Topeka Atty. Gen. Phill Kline opened a new front Thursday in the fight over abortion, filing a lawsuit against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to prohibit state-funded abortions.
The expenditure of state funds to end pregnancies violates the Kansas Constitution's protection of "inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the lawsuit stated.
The suit also seeks to have the court determine that life starts at fertilization when "a new, unique and genetically distinct human being is formed, distinct from its host while dependent upon her."
The state is allowed to pay for abortions in instances of rape, incest or the life of the woman is endangered. The money comes from Medicaid, a federal- and state-funded program that provides health care to low-income Kansans.
Since October, the state has allocated $1,907 for seven of these abortions, state officials said. In the year before that, it was $999 for three abortions.
Sebelius' office said a Kline victory in the matter could threaten the Medicaid program in Kansas.
"The state of Kansas is required to follow federal law, which restricts Medicaid funding to three areas only: in the cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened," said Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Sebelius.
Kline and abortion
- Recent stories on Kline and abortion:
- Sebelius seeks to dismiss abortion suit (10-20-05)
- Child-sex investigation takes turn (10-19-05)
- Kline: Judge must see women's names (09-16-05)
- Records case raises privacy concerns (09-14-05)
- Kline probe goes beyond abortions (09-09-05)
- Abortion opponents dispute claims about patient privacy (09-08-05)
- On the Street: When do you think human life begins? (08-19-05)
- Kline sues Sebelius to end state-funded abortion (08-19-05)
- Kline's clinic probe linked to abortion foe (04-18-05)
- Kline's motives under fire nationally (03-24-05)
- Court lifts abortion gag order; Kline irate (03-11-05)
- Kline finds home in spotlight (03-06-05)
- A.G. releases information despite gag order (03-04-05)
- A.G. wants to search abortion records (02-25-05)
- Kline dismisses abortion lawyer (08-29-04)
- Kline issues funds to pregnancy clinics (07-01-04)
- Kline seeks abortion clinic regulations (04-29-04)
- More on the abortion controversy in Kansas »
"Failing to comply with these requirements would jeopardize the health care dollars Kansas receives from Medicaid, which totaled $1.2 billion last year alone," she said.
Whitney Watson, a spokesman for Kline, said the attorney general was simply following instructions from the Legislature.
The Kansas House in 2002 approved a resolution directing the attorney general to seek a court determination whether state funds can be used for abortions.
"We did what we were compelled by the Legislature to do," Watson said.
When asked if Kline agreed with the petition, Watson said, "It was filed on behalf of the attorney general."
The resolution, H.R. 6003, was approved by a 70-50 vote. It became an issue in the 2002 election contest between Kline, a Republican, and his Democratic rival Chris Biggs.
During the campaign, Biggs, a former Geary County prosecutor, called the resolution "political grandstanding" and said if the Legislature wanted to restrict abortions it should have passed a state law that could have been challenged in the courts to determine whether it would pass constitutional muster.
Kline had said he was ready to carry the resolution to court.
At the time of the contest between Kline and Biggs, former Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan, a Republican who endorsed Kline, said he thought the resolution was meaningless.
Stephan said that in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a right to an abortion. Any attempt in state court to run counter would be futile, he said.
The new lawsuit was filed in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of Kline by a fellow abortion opponent, state Rep. Lance Kinzer, a Republican from Olathe.
Kline appointed Kinzer as special counsel in the case.
"I was asked to bring a suit to determine whether there is a conflict to using state funds, through Medicaid, for abortions," Kinzer said.
He said for the court to resolve that issue, "there has to be a determination that the unborn baby qualifies as a person in Kansas' Bill of Rights."
Kinzer said the lawsuit would not affect the rights of women, outside of the Medicaid program, to get an abortion because the U.S. Supreme Court has protected that right.
The lawsuit is before District Judge Terry Bullock, the judge who ruled against the state in the school finance lawsuit. It was filed against Sebelius, Secretary of Administration Duane Goossen and Bob Day, who is head of Sebelius' health and policy division.
Abortion opponents praised Kline for filing the lawsuit.
"There is no legal defense for the state of Kansas to spend one cent on elective abortion," said Elmer Feldkamp, president of Right to Life Kansas Inc.
"Such expenditures must be stopped. We heartily support the Attorney General's efforts to see to it that all human beings, born and preborn, are protected from the criminal act of abortion subsidized by the taxpayers of our great state," Feldkamp said.
Abortion rights advocates said the lawsuit was another example of Kline trying to impede women's rights.
"He's just showing his true colors," said Traci Gleason, public affairs director of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
"He continues to use his office to force extremist ideology on the people of Kansas," she said. Trying to deny health care to poor people, she said, "is unconscionable."
Last year, at Kline's request, a state judge issued subpoenas for the records of 90 patients at two women's clinics. Kline said he was investigating allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions.
The clinics have sought to block the subpoenas and accused Kline of contempt of court. The case is before the Kansas Supreme Court.