Yael T. Abouhalkah

Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s bullying on abortion rights wears thin

Missouri State Sen. Kurt Schaefer likes to bully people, from University of Missouri officials to Planned Parenthood leaders.
Missouri State Sen. Kurt Schaefer likes to bully people, from University of Missouri officials to Planned Parenthood leaders. File photo

Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer loves the limelight. That’s common among political candidates lusting for higher office; Schaefer wants to be the state’s next attorney general.

In recent months Schaefer has tried to get plenty of attention, polishing his ultra-conservative credentials with the Republican crowd in the Show-Me State.

His weapon: bullying attacks on abortion rights for women.

His targets: Planned Parenthood and the University of Missouri.

But a few funny things have happened in recent days to Schaefer. They offer up the hope that Missourians are wising up to the dangerous games he’s playing.

▪ Planned Parenthood officials have revealed how they are going to fight back against attempts by Schaefer and the committee he leads to hold a top official of the organization in contempt of the Senate.

Mary Kogut — the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri — wants to face potential witnesses against her in next Monday’s scheduled contempt hearing.

This is a trumped-up matter by Schaefer and other Republicans who are continuing years of attempts to end legal abortions in Missouri.

It would be the height of absurdity for the Senate to go through with this farce to find Kogut and a pathology lab owner, James Miller, in contempt for not releasing six years — that’s right, six years — worth of files to lawmakers.

If jail time is the result of this gamesmanship, Schaefer might look like a hero to a few people for political reasons. But Missouri would look like a backward state that can’t get its priorities straight.

And in the long run, trampling on the legal system in a trivial attack on Planned Parenthood could backfire on Schaefer and deep-six his attorney general campaign.

▪ Schaefer’s attack on the freedom of academic research in Missouri recently earned him “runner up” status in the 25th annual Jefferson Muzzles, a contest run by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in Virginia hands out awards to “institutions and individuals responsible for committing some of the more egregious and ridiculous affronts to free speech in the prior year.” The finalists will be named Wednesday.

Late last year, Schaefer used his bully pulpit to threaten the University of Missouri by trying to get documents “related to a research project in which a doctoral student in the university’s School of Social Work is gauging the impact of Missouri’s new law requiring women to wait 72 hours before obtaining an abortion,” as The Star’s Barb Shelly wrote.

Schaefer thought he could bully the student and MU officials into stopping the research; Missouri law prohibits using tax revenues to do anything that could encourage women to have abortions.

As the Jefferson Center pointed out:

“The lawmaker’s assertion raises so many questions it is hard to know where to begin. One that comes to mind is how does he know the effect or impact of a dissertation that hasn’t even been written yet?....

“That Sen. Schaefer attempted to silence the expression of views he does not agree with is troubling, but to use his office to inject politics into academia is particularly disturbing. Academic inquiry requires the freedom to explore any theme, concept, or idea. Sen. Schaefer appears to believe academic freedom extends only to those studies that politicians believe will support their political views.”

Yes, that’s the Kurt Schaefer we’ve come to know. His bullying act is wearing thin.