Topeka — An abortion doctor will ask the Kansas Supreme Court to investigate Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and Bill O'Reilly over the Fox News Channel television host's comments that he obtained information from Kansas abortion records, the doctor's attorneys said Saturday.
The attorneys said Dr. George Tiller wants the court to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the investigation and take possession of the records of 90 patients from two clinics, including Tiller's. They said he will make his requests Monday.
During a national Friday night broadcast of "The O'Reilly Factor," the host said a "source inside" told the show that Tiller performs late-term abortions when a patient is depressed, which O'Reilly deemed "executing babies." He also said his show has evidence that Tiller's clinic and another unnamed clinic have broken Kansas law by failing to report potential rapes with child victims aged 10 to 15.
O'Reilly interviewed Kline, but Kline spokeswoman Sherriene Jones said Saturday that the attorney general doesn't know how O'Reilly obtained his information.
Tiller's attorneys, Pedro Irigonegaray, of Topeka, and Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat, of Wichita, issued a joint statement decrying the "national media event."
"The fears about threats to the sanctity and privacy of medical records were well-grounded," they said.
O'Reilly did not say whether his information came from the records of 90 patients from Tiller's clinic and a clinic operated in Overland Park by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Kline waged a two-year battle to obtain those records and received edited versions of them Oct. 24.
It wasn't clear Saturday whether O'Reilly's source had broken state or federal laws by divulging patients' information or whether O'Reilly or his staff had viewed any records themselves. A request to Fox News in Washington to interview O'Reilly or someone associated with his show wasn't answered Saturday.
"We don't know anything about Mr. O'Reilly's inside source," Jones said. "I assumed he was talking about somebody on the inside of the abortion clinics."
Asked about the possibility that TV host's information came from a clinic insider, Irigonegaray said, "That's preposterous."
Patient privacy has been a major issue as Kline seeks his second term against Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney. Morrison has repeatedly criticized Kline for seeking abortion clinic records, saying it invaded patients' privacy.
Kline has received national attention for his pursuit of the records, and Planned Parenthood's national organization listed him as one of 15 "anti-choice extremists and political hard-liners."
Kline says he's not investigating any patient, only potential rapists and doctors who may have broken Kansas' abortion laws. He maintains that patients' privacy has been protected.
"Phill Kline told us these records would be kept private, but now that Phill Kline has them, the host of a national talk show Kline is on says he has seen the records," said Mark Simpson, Morrison's campaign manager. "O'Reilly would not be claiming to have seen the private medical records of Kansans if Phill Kline had not violated Kansans' privacy by seizing the records."
Irigonegaray said in an interview that he was outraged both by O'Reilly's remarks and by Kline's failure to demand answers from the television host about where he received his information. Irigonegaray said the records contain no evidence of wrongdoing by the clinics.
"This has been our concern from the beginning, that if he ended up with these records, that just this type of event would occur. Our worst nightmare has happened," Irigonegaray said. "Women in America deserve better than this."
Kline confirmed this week that he'd received the records from Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson, edited so that individual patients could not be identified.
Kline said he's turned the records over to staff who are reviewing them to prosecute possible cases of child rape, forcible rape, incest, illegal late-term abortions, failing to report sexual abuse of a child and making a "false writing."
"There's only a limited number of people within the attorney general's office who have access to those records, and I can assure you that none of them have shared that information beyond the investigators and prosecutors who are reviewing the cases," Jones said.
O'Reilly told viewers Friday night that his program has been investigating Tiller for a year. Now, he said, it has evidence about abortions in Kansas.
Kline suggested during his interview that O'Reilly inferred that late-term abortions had been performed for mental health reasons, given that state statistics show none have been performed to preserve a woman's life or to prevent permanent damage to a physical bodily function, two other reasons they are allowed.
O'Reilly replied: "Our information says that on almost every medical sheet - and obviously we have a source inside here - it says, 'depression.' I don't know whether you have that information or not - I don't know - but that's what it says."
Kline avoided an unprecedented contempt citation from the Kansas Supreme Court in February, after the clinics complained he'd violated a gag order in the case that Anderson imposed. The high court criticized Kline but said it would give him the benefit of the doubt.
Anderson subpoenaed the records at Kline's request in September 2004, concluding there was probable cause to believe they might contain evidence of crimes. The clinics asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
While Anderson had not planned to give Kline unfettered access to the records, the Supreme Court imposed new guidelines for handling them and sent the case back to district court. Anderson received the records in August and turned them over to Kline two months later.
In the frequently bitter race, Morrison has received the bulk of Kansas newspaper endorsements.
On Friday, The Junction City Daily Union endorsed Morrison, calling Kline "a social activist who has questionable relationships with the churches that agree with his extreme political views."
But The Topeka Capital-Journal endorsed Kline on Saturday, saying, "We believe Kline's efforts to protect all Kansans have outweighed the controversies stemming from his personal politics."