Kline searching medical records on late-term abortions for evidence of crimes
Topeka ? Attorney General Phill Kline is seeking the complete medical records of nearly 90 women who received late-term abortions to search for evidence of crimes, according to court documents.
The secret investigation began in October, according to written legal arguments filed by two medical clinics that have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to intercede, hoping they won’t have to produce unedited records.
The clinics filed their request with the Supreme Court in October and outlined their legal arguments in a brief filed Tuesday. The clinics were not identified.
Though other documents in the case remain sealed, the brief filed Tuesday is not. The Wichita Eagle disclosed Kline’s investigation in a story published Thursday.
Attorneys for the clinics declined Thursday to discuss the case, citing a gag order imposed by a Shawnee County District Court judge.
“You can see our desire to discuss as much as possible, but we feel constrained,” said Wichita attorney Lee Thompson, who is representing one of the clinics. In their brief, the clinics’ attorneys said the gag order prevents the clinics from even disclosing to patients that their records are being sought.
“The logical and natural progression of this action could well be a knock on the door of a woman who exercised her constitutional right to privacy by special agents of the attorney general who seek to inquire into her personal medical, sexual or legal history,” the attorneys wrote.
Kline, an abortion opponent, is searching for evidence of violations of laws that limit late-term abortions and require mandatory reporting of suspected child sexual abuse, according to the clinics’ legal brief.
The attorney general scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon, and his office said he would discuss “questions raised relating to child rape and abortion in Kansas.” He has until March 14 to respond in writing to the clinics’ brief.
“It’s on an expedited schedule,” said Ron Keefover, the Supreme Court’s spokesman, said of the clinics’ appeal.
Kline began pushing in June 2003 to require health care professionals to report underage sexual activity. He contends state law requires such reporting because sex involving someone under 16 is illegal in Kansas, whatever the circumstances.
But after several health care providers sued in federal court, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten issued a temporary restraining order, citing the confidential patient-doctor privilege, that prevents prosecutors from enforcing the part of the law that Kline contents requires the reporting. The case is still pending.
In the interim, the clinics’ brief states, Kline sought the records in state court hearings closed to the public under a Kansas law that gives prosecutors the right to conduct secret inquisitions during a criminal investigation.
The clinics’ brief said Kline had demanded the complete, unedited medical records of women who sought abortions at least 22 weeks into their pregnancies be delivered to Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson by October 2004. The records would include each patient’s name, medical history, details of her sex life, birth control practices and psychological profile.
On Oct. 21, Anderson ruled that Kline could have the uncensored files. The clinics then appealed. Attorneys for the clinics declined Thursday to say who currently has custody of the records Kline is seeking.
In the brief, the clinics’ attorneys said their clients have offered to turn over limited records with names and other personal information blacked out. But the brief said Kline declined to provide specifics of his investigation and instead wanted the complete records.
The clinics said the Supreme Court should intervene in the investigation because “these women’s rights will be sacrificed if this fishing expedition is not halted or narrowed.”
The Supreme Court case is No. 93,383.
Kansas Supreme Court: http://www.kscourts.org