Grand jury refuses to issue Planned Parenthood indictment

? A Johnson County grand jury has refused to issue an indictment against Planned Parenthood after investigating the agency’s clinic in suburban Kansas City.

Planned Parenthood officials said the grand jury’s verdict of “no true bill” was announced in court Monday evening.

Abortion opponents, through a petition, had forced the court to convene the panel and investigate whether Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park, Kan., clinic violated state restrictions on abortion. They also wanted to see whether the clinic was illegally trafficking in fetal tissue.

“We are once again vindicated, as we have been any time there is an objective review of these allegations,” said Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. “The jury investigated all of the allegations that were in the petition that resulted in the grand jury being formed, and they found no evidence of any wrongdoing.”

Planned Parenthood attorney Pedro Irigonegaray said of Monday’s verdict, “It gives me great faith in the justice system and the people of Kansas.”

Those who called for the grand jury were upset with the outcome. They believe the grand jury’s case was weakened because the panel did not get all the records it initially sought. The jury convened in December, but saw its investigation delayed for more than a month while it waited on records from Planned Parenthood.

“Planned Parenthood cannot claim they are free of any indictment, because the full evidence never reached the grand jury,” said Tim Golba, spokesman for the LIFE (Life Is for Everyone) Coalition, the anti-abortion collaborative that petitioned for the grand jury.

The jurors issued a subpoena in January seeking the records of 16 clinic patients, but Planned Parenthood was concerned that information in the records would identify the patients.

Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline, who has started his own separate investigation into Planned Parenthood, asked District Judge Kevin Moriarty to make the agency and its clinic abide by the subpoena.

Kline also asked for the grand jury’s investigation to be extended, given the delay over records.

In the end, Planned Parenthood was allowed to turn over a limited number of records – ones relevant to the grand jury’s questions about parental notice and informed consent. Jurors wanted to determine whether the clinic complied with state laws on these issues.

The law requires a parent or guardian of a minor seeking an abortion to be notified, and that a woman must be given information about the procedure or alternatives 24 hours before an abortion is performed.

Kline spokesman Brian Burgess declined to comment Monday. Burgess said Kline, who is working on a murder trial, was unavailable for comment.

Cheryl Sullenger, spokeswoman with Operation Rescue, one of the groups in the LIFE Coalition, said she isn’t surprised by the grand jury’s verdict. She said jurors didn’t appear to seriously investigate all of the allegations.

“We’ve been considering a second grand jury effort,” Sullenger said. “That’s something that’s on the table right now.”‘

Brownlie said he expected abortion opponents to claim the grand jury’s work was tainted.

“Any time a decision is different from the one they want, they will claim it’s because of some nefarious doings,” he said. “The only people who continue to insist that there’s criminal wrongdoing are people who have a political agenda.”