Topeka The fight over Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's pursuit of abortion records has been waged in the courtroom and during political debates.
Now, it is being brought into the living rooms of Kansans courtesy of televised campaign ads by Kline, a Republican seeking re-election, and Democratic challenger Paul Morrison.
"Abortion is the subtext of this entire race," Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty said Monday.
Kline is an ardent opponent of abortion; Morrison supports current laws that give women the right to have an abortion.
New Kline ad
Kline on Monday defended trying to get the abortion records from two clinics by implying in a new television ad that the records were needed to investigate allegations of children being raped.
"Every single prosecution of a child rapist involves medical records," Kline says in the ad.
"He (Morrison) would frighten the people of Kansas and walk away from a child rape investigation because Paul's supporters do not want the law enforced," Kline says in the ad.
Morrison, the district attorney of Johnson County for the past 18 years, denounced the campaign commercial.
"That's so unbelievably untrue, it's absurd," Morrison said.
Morrison noted three-fourths of the 90 medical records sought by Kline belong to adult women - not children.
"This is about the attorney general of the state of Kansas deciding to use the full power of government to pursue his personal agenda, and that is an abuse of authority," Morrison said.
Morrison already had an ad on television that said Kline "wants our personal medical files in the government's hands."
In September 2004, Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson subpoenaed 90 records at Kline's request from clinics operated by George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who performs abortions, and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. The secret inquisition was made public when the clinics asked the Kansas Supreme Court to block the subpoenas.
Kline said he was investigating allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions. The clinics accused Kline of going on a fishing expedition and trying to intimidate women from getting abortions.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to Anderson, directing him to ensure that patients' privacy rights were maintained before the medical records could be reviewed. The case file has been sealed by the district court.
Ads about abortion
The ads from both camps dealing with the issue don't mention the word abortion.
"General election campaigns are not run on abortion as a key issue. It is seen as too divisive," Beatty said.
That's why, Beatty said, Morrison's ad says Kline is violating Kansans' privacy, while Kline maintains he needs the records to fight crime.
Beatty said it is difficult to predict how voters will respond to the issue.
What would Morrison do?
In recent weeks, Kline has announced that several recent cases of alleged child abuse were related to a broader investigation of sex crimes against children.
But legal authorities have said the cases have had nothing to do with the abortion records in dispute.
Meanwhile, Morrison has been questioned recently for refusing to say whether he'd abandon pursuit of the records from the clinics, even though he has been hammering Kline over the issue for nearly a year.
On Monday, Morrison said, "We'd have to see whether or not there is any real evidence to support that pursuit. I suspect that there is not because of the fact that not one single prosecution has come of this, despite what General Kline continues to say," Morrison said.
More about the race
- 6News video: Kline justifies abortion file efforts in TV commercial
- Transcript of chat about the 2006 campaign with Attorney General Phill Kline (10-09-06)
- Morrison won't say whether he'd drop abortion pursuit
- Kline rebuked for civil rights comparisons
- Truth in question at latest AG debate (09-25-06)
- Clinics baffled by Kline's remarks on inquisition (09-16-06)
- Candidate: Phill Kline (Republican)
- Candidate: Paul Morrison (Democrat)
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