Thank you Julie Burkhart
In mid June, authorities found the body of a 14 year old girl, who was nine months pregnant. Police suspect that her abusive boyfriend helped to commit this crime. Unfortunatley Ms. Brooks is just one of far too many girls and women killed as a result of male violence.
On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day.
Rather than address the pervasive violence against women in Kansas, across the United States and throughout the world, anti-choice activists leapt on this tragic case as an opportunity to advance fetal rights.
Julie Burkhart, is Executive Director of ProKanDo a Kansas based reproductive rights political action committee. Julie began receiving press calls almost immediately. The press inquiries were, however, not about Chelsea Brooks, but rather were all about the rights of the fetus, the fact that it was "viable," and why Kansas did not have an Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Initial press coverage carried such headlines s as: "Girl's death spurs call for new fetal law" and "Family seeks to criminalize killing fetuses."
Kansans for Life were ready, claiming that the "pro-abortion" Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Senate president Steve Morrison and Senate Judicial Chair John Vratil -- who did not support a state Unborn Victims of Violence Act bill-- "are to blame for the lack of a law protecting pregnant women."
Julie Burkhart, however knew something was desperately wrong. She knew that as long as the response to rampant violence against women is replaced by a debate about fetuses, the violence would continue. Julie knew this from personal experience. She herself has a sister who six years ago was brutally murdered in Kansas by an abusive boyfriend.
Julie has long been a brave and outspoken advocate and activist on behalf of pregnant women. It, however, takes special courage to speak out from personal experience, to remember and re-live personal traumas and horrors. Julie though, perhaps better than many others, understood the loss to Chelsea's family and the sad truth that the loss of Chelsea's life and of the child she would soon have had --would not have been prevented by the passage of another fetal rights law. As the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual And Domestic Violence will tell you, punitive laws applied after the fact do nothing to prevent the violence so rampant in our society.
Julie has been working tirelessly through numerous coalition and public education efforts to change the debate and ensure that the conversation focuses on how to prevent the pervasive violence in women's lives. Her recent op ed has gone a long way to accomplishing this and provides a model for other women whose personal experiences can inform and strengthen their work. We thank Julie Burkhart for speaking out, for understanding that the personal is the political and for sharing her personal experiences in a way that enhances honest debate that will eventually lead to interventions that will really make women, children, and families safer.