill Hoyt, Kline's public information officer. "Since that time, his office has decided to move forward focusing on Consumer Protection, rather than focusing on Mr. Brown."
Over the past three months, however, the Pitch obtained a copy of Brown's résumé, called his friends and foes from Indiana, Kansas and Mississippi, and read Brown's own published essays to better understand one of Kansas' newest public employees. When word of this investigation reached Brown, he contacted the paper and personally requested an interview (see sidebar).
In January, Kline suggested that Brown had put a few decade-old indiscretions behind him. Instead, Brown has maintained a long-term devotion to advancing the anti-abortion cause. Though his strategies have changed over the years, his mission hasn't.
Brown's legal experience goes back ten years, when he left Wichita in 1993 to go to law school. His anti-abortion experience goes back a little further.
Brown grew up around Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of a factory supervisor and a stay-at-home mother.
He told The Wichita Eagle in 1991 that he had experimented with drugs as a teen but put that aside in November 1978. Having temporarily lost his driver's license, the homebound nineteen-year-old picked up the Bible to kill time.
The next year, a friend dragged Brown to Indianapolis for a three-day conference called "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" The event was part of a national film and lecture tour hosted by C. Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer. Koop was a born-again Christian and pediatric surgeon who later would serve as surgeon general under President Ronald Reagan; Schaeffer was a Presbyterian minister and author who spurred a generation of fundamentalist Christians to action in the anti-abortion cause. Through his books and documentary films, Schaeffer professed that God's law superseded the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, and he pushed civil disobedience to protest abortion.
"[The lecture] really put a lot of things in perspective for me as far as the battle for the culture, the battle for life, the battle for the family," Brown said in an American Family Association Journal profile last year -- one that ran under the headline "Radical for Life."
Brown began writing letters to newspaper editors, campaigning for anti-abortion politicians and supporting the creation of Fort Wayne's first crisis-pregnancy center. An erratic student, Brown dropped out of Philadelphia College of the Bible and Fort Wayne Bible College before enrolling at the University of Indiana. There he studied sociology while working as a factory quality-assurance manager. He graduated from college in 1986.
A year later, Brown and a few others around Fort Wayne formed Northeast Indiana Rescue. They planned to replicate the anti-abortion sit-ins and other demonstrations being staged across the country. Their tactics gained widespread attention at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta when, during the convention and for weeks afterward, a group of abortion protesters repeatedly blockaded an Atlanta clinic -- forcing the police to arrest them -- and refused to identify themselves in jail.
One of the members of Northeast Indiana Rescue had made the trip to Atlanta, and in 1989 the Fort Wayne group staged its own demonstrations at the Fort Wayne Women's Health Organization clinic.
Ann Horn still works security at the clinic and remembers the rescues.
The clinic workers had prepared for them, building a makeshift wall out of 4-foot-by-4-foot plywood squares to keep the protesters off the unfenced property. When Brown's army stormed the building, Horn and clinic volunteers propped up their wall, leaning against it with their bodies. The protesters pounded on it from the outside, kicking the wood to splinters and spitting and hollering insults at Horn and the other clinic defenders.
Horn remembers Brown and his wife, Ellen. They weren't spitting, she says. Instead, they lingered in the back, bullhorns in hand. "I remember that he and his wife both would be dressed to the nines," Horn says of Brown.
After organizing three rescues of more than a hundred people each, the Browns and their supporters began planning an even bigger event for May 1990. They hoped to draw more than 1,000 people to the clinic. Brown later told a reporter that he had wanted to force the city to mobilize the National Guard.
Before that could happen, clinic owners sued in federal court, seeking an injunction to stop the gathering under the federal laws against racketeering and organized crime. The suit named Bryan and Ellen Brown along with Wendell Brane, the pilgrim who had brought the idea back from Atlanta.
U.S. District Court Judge William C. Lee ruled that picketers had to remain 25 feet from the building and that "sidewalk counselors" could approach clinic patrons one at a time with literature but had to stop if the clinic-bound women indicated that they weren't interested. Northeast Indiana Rescue agreed to abide by the terms, which ended the rescues in Fort Wayne.
In reaction, Brown penned a guest column for The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. He wrote sarcastically about the money, power and pleasure gained by artists who dabbled in child pornography, newspaper editors who influenced public opinion for their own good, professors who taught that morality was relative and doctors who performed abortions.
"So many options. So many ways to be rewarded in pluralistic America, modern America drunk with the wine of adultery and blood of the innocents," Brown wrote.
"I have a big (and yet wonderful) problem, however. The creator of the earth has called me out of pagan pluralistic darkness to live in the light of his revealed word ... so I must press on."
The column included a line that was prophetic. "I do not relish the thought of losing my job, my possessions, my house. I do, however, love my Lord, my countrymen, my heritage as a Christian and the preborn victims of the American Holocaust too much to allow material possessions and threats of lawsuits to deter me from the task that lies ahead."
Nine months later, Judge Lee ordered Northeast Indiana Rescue and its three leaders to pay the National Women's Health Organization $61,616 for legal fees and expenses.
Brown and his wife divorced in December 1990. Ellen walked away with an eight-track studio recorder, a 1987 Ford Taurus and $2,750 from the sale of their New Haven, Indiana, home.
Except that Brown never sold his house. He simply quit his $45,000-a-year factory job, stopped making mortgage payments and drove away.
He would later explain it to the Wichita paper as a "scorched earth" policy.
"My enemies have pursued me, and I'm gonna make sure that they have nothing," he told the Eagle.
He arrived in Wichita in time for the Summer of Mercy.
Steve Mashburn remembers meeting Brown that first week in July 1991. "He had a sleeping bag and backpack and all his belongings in his car," Mashburn tells the Pitch.
Brown told Mashburn that he was on his way to sit on a mountain and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
Mashburn had been paralyzed in a diving accident as a teen-ager. At gatherings, he usually lingered in the back in his wheelchair. That was where he bonded with Brown.
Mashburn was the outreach pastor at Wichita's small Christian Family Ministries church. He spent his Friday nights talking to homeless people and kids.
On Saturdays, he parked his wheelchair outside one of Wichita's abortion clinics. "Please don't kill your baby," he would yell to women on their way to the clinic. "God doesn't want you to kill your baby. There's hope. There's help available. We love you. God loves you."
Mashburn can't be sure his preaching made any difference. But he had a friend who liked to show off a picture of himself with an infant. The friend said the baby had been born after he handed its mother some literature on alternatives to abortion. "We knew by faith that what we were doing was right," Mashburn says. "We knew a lot of women changed their minds. Within the first year of going out there, we saw evidence of our own activity. Not somebody else's but our own."
Sometimes Mashburn would be joined by a couple of others, sometimes a dozen. But the Atlanta blockades had inspired the folks in Wichita as well. Instead of simply talking and handing out pamphlets, the protesters gathered and sat in front of clinic gates.
Such demonstrations were becoming common across the country, championed by Randall Terry's Operation Rescue. In 1991, a group of nearly twenty Wichita ministers invited Terry and his activist army to hold a weeklong national action there. "They said, 'We looked at your city and heard about George Tiller,'" Mashburn recalls.
The events that followed would launch Brown's celebrity status among Wichita's abortion foes. Through a recorded message, they could hear him 24 hours a day -- a comforting voice in the night reassuring them that the Bible said they were right.
George Tiller took over his father's medical practice in 1970 after his parents, sister and brother-in-law were killed in a plane crash. Tiller, a KU Med graduate who was working as a U.S. Navy surgeon in Oakland, California, adopted his one-year-old nephew and returned to Wichita. He transformed the small family practice into a specialized abortion center called Women's Health Care Services. He wanted to move abortions out of hospital maternity wards so that women who were ending their own pregnancies wouldn't have to walk past nurseries full of newborns.
Tiller is one of a handful of abortion doctors in the country who perform late-term abortions, serving pregnant women who have cancer and need chemotherapy, women whose babies are extremely unhealthy and expected to be stillborn or die soon after birth. The special practice drew notoriety among abortion foes. A bomb exploded in Tiller's clinic in 1986, causing $100,000 worth of damage. Tiller draped a hand-lettered sign over the building that read "Hell, no. We won't go!" No one was ever arrested.
In the spring of 1991, Christian radio stations began promoting the Wichita rescue nationally. Anti-abortion newsletters did the same.
"Everybody knew they were coming," says Bowman, Tiller's spokeswoman at the time. "The police met with Dr. Tiller and practically begged him to close for that week."
Mashburn says their hopes were modest. If they got a couple hundred people from out of town and 300 or so locals, they could claim success. "We were thinking there'd be 100 or 200 people come in from out of town," he says.
Thousands arrived, overflowing the Holiday Inn conference center for nightly rallies and jamming the sidewalks and streets around the city's three abortion clinics. Closing the clinics didn't discourage the protesters -- it emboldened them. "If Christians go to the streets, the abortions stop," Mashburn says.
The week ended, but the rescue didn't.
"At the end of that week, they announced they had officially closed the clinic forever," Bowman says. "They were going to stay forever."
The Summer of Mercy dragged on for six weeks after its July 15 start. Daily, protesters marched and police made arrests -- about 2,700 total.
Brown was among them. Wichita police records show that Brown was arrested five times during the first week-and-a-half of the gathering, each time for vagrancy and loitering outside Tiller's clinic at 5107 East Kellogg. He was arrested at 1:35 p.m. the first Tuesday, at just after midnight the following morning, at 8:07 a.m. on Friday, at 7:27 a.m. the next Monday and at 7 a.m. on the second Tuesday.
When other protesters left Wichita to return home, Brown stayed. "He just blended right into Wichita," Mashburn says.
Brown was one of the people keeping the Summer of Mercy alive. He organized Godarchy Productions, which brought in Christian rock bands and hosted a daily phone recording protesters could call for resolve-strengthening messages and to find out where the next big gathering would be.
"The god-awful line," Bowman calls it. "He would say things on there, everything from who was going to hell and God's wrath and all of that kind of stuff.... Other times he got very personal. It always had a tone of a kind of viciousness about it. There was never any doubt he was out to intimidate people. He was scary. He was a scary person."
Not content to limit the campaign to the streets around Tiller's clinic, Brown took the effort into Wichita's neighborhoods, including Bowman's block of duplexes and houses near McConnell Air Force Base. Mashburn was the man in the wheelchair outside Bowman's house.
He says groups of people would rendezvous in a restaurant parking lot and then convoy, parking their cars within a few blocks of their target's home. They'd walk along both sides of the street, leaving leaflets in each door. The leaflets included pictures of aborted fetuses and named the target and where he or she worked.
"Please Join With Us in Prayer for Peg," read the leaflets left on Bowman's street. "Her allies in the radical pro-abortion battle include ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the NOW and other such ultra-leftist groups. Their agenda, beyond childkilling, includes 'homosexual rights', New Age Education in the elementary schools, drug legalization and the persecution of Christians who stand up against the rising tide of paganism in our nation ... Please join us in praying that Peg is 'snatched from the fire', to stand with us for the cause of God, Country and the Children."
Brown took over leadership of the Wichita Rescue Movement in December 1991, briefly re-energizing the group after its efforts lagged in the wake of the summer's excitement. Donations paid the rent on the house he shared with two other activists.
"Bryan was basically missionary supported," Mashburn says. "He knew how to find people to support him with five, ten, twenty dollars here. That way he could be in full-time activism as a missionary to the streets."
He also spent time representing himself in court. Unlike the others who were arrested during the Summer of Mercy, Brown didn't pay $25 and plead guilty. He fought on First Amendment grounds, saying his arrest had compromised his freedoms of religion, assembly and speech. He won on appeal to the district court in February 1993, convincing the judge to throw out his $500 fine.
He had worse luck with Federal Judge Patrick Kelly. Disappointed with the local response to the Summer of Mercy barricades, Kelly had stepped in, instructing the federal marshal to keep the abortion clinic entrances open and ordering an injunction to keep protesters off the clinic's property.
The second time Brown was accused of violating the order, Judge Kelly asked him to promise to comply in the future. Brown refused, saying he had promised his obedience to Jesus Christ. Kelly jailed him for contempt. Brown was locked up for 68 days before Kelly ordered him freed without forcing him to promise obedience.
Law school seemed a natural progression, and in 1993 Brown left Wichita to enroll at Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. Regent was the only law school approved by the bar that offered a "balance of professional legal training and the affirmation of biblical principles," according to its promotional materials.
He turned over the Godarchy gig to Mashburn, telling his friend that his legal education was an extension of his protest work. "I'll be able to fight for the rights of Christians all over the country involved in activism, not just in pro-life activism," Mashburn remembers Brown telling him.
With that goal in mind, Brown could hardly have found a better employer than the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy in Tupelo, Mississippi. He began working there in 1996 -- and stayed until Kline hired him to come back to Kansas.
Brown was a staff attorney for the legal arm of Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, an organization dedicated to outlawing abortion, fighting what it calls "the radical homosexual agenda" and opposing government oppression of the "gospel message." Brown's caseload included the very people with whom he'd been marching and picketing and getting arrested.
For example, he represented Mark Gabriel, who wanted permission to stand in front of a Plano, Texas, high school with a giant picture of an aborted fetus. Gabriel had been threatened with arrest on September 3, 1996, by a police officer who twisted Gabriel's arm to get him to drop his sign. State law prohibited people from disrupting classes within 500 feet of school property, and U.S. District Judge Paul Brown ruled that the police had acted appropriately.
In June 1998, Brown represented two Florida women who wanted a federal judge to let them hand out anti-Disney pamphlets along highways and in medians during an Operation Rescue demonstration planned for Orlando. (Disney had come under fire for its support of domestic partnerships for homosexual couples.) During the demonstration, protesters picketed clinics as well as the federal courthouse and a Barnes & Noble bookstore, but Judge G. Kendall Sharp refused to let the women take to the highways and medians.
Last year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. Later, a federal judge struck down two statutes that Brown said "criminalized literature distribution along sidewalks and streets with broad brush strokes."
In May 2001, Brown represented ten abortion protesters in Bridgeport, Connecticut, who were being watched by police during their twice-a-week clinic protests.
The next month, he stuck up for the Reverend Michael Warren, who was facing contempt-of-court charges for violating a 15-foot buffer zone that U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara had established around two clinics in Rochester, New York.
That October, Federal District Judge Ancer Haggerty agreed with Brown that Paul DeParrie had a right to carry into Portland, Oregon, city parks a giant poster with a picture of an aborted fetus and the message "Why should God Bless America?"
Brown explained his client's motivation in a press release put out by the American Family Association after the decision. "Paul very much wanted to return to the central downtown park to present his very timely message on October 31 through November 2 for this season celebrates the Protestant Reformation, Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. These three days are a time when thoughts turn toward both the supernatural and death, the very themes that Paul graphically presents."
In January 2002, Brown convinced the city of Monroe, Wisconsin, to revoke its ordinance limiting protest signs to no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet and forbidding leaflets on car windows. He also got the city to pay $12,800 in legal fees and court costs.
"This case could be a textbook example of how pro-life activists and their attorneys can partner together for victory," Brown wrote in a press release about the decision.
And he stayed plenty busy representing the Reverend Matt Trewhella, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pastor and the founder of the anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn. Trewhella gained notoriety in 1994 when a Planned Parenthood statement portrayed him as a link between anti-abortion activists and militant right-wing groups.
Planned Parenthood made that statement a month after a doctor and his escort were shot and killed outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. The group showed a videotape from a militia group in Wisconsin. In a speech on the Second Amendment, Trewhella said that churches should teach their congregations to fight. He said his sixteen-month-old son could identify his trigger finger, and he suggested that parents stop playing "pin the tail on the donkey" with their own children and "start blindfolding them and sitting them down on the living-room floor and saying, 'now put the weapons together.'"
Also on the tape was Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who discussed homosexuality and male supremacy in a speech he told The New York Times was about "the need for Christian leadership."
Trewhella repeatedly turned to Brown and the American Family Association to help with his anti-abortion campaign.
In October 2000, police in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, seized anti-abortion signs from Trewhella and some of his associates during their "Unmasking Planned Parenthood Tour." The signs and pictures of aborted fetuses ran afoul of a newly passed city ordinance requiring that demonstrators get a $500 city permit from the police chief thirty days in advance of their event.
"The ordinance appears to have been crafted for no reason other than shutting down pro-life protests," Brown argued in federal court in Milwaukee. Brown won, earning his employer a $6,630 check from the city of Elkhorn that included $830 for rental on the seized signs.
In March 2001, again working on behalf of Trewhella, Brown sued Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, over the town's parade and assembly ordinance.
Seven months later, Trewhella was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a police officer in Bloomington, Illinois. After a two-day trial that included testimony that the officer had attacked Trewhella, Brown earned his client an acquittal. Trewhella then sued five police officers for false arrest.
Brown also worked First Amendment cases unrelated to abortion.
In April 1999, he represented Gary Edwards, who wanted a federal court order guaranteeing him the right to picket against neo-Nazis the next time they marched in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Edwards had been arrested at a previous demonstration when he refused to give up the stick holding his protest sign. The appellate court ultimately agreed that signs should be allowed to have handles.
And Brown represented Richard Behn, who worked as a groundskeeper for the city of Phoenix. Behn claimed his right to free speech had been violated when he was suspended for a day after discussing religion with his coworkers. The city said he had violated a Parks Department policy asking people to respect others' beliefs.
"We have a right to be religious on the job," Brown told The Arizona Republic in January 2000. "[Behn] was talking about his own religious experiences. He was inviting people to church."
In February 2001, a federal appellate court agreed with Brown and his client, David Saxe, that a Pennsylvania school-district policy infringed on free speech. The policy banned negative comments about other people's values. Saxe and Brown argued that it prevented them from distributing information and speaking out about "the sinful nature and harmful effects of homosexuality."
"You could be punished if you said anything negative about a national culture," Brown told a reporter. "So if you said something positive about female circumcision, that was OK. But if you said that the continued practice of the ritual in Somalia was an outrage, you could be taken the next day to the thought police in the principal's office to have your mind scrubbed."
During these years, Brown converted to Catholicism. He married a sidewalk counselor who had caught his eye in Wichita.
David Haadsma, who befriended him at a church in Tupelo, says Brown was part of a group of Knights of Columbus members who, after their meetings, would gather for beers. Brown often dominated the conversations, talking about theology and connecting biblical stories to the modern world. "He would be spellbinding," Haadsma says. "Very few people have affected me this way."
Brown's friend says the lawyer wasn't fixated on abortion. "I don't think he focuses his life on the anti-abortion movement," Haadsma says. "I do think he still has convictions that the taking of innocent life is wrong. I do think he wouldn't back down from that still. I do think he has rethought his methods from earlier life."
Haadsma says Brown applied for the Kansas government job so his wife and their two children could be closer to her family. But Brown returned from his interview ready to work for Kline. "He just expressed that he really loved him and was excited about working with Phill Kline," Haadsma says.
Brown's boss, Steve Crampton, chief counsel for American Family Association Center for Law and Policy, describes Brown as a diligent employee with a great sense of humor and a willingness to help his coworkers outside the office. Specifically, Crampton says, Brown helped him keep his Chrysler New Yorker running.
And despite what news archives and the American Family Association Web site show, Brown did work on a couple of cases in line with his new job, including one for a "widowed, single mother" who had bought a problematic new car, Crampton says.
"In fact, Bryan had done a case or two that would have been right in the middle of that sort of consumer protection work," Crampton says. "I'd say Bryan has a particular heart for that sort of need in people. It's a little of the crusader, David against Goliath mentality."
Brown might have been pleasantly surprised with what happened in his adopted state during his ten-year absence. Since his departure in 1993, Kansas politics have centered more and more on abortion.
The Republican Party that dominates the state has seen its ranks filled with anti-abortion devotees, a takeover encouraged by the Johnson County-based group Kansans for Life. Beginning in the early 1990s, anti-abortion candidates began showing up on ballots for Republican precinct committees, which help supervise the primaries and choose the delegates who in turn choose the state party chair.
Over the past decade, conservative political newcomers -- including Kline -- have risen in state government. They now dominate the Kansas House of Representatives and have a significant voice in the Senate. With his election as attorney general, Kline now has the power to do something more than introduce anti-abortion bills that never get signed into law.
Legislators have floated dozens of those bills. Some would have required more inspection and regulation of clinics; others would have required pregnant minors to get counseling before they could have abortions. Another made it to Governor Bill Graves' desk, but he vetoed sending money from a special surcharge on "Choose Life" license plates to Kansans for Life, which planned to use the money to discourage women from having abortions.
These efforts have regularly passed in the House. But in the past, the more moderate Senate usually defeated them -- at least until this session, when both houses approved a bill that would have required abortion clinics to be licensed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and comply with a long list of new standards. Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed it in April.
"We've had this bill every year I've been in the legislature, and it's never gotten out of the Senate," says Rick Rehorn, a pro-choice representative from Wyandotte County who's held office for four years.
Though the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision ensured that abortions would remain legal, later cases empowered states to regulate abortion clinics.
Roe v. Wade established that states could place certain restrictions on second- and third-trimester abortions; Kansas law allows third-trimester abortions when the procedure is required to protect the mother's health. Since 1979, Kansas attorneys general have interpreted that law liberally to include the mental health of the mother.
"My conclusion was both the physical health and mental health of the mother must be considered," says Bob Stephan, who served from 1979 until 1995 (and whose interpretation was shared by Carla Stovall, who served until January of this year). "There are some that think differently about that," Stephan says, "and General Kline may think it doesn't apply to the mental health of the mother."
George Tiller continues to practice at his Wichita clinic. "Make absolutely no mistake," he says. "Bryan Brown is nobody's fool. He is a very bright, energetic, articulate individual. He is not to be taken lightly. He is not to be dismissed frivolously." But Tiller says he can't spend time worrying about what might happen to his practice while Kline is attorney general. "I practice medicine within the guidelines and within the letter of the law of Kansas. That's what I have done for the entirety of my career. I am powerless over Phill Kline and Bryan Brown," he says.
During his first four months on the job, Brown has been working to reorganize his department, spokesman Bill Hoyt says. From his office across the street from the state capitol, Brown has met with his 23 employees and devoted time to a new task force that will teach senior citizens and people with mental and physical disabilities how to avoid being ripped off. In his brief introductory press conference, Brown insisted he would not have anything to do with enforcing laws regarding abortion clinics.
So far, Kline has kept a low profile on the abortion front. "What I believe Phill Kline will do is enforce the law as the law reads currently, not what he wants it to read," says Patricia Barbieri-Lightner, a state representative from Johnson County who helped run Kline's campaign for attorney general.
But Kline has an assignment ahead of him. The Kansas House of Representatives has directed him to sue the state, arguing before the Kansas Supreme Court that life begins as soon as sperm meets egg.
The resolution insists that "unborn children of the state of Kansas have an equal and inalienable right to life from conception." House members passed it last year -- then amended it to make sure nothing was done about it until Stovall was out of office.
"Carla would have just simply ignored it, and it would have gone nowhere ... it just would have been a nothing thing with her," says Barbieri-Lightner, one of the bill's 41 cosponsors.
The suit would be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.