Wichita A Sedgwick County judge ruled Wednesday that Dr. George Tiller must begin turning over redacted medical records of about 2,000 women who obtained late-term abortions in the past five years.
Judge Paul Buchanan, who is overseeing a grand jury investigation into Tiller, made his ruling after hearing oral arguments by defense attorneys seeking to quash two citizen grand jury subpoenas - including one that demanded the files of women who ultimately did not get the abortions after going to the clinic.
Buchanan ordered them to use "all deliberate speed" in furnishing the files to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office. Those records would be handed over to an independent attorney and physician to review before the grand jury received them.
Defense attorney Lee Thompson said he will immediately ask the Kansas Supreme Court for a stay of the Buchanan's order while he appeals the motion to quash the subpoenas.
Thompson called the subpoenas a "dragnet operation" in their scope.
He was joined in his motion by the Bonnie Scott Jones, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, who filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Tiller's patients.
"These patients are terrified their identities will be disclosed," Jones told the judge.
Deputy Sedgwick County District Attorney Ann Swegle countered that the grand jury was convened for 90 days, noting 22 days already have passed. She said getting the records incrementally would be fine.
"We just don't want any foot dragging," Swegle said.
Swegle said the subpoenas were directly related to the charge given to the grand jury.
The subpoenas seek all health care records of patients who aborted a fetus determined to be 22 weeks or older from July 1, 2003, through Jan. 18 at Women's Health Care Services. It also seeks all health care records of each patient who was at least 22 weeks pregnant when she consulted with a physician at the clinic but did not have an abortion.
The grand jury was convened after Kansans for Life gathered nearly 8,000 signatures to force a grand jury investigation into Tiller under a 19th-century state law allowing citizens to invoke grand juries if they feel government officials are not enforcing the law.
"We have an extremist political group generating the grand jury," Thompson told the judge.
David Gittrich, state development director for Kansans for Life, said outside the courtroom that the grand jury is trying to do what it has been commissioned to do.
"We are pleased with the ruling," Gittrich said. "Once again attorneys for Tiller are stonewalling and delaying."
Tiller's lawyers also argued the subpoenas would place an undue burden on the clinic to produce so many medical records.
When former Attorney General Phill Kline subpoenaed 60 redacted medical records from the clinic two years ago, it took two people working full time about one month to comply, the attorneys noted.
Thompson also told the judge it would take 5,000 hours and cost $250,000 in labor costs to comply with the latest subpoenas.