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Archive for Saturday, November 12, 2011

Abortion foes wary of Kansas district attorney in Planned Parenthood case

November 12, 2011

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— Some abortion opponents have misgivings about a Kansas district attorney who’d handle any prosecution arising from an investigation into state officials’ shredding of documents that became key evidence in a criminal case against a Planned Parenthood clinic.

The clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park faces charges in Johnson County that it violated state abortion laws, something it denies.

The case against also originally included allegations that the clinic falsified copies of reports on individual patients’ abortions, but a judge dismissed those charges at prosecutors’ request following disclosures that two state agencies had destroyed their copies of the same reports.

Shawnee County Sheriff Richard Barta plans to investigate the shredding at Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s request. One set of records was destroyed by the attorney general’s office under Schmidt’s predecessor, and Schmidt said he wants to avoid a conflict of interest. Also, the state capital is in Shawnee County.

But Barta’s findings would go to District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, who won his office in 2008 by defeating a top deputy to former prosecutor Phill Kline, a Republican abortion opponent who filed the Planned Parenthood case in 2007. Taylor made his opponent’s ties to Kline a major issue in the campaign.

“It’s definitely going to be a concern at some point,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life.

Kline said Taylor should remove himself from any potential prosecution because statements by Taylor during the 2008 campaign represented criticism of Kline’s prosecution of Planned Parenthood.

But Taylor spokesman Dakota Loomis said such comments are premature, along with speculation about how Taylor would handle the sheriff’s findings.

“We don’t even have reports to view,” he said. “We’ll wait to see what gets sent to our office.”

Kline began investigating abortion providers in 2003, while Kansas attorney general. He continued his investigation after losing his race for re-election in 2006 and becoming Johnson County district attorney. He held the county job from 2007 to 2009, losing the 2008 Republican primary to current District Attorney Steve Howe.

Kline filed 107 criminal charges in October 2007 against the Planned Parenthood clinic. Forty-nine counts, now dismissed, were tied to allegations of falsifying abortion reports.

The reports were filed by the clinic in 2003 with the state health department, and Kline, as attorney general, obtained copies from the agency in 2004. The clinic produced yet another set to a Shawnee County judge in 2006, as Kline’s investigation continued.

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