Wendy Norris, a Denver-based journalist, is working on assignment for RH Reality Check to cover anti-choice movements at the state level in the West. She is currently reporting from Bellevue Nebraska where she is covering the anti-choice movement’s efforts to close Dr. Carhart’s clinic. She will be tweeting updates at @rhrealitycheck, and will be writing articles posted here throughout the weekend.
The expected refocusing of radical anti-choice protests from
Wichita, Kan., to suburban Omaha, Neb., following the murder of Dr. George
Tiller has found a disturbing ally in a top state elected official.
Twelve days after Tiller was gunned down at his church by
militant anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, Nebraska Attorney General Jon
Bruning reportedly told KETV, reacting to news that Tiller’s friend and
colleague, Leroy Carhart, M.D. intends to begin providing late-term abortions
in his Bellevue, Neb., clinic, stated:
"I’m disgusted and I’m saddened, and
I hate it that he’s here in Nebraska and I hate it that he’s in America,"
Bruning said. "I mean, this guy is one sick individual."
The stunning remark evoked a firestorm of controversy on the
KETV Omaha television station Web page, summarized by this comment from
I find it shocking that any reputable
public official would express such hatred for a law-abiding individual. To be
sure some people do not like abortion. However, there are times when a woman,
perhpaps [sic] to save her own life, has to undergo such a procedure. What makes
this situation even worse is that as the state’s Attorney General he should not
be encourageing [sic] the types of activity that we witnessed at the church in
Wichita or the museum in Washington.
The progressive political blog, NewNebraska.net, demanded
Bruning retract the statement and issue an apology. According
to the site’s managing editor, Kyle Michaelis, neither has been forthcoming.
The propriety of the state’s top legal adviser making such
an incendiary comment now casts a shadow over the attorney general’s office,
which acknowledged recently accepting a formal complaint by anti-abortion
groups demanding an investigation of Carhart’s clinic.
Bruning spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White told the Omaha
World-Herald that the complaint was filed by local activists Rescue the
Heartland and Nebraskans United for Life and national groups Operation Rescue
West and the Christian Defense Coalition — the very same absolutist
anti-abortion faction organizing the Aug. 28-29 mass protests at the Carhart
clinic. The letter was referred to the state Department of Health and Human
Health department press agent Marla Augustine cited state
confidentiality laws when contacted about the details of the politically
charged accusations. News accounts have alluded to the longstanding strategy by
the anti-choice movement to repeatedly make vague, spurious claims against
physicians well after they have been discredited.
Augustine did confirm that no previous complaints against
Carhart have resulted in state disciplinary action. She declined to estimate
the time frame for completing the probe.
Bucco-White did not respond to an inquiry about the
incongruity between Bruning’s personal comments and his office’s need to
impartially review the facts of the investigation.