Topeka Leaders at two health care clinics Monday asked the Kansas Supreme Court to stop Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's investigation into abortion records, seal the patients' information and launch a probe into an alleged leak from the records.
The clinics said their legal effort was prompted by statements Friday by Kline, an ardent opponent of abortion, and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
"We've fought the attorney general's attempts to invade the privacy of medical records, in part because we feared that, once invaded, they would be misused in pursuit of the attorney general's right-wing agenda," said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "It appears, unfortunately, that fear has been justified."
Kline denied any wrongdoing, calling the clinics' legal filing frivolous.
"The women are not under any investigation, and their privacy is not in jeopardy," Kline said. "These records have not been provided in any fashion to any other party by this office."
The move comes on the eve of a bitter election fight between Kline and Democratic challenger Paul Morrison, who has accused Kline of abusing his authority and invading patients' privacy.
The Kansas Supreme Court took no immediate action in the latest go-round. Kline and state District Court Judge Richard Anderson, whose court has overseen the records' inquisition, have five days to respond to the clinics' motion.
The filings represent another battle in a two-year-long war between Kline and clinics operated by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park and by Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion specialist in Wichita.
Kline sought through a lower court the records of 90 women and girls from the clinics, alleging possible sexual crimes against minors and illegal late-term abortions.
The Kansas Supreme Court allowed the subpoena of records provided that the identities of the patients was redacted. Because of concerns about the privacy of patients, the court also admonished all parties to "resist the impulse to further publicize their respective legal positions."
Kline received the records Oct. 24.
On Friday, he appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" television show to talk about the case.
During the show, O'Reilly said he had information that the records showed many of the late-term abortions, which he called "executing babies," were granted for depression. On the show and numerous times before, Kline has stated publicly the allegations of his investigation.
In their petition filed Monday, the clinics said the court needed to take control of the investigation "given the obvious and apparent cavalier attitude to the public dissemination of the contents of the record by respondent Kline and the public allegation by O'Reilly that he has an inside source with respect to the records' contents."
The clinics noted that each medical record, even after the identity of the patient is removed, contains detailed personal history.
Kline said he has no idea where O'Reilly allegedly got his information. O'Reilly has declined to speak to reporters about the matter.
Kline also said that Tiller was trying to thwart the investigation, and that the clinics' motion has no basis in law.
But the clinics argued that a special prosecutor needs to take over the case because Kline is so prejudiced against Tiller, even noting in a campaign memo of the need to use churches to raise funds "to match Tiller's blood money."
The clinics added: "Kline has shown that he is unwilling or unable to separate his duties as a licensed attorney and a public official, entrusted with enormous power, from his desire for personal political gain."
In the last few days of the campaign, Kline has repeatedly told crowds they appeared to be in good health and added, "Of course, I already knew that. I've got all of your medical records."
In their court filing, the clinics described Kline's line as an "offensive joke."
More about the race
- 6News video: Kids cast vote
- 6News video: Polling sites ready
- Voters take to polls
- Advance voting a popular option
- Press release concerning emergency motions filed today with the Kansas Supreme Court by Comprehensive Health and Women's Health Care Services of Wichita (.pdf)
- Kline, Barnett on last-minute whirlwind tour (11-05-06)
- Morrison leads Kline in Lawrence money (11-05-06)
- Clinics to seek investigation of AG, Fox host (11-05-06)
- Campaigns at fever pitch in final days before election (11-05-06)
- About half of voters expected to turn out (11-04-06)
- Republican officials plan bus campaign tour (11-02-06)
- More about the race for Attorney General
- More in Election 2006