Kline and abortion
- SegwickCounty.org: Dismissal of charges
- Press release from Tiller's attorneys (.pdf)
- Sebelius won't sign off on Kline's district attorney appointment (12-21-06)
- Anti-abortion group gives award to Kline (12-19-06)
- Kline makes plans for new job but not next election (12-13-06)
- Abortion clinics' request rejected (12-01-06)
- Morrison wants Kline to hold off on abortion records (11-08-06)
Wichita — A Sedgwick County judge dismissed 30 misdemeanor criminal charges against Wichita physician and abortion provider George Tiller, less than a day after recently defeated Attorney General Phill Kline filed them.
Judge Paul W. Clark dismissed the case against Tiller after Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said that her office had not been consulted by Kline, a vocal opponent of abortion who recently lost his bid for a second term.
Clark signed his one-page order only hours after Kline's complaint against Tiller was unsealed.
Kline filed his complaint Thursday, alleging that Tiller had improperly performed late-term abortions and hadn't properly reported information to the state Department of Health and Environment.
Foulston said in her request to have the case dismissed that while Kline is the state's chief law enforcement official, he doesn't have the legal authority to "unilaterally" pursue criminal charges when a county prosecutor has not asked his office to intervene or granted a request from the attorney general to handle a case.
"The district attorney has not invited or requested, consented or acquiesced, or failed to object to the filing of the complaint," Foulston wrote.
Kline accused Tiller of improperly finding that multiple patients' mental health would be seriously harmed if they did not have abortions. Also, attorney Dan Monnat said, Kline accused Tiller of "hypertechnical" violations of a law requiring reports on late-term abortions to the state.
Most of the charges involve abortions performed on patients 17 or younger, including a 10-year-old, the complaint showed.
Kline wasn't immediately available for comment, but he scheduled a 3 p.m. news conference in Topeka to discuss the case.
He waged a successful two-year legal battle to obtain the records of 90 patients at Tiller's clinic and one operated in Overland Park by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
Kansas law says that if a woman wants to obtain an abortion after the 22nd week of her pregnancy, a doctor must first determine whether the fetus can survive outside the womb. If the fetus is viable, the woman must face permanent damage to a "major bodily function" or use a procedure the law calls partial-birth abortion to preserve her physical or mental health.
Abortion opponents were elated with Kline's decision to file criminal charges against Tiller, not anticipating that they would be dismissed so quickly - before Tiller's first court appearance.
Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said Foulston's action shows that she is a Tiller "crony."
And David Gittrich, development director for Kansans for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, said: "If she can get away with this without someone yelling 'cover up,' he won't be investigated."
But Foulston spokeswoman Georgia Cole said the district attorney's action had nothing to do with the merits of the allegations against Tiller, only Kline's lack of legal authority to pursue them unilaterally.
"This is a matter of jurisdiction," Cole said.
In her arguments to Clark, Foulston cited a law saying the attorney general "shall consult with and advise" county prosecutors "when requested by them" in "all matters pertaining to their official duties."
"The district attorney does in fact object to any such filing by the attorney general, as he lacks the legal authority to file such a complaint in this jurisdiction," she wrote.
But Gittrich said: "Any real district attorney would have been looking into the charges, not who filed them."
The flurry of developments came less than three weeks before Kline, a Republican, leaves the attorney general's office, having lost to Democrat Paul Morrison in the Nov. 7 general election.
But on Jan. 8, Kline will take Morrison's old job of Johnson County district attorney. Morrison won five terms as a county prosecutor as a Republican before switching parties last year to challenge Kline - giving the GOP the authority to replace Morrison as district attorney.
Morrison, an abortion rights supporter, made Kline's pursuit of patient records from the two clinics a key issue against Kline, suggesting it represented an invasion of privacy. But after the election, he wouldn't commit to dropping Kline's investigation, and on Friday, spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said he would evaluate the charges and "give them the attention they deserve based on the evidence."
Abortion rights activists had predicted Kline would move against Tiller before he gave up the attorney general's office. They also predict he'll attempt to build a criminal case against Planned Parenthood once he becomes Johnson County's top prosecutor.
"We've anticipated this possibility, particularly of some action against Dr. Tiller, because Kline will not have jurisdiction in Sedgwick County when he goes to the DA's office," said Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood's chief executive.
Tiller's attorneys had attacked the charges against the doctor as groundless, with Monnat calling Kline's action a "malicious and spiteful prosecution."
"It's clear that Phill Kline just snuck into town yesterday afternoon and filed something that he had nobody's authority to file," Monnat said after Clark dismissed the case.