Archive for Saturday, February 4, 2006

Court rejects Kline’s abortion probe

Process must be modified to ensure privacy

February 4, 2006


— A lower court must ensure patients' privacy before allowing Atty. Gen. Phill Kline to continue with an investigation into two clinics that provide abortions, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered Friday.

In its unanimous decision, the state's highest court also scolded Kline for his conduct in the case, but stopped short of holding him in contempt.

The dispute attracted national attention between Kline, an ardent opponent of abortion, and abortion rights' advocates.

Shortly after taking office in 2003, Kline initiated a secret inquisition into clinics operated by Dr. George Tiller in Wichita and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri in Overland Park.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Richard Anderson, at Kline's urging, issued subpoenas for medical records of 90 women and girls. Kline alleged the records could show instances of illegal late-term abortions and child abuse. The clinics said Kline was on a fishing expedition.

The inquisition became public as the clinics fought the subpoenas, appealing to the state Supreme Court that Kline's attempts, if allowed, would invade patients' privacy and cause women to be afraid in the future to seek legal abortions.

Balance needed

In the unanimous decision Friday, the Supreme Court said a balance was needed between privacy rights and the state's right to pursue criminal investigations.

If Anderson decides the inquisition should continue, he must impose safeguards on the subpoenas for medical records, the court said.

Justice Carol Beier, writing for the court, said the subpoenas for records must be tightly restricted to protect the privacy rights of women.

Women's rights at stake

At stake, Beier said, was the right of a woman to get an abortion, the right to obtain confidential health care and the right to maintain privacy over certain information.

"Only if Judge Anderson is satisfied that the attorney general is on firm legal ground should he permit the inquisition to continue and some version of subpoenas to remain in effect," she wrote.

The decision was hailed by the clinics as a triumph for privacy concerns of women and a rebuke of Kline's anti-abortion agenda.

"This is about protecting medical privacy and the identities of our clients from a politically motivated inquisition," said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

"The investigation is but one tactic in the attorney general's long-standing assault on a woman's right to make personal health care decisions," Brownlie said.

Julie Burkhart, executive director of ProKanDo, which is Dr. Tiller's political action committee, said Kline simply wanted to challenge the state abortion law.

"If he really wanted to protect minors, abortion clinics would not be his only focus," Burkhart said.

"Attorney General Kline's true intentions are to halt legal and safe health care delivery services to women across Kansas and the nation. He is attempting to insert his political agenda into our state's judicial system, and it is wrong," she said.

Kline denies allegations

Kline has vigorously denied that his investigation was politically motivated, saying instead that he wanted to investigate the potential sexual assaults of children and allegations of illegal late-term abortions.

He issued a one-sentence statement Friday. "I'm pleased that the District Court subpoenas will now be honored and that the investigation can proceed."

Kline was in Wichita on Friday testifying in a federal case in which he asserts that a Kansas law requiring doctors and other health care providers to report suspected child abuse covers every case involving underage sex.

After testifying in that case, he told reporters on the abortion clinic case: "We have never sought the names of the women. They are under no criminal liability or investigation. Their privacy will be protected."

Anti-abortion groups also rallied to Kline's defense.

Kansans for Life said the decision would allow the district court to acquire the medical records.

"The Attorney General's office can continue prosecuting child rapists and people who would cover up sex crimes with abortion," the group said.

"We are happy the Supreme Court recognizes that Planned Parenthood and George Tiller have no legal standing to stop law enforcement," it said.

The court said if Anderson decides to continue with the investigation, patient-identifying information must be redacted, and the files should be reviewed in private by a lawyer and doctor appointed by the judge.

"The type of information sought by the state here could hardly be more sensitive, or the potential harm to patient privacy posed by disclosure more substantial," Beier noted.

Court disagrees

Beier said the court documents show that Anderson said that even if Kline's interpretation of the abortion statute was flawed it shouldn't prevent production of the records.

But the Supreme Court disagreed. "To the extent the inquisition rests on the attorney general's ignorance, disregard, or misinterpretation of the precedent from the United States Supreme Court, subpoenas pursuant to the inquisition cannot be allowed," it said. Anderson's office had no comment.

The clinics also sought to have Kline found in contempt of court for disobeying court orders when he released a portion of a transcript of the secret inquisition and talked about matters in the case during a news conference.

Kline said he did this because the clinics had portrayed his efforts in a negative light.

The Supreme Court said that was no justification for Kline.

"Kline has told this court that he did what he did simply because he believed that he knew best how he should behave, regardless of what this court had ordered, and that his priorities should trump whatever priorities this court set," the court wrote.

Kline was let off the hook, however, because the court said the case was unusual in that it was a public dispute over sealed records.

The court cautioned all sides to be careful in their public statements "which may imperil the privacy of the patients and the law enforcement objectives at the heart of this proceeding."

Here are key events in the records dispute involving Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and two abortion clinics:

¢Sept. 21, 2004: Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson subpoenas the records of 90 patients from two abortion clinics operated by Dr. George Tiller in Wichita and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri in Overland Park. He does so as part of a court-supervised investigation by Kline, who says he is investigating rapes with child victims and whether the clinics violated laws restricting abortion.

¢Oct. 8, 2004: The clinics tell Anderson they plan to appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. He agrees to stay the subpoenas until the higher court rules. The clinics are identified only as "Alpha" and "Beta," because Anderson has issued a gag order to protect patients' privacy. Most of the gag order will stay in place.

¢Feb. 22, 2005: The clinics file a legal brief in their appeal with the Kansas Supreme Court. Two days later, a Wichita Eagle story discloses Kline's previously secret investigation.

¢April 11, 2005: The clinics file a request with the Supreme Court, asking it to hold Kline in contempt for violating the gag order. They claim he violated the order by attaching a transcript of an October 2004 district court hearing to a document he filed with the Supreme Court and holding a news conference afterward.

¢Sept. 8, 2005: The Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments in the case.

¢Sept. 15, 2005: In a filing with the Supreme Court, Kline says he doesn't need the names of women whose records are being subpoenaed.

¢Oct. 18, 2005: Kline discloses that he also is investigating cases in which underage girls had live births, citing 62 of them.

¢Feb. 3, 2006: The Supreme Court refuses to give Kline access to the records but leaves open the possibility he eventually will receive some information. The court sends the case back to Anderson, telling him to reconsider his subpoenas.

Facts by The Associated Press


lunacydetector 12 years ago

is the state supreme court child molester friendly? see the other related article in today's paper

Ragingbear 12 years ago

Kline had a vendetta against this from the start. Near the beginning of all this, he claimed that he had proof that the head of one of the Wichita clinics would keep, and eat the aborted fetuses on a regular basis.

Kline sounds quite unstable if you ask me.

lunacydetector 12 years ago

you are thinking about the abortionist in K.C. who got shut down because his sterilizers (dishwashers) were hooked up the bathroom sink next to the employee toilet, there was blood on the toilet and he kept food in the refrigerator next to aborted fetuses kept in styrofoam cups. a former employee claimed that the dr. ate a fetus mixed with noodles cooked in the microwave. (this post will probably get deleted - my first ever).

google search what i say because there are photos posted on the 'net that the board of healing arts used to shut the KC abortion doctor down.

the KC police made the grisly discovery first.

here is one link i found, though i know the AP ran a story about it as well as the LJW

Ember 12 years ago

" I doubt that we coud find a sane abortionist."

Care to explain this comment, Arminius?

Jamesaust 12 years ago

I've been waiting patiently to repost this:

Jamesaust, Sept. 9, 2005 -

"Medical records are available to law enforcement on a particularized and reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime. Here, Kline wants all records based upon an UNparticularized and, apparently based on the answers to Justice Beier's questions, an UNreasonable basis (ONLY abortion providers, not all parties with access to such information). As such, things look unfavorable for the A.G.

Kline's actions are the equivalent of the police gaining credible information that a felon (perhaps BTK) is somewhere within, say, Wichita, and asking for a search warrant for every house and building within the city occupied or owned by a narrow group, say, blacks or poor people or Mormons, etc. It is a thoroughly unconstitutional approach that wouldn't have even gotten this far but for the obscurring cloud that surrounds abortion as a controversy in Kansas. The ends most certainly do not justify the means."

Darrell Lea 12 years ago

Phill Kline should be voted out of office at the next opportunity. The man is quite obviously insane, and so full of himself that he would pop if stuck with a pin.

yourworstnightmare 12 years ago

Kline is on a crusade. He is using the AG position to further his own religious/political agenda rather than to uphold the laws of the state.

I will say it again: Kline is an activist AG who is legislating from the bar. He is a right-wing liberal who is seeing how far he can push the limits to advance his religious agenda.

yourworstnightmare 12 years ago

One only need to peruse the postings on this blog to understand the extremism involved in the anti-abortion camp.

This is conservatism? No, this is right-wing activist liberalism, and their boy is the AG.

Jeanne Cunningham 12 years ago

This is about attempting to legislate morality - which is ultimately impossible and absolutely undesirable. For those who believe in some religion: spend your efforts on attempting to spread it through your religion. Then, as with alcohol, plastic surgery, cigarettes, nude dancing - and, admittedly at an entirely different level, abortion - if you don't want any/one/some, don't drink/get/buy/look/or have one. Keep your nose out of what is NONE of your business. AND, as with all those other things, too, don't force them on anyone else, either (EX: don't blow your second-hand smoke on me).

Fred Whitehead Jr. 12 years ago

Well Hooray for the Court. Kline is a failed political candidate (remember this wonk ran for congress and was defeated) who managed to find enough highly emotional and political pregnant (yup!) issues to get enough of the idiots who have a right to vote to get him in as the state's top law enforcment officer, a position he is supremely unfit to occupy. He is a religious zealot, he is a right-wing extremest, and will grab onto any emotional and heated issue to feather his nest. The real loosers with this jerk in the AG spot are the people of Kansas who allowed themselves to be fooled by this supremely unfit and disgusting occupant of a very important position in the state government.

noise 12 years ago

Another brilliant, thought-provoking post by the anti-choicer, gluttonous Porkribs, who has no problem arguing the right to life while he simultanenously supports a war (and President) that is murdering Americans and Iraqis. Army-nuts (Arminius), too. Brilliant, right-wingers, and never contradictory. Unborn children's lives are thus more important than born, brave adults.

Oh wait, your murder is in the name of "patriotism" and "freedom," so it's legitimate.


Curious 12 years ago

What we need is a constitutional amendment saying "Life begins at" . . . let's say . . . "three months." That way the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" crowd knows the phrase does not apply to unwanted children . . . oops . . . gelatinous mass of cells

That way women don't have to go through the awful experience of a man digging through their cervix to turn a full grown mass of cells around and yanking it out through their nether parts.

Seems to me to be a win win.

And to keep Kline out of the picture. Maybe we need a law that says when you reach the state of life you also reach the state of majority. That way he won't have any "abortions done to get rid of the evidence" to investigage.

Godot 12 years ago

The Lawrence school district and the Topeka school district are facing declining school enrollment, year after year. The total population is increasing, but the number of children decreases. Could there be any correlation between that and the thousands of abortions that have occurred in Kansas in the last three decades?

Godot 12 years ago

"There were abortions before recorded history,"

Yes, and it used to be a last resort, something done in shame for the crime it is.

Now, all to often one of the first questions asked of a newly pregnant woman, by her sperm donor, is, "Are you going to keep it?"

Godot 12 years ago

Yes, population in Douglas and Shawnee Counties is increasing, yet the number of children in schools is decreasing. It is not like eastern Kansas is this great retirement attraction, this great entertainment center. Something is wrong when growing counties, and a state that is losing population, both have a net loss of children.

Thank God for illegal immigrants. They bear children, our future.

dogfight 12 years ago

I think Kline is on the right track . Someone needs to stop the illega abortions in Kansas . Mr Kline if you read this thank you and keep up the good work

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