Archive for Friday, September 2, 2005

Abortion clinics: Court should cite Kline for contempt

September 2, 2005

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— Two abortion clinics are asking the Kansas Supreme Court to cite Atty. Gen. Phill Kline for contempt, accusing him of violating judicial orders in a case involving his attempts to gain access to their patient records.

The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for 1:30 p.m. Thursday on whether the clinics should be forced to turn over 90 patients' records to a Shawnee County judge so Kline's office can review them. The court also has said it will consider whether Kline should be held in contempt.

Such a finding would be unprecedented.

The records Kline seeks are for patients of Dr. George Tiller's clinic in Wichita and one in Overland Park operated by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Both Planned Parenthood and abortion opponents had Statehouse news conferences Thursday to bolster public support.

Kline, an abortion opponent, has said he needs the records to investigate child rapes and abortions that potentially violate a state law restricting procedures after a fetus can survive outside the womb.

He has said repeatedly the patients are not targeted.

But the clinics contend he is on a fishing expedition and that his efforts will jeopardize patients' privacy.

At Kline's request, Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson subpoenaed the records last year. The clinics then asked the Supreme Court to block the subpoenas or narrow them.

Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood's chief executive officer, declined to discuss the clinics' request for Kline to be cited for contempt of court because most documents associated with the case remain under seal.

In March, the clinics said Kline had violated a gag order, first imposed by Anderson, by discussing his investigation publicly and by including a transcript of a court hearing last year with a legal brief his office filed with the Supreme Court.

"The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the state," Brownlie told reporters Thursday. "He - as with other officials of the state, law enforcement officials - needs to be trusted to follow court orders."

But spokesman Whitney Watson noted that Kline's investigation became public in February - when the clinics filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court.

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