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Archive for Sunday, March 6, 2005

Kline questions

Kansans have reason to question the motivation behind recent actions by their attorney general.

March 6, 2005

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The explanations of Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and his spokesman aren't doing much to allay Kansans' concerns about Kline's investigation and effort to obtain medical records from two Kansas abortion clinics.

Kline initially said he wanted the records of about 90 women and girls who had obtained abortions at the two clinics because he was looking for evidence of child rape. This explanation raised a number of questions with many observers. Did Kline have specific evidence that any of the women whose records he sought had been raped? And why did he only want records from abortion clinics that are known to perform late-term abortions? What about other clinics or doctor's offices where abortions are performed, not to mention the many hospitals where girls under 16 had delivered live babies?

Without any evidence that pointed to a specific victim or evidence, the only way to determine which girls under 16 might have been raped would be to investigate every abortion and delivery that involved a girl that age, but that wasn't what the AG had in mind.

Asked about this at a press conference Thursday, Kline and his spokesman, Whitney Watson, had a hard time getting on the same page. Watson snapped back at a reporter's question about investigating live births by saying "How do you know we're not?" But Kline seemed to confirm that live births weren't part of the investigation because "You do not find child predators standing in a hospital as their prey gives birth to the child that they father. That's common sense."

It seems equally unlikely that a sexual predator would accompany an under-age girl to an abortion clinic and willingly identify himself on records.

Another statement made by Kline Thursday was perhaps more telling about the true motivation for his investigation: "The issue in this case," he said, "is whether abortion clinics are above the law."

Again, does Kline have any evidence of a specific case in which a clinic is breaking the state law? Because he is focused on clinics that perform late-term abortions, the assumption is that he is concerned about the law that prohibits abortions during or after the 22nd week of a pregnancy if the fetus can survive on its own unless a woman's life or health is in danger. Evidence of a specific case in which this occurred might justify the investigation of one woman's medical records, but invading the privacy and examining the medical records of 90 women and girls seems like a fishing expedition.

Kline's decision to break a judge's gag order on this case raises additional concerns. Although the judge had issued a gag order in the abortion clinic investigation, Kline released his response to supporters a brief he had filed with the Kansas Supreme Court, complete with transcripts of earlier proceedings in the case.

The only justification Watson could offer for this apparent violation of the gag order was that attorneys representing the clinics had released their brief to the public. Saying "if they do it, we can do it" seems a weak justification, especially when you're the state's top law enforcement officer.

The clinic investigation, combined with Kline's recent secret meetings with a select group of conservative members of the Kansas Board of Education, seems to indicate our attorney general has a desire not just to enforce the laws of the state but to pursue a personal moral or political agenda. It's a trend that certainly bears watching by the Kansans he is supposed to represent.

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