Kline’s clinic probe linked to abortion foe

Crusader sent AG recordings of own investigation

An anti-abortion crusader in Texas says his organization provided the evidence that led to Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline’s controversial investigation of two abortion clinics.

Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher said he had callers pretending to be 13-year-old girls call abortion clinics across the country, including four clinic offices in Kansas. The group says its tapes from the telephone conversations prove the clinics are operating illegally.

“The tapes from our investigation clearly prove that these people (abortion providers) are running a pedophile protection racket,” Crutcher said.

But abortion-rights groups say the apparent link between Life Dynamics and Kline, which Kline denies exists, is evidence that the attorney general is using the power of his office to advance an anti-abortion agenda and appease his conservative political base.

Kline, a former state legislator, has been a vocal abortion opponent, but he has sworn to enforce the laws of the state, even when he finds himself in philosophical disagreement.

Whitney Watson, a spokesman for Kline’s office, said the attorney general was familiar with Life Dynamics but denied the organization had a hand in the inquisition that began last year and led to a Shawnee County judge subpoenaing the medical records of about 90 women and girls who had abortions in Overland Park and Wichita.

The clinics, run by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park and by Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to block or amend the subpoenas. The case is pending.

But Crutcher told an Indianapolis newspaper reporter that Life Dynamics had provided Kline the information that launched the investigation.

“He flat-out said, ‘The Kansas attorney general had admitted using my stuff,'” said Laura McPhee, a reporter with Nuvo, a weekly newspaper.

And when pressed by the Journal-World, Crutcher said: “We put the information out there. People can do with it what they want. Your attorney general is pursuing it. You can connect the dots.”

The investigation

Crutcher said Life Dynamics had provided attorneys general in several states with transcripts and tapes of telephone calls from the group’s attempted sting operations in February and March of 2002, in which a caller poses as a 13-year-old girl who says she’s pregnant by her 22-year-old boyfriend. Saying she’s afraid her disapproving parents will find out, she asks about an abortion.

On the tapes, the caller does not identify herself and is not asked to identify herself.

Crutcher said Life Dynamics had tapes of more than 800 calls to dozens of abortion clinics throughout the United States, including several in Kansas.

On recordings Crutcher provided to the Journal-World, he says the conversations are of workers in clinics in Shawnee Mission, Wichita, Hays and Overland Park, heard telling the girl how to get an abortion without her parents finding out, how to keep her boyfriend out of trouble and how to obtain birth control pills.

In Kansas, if a 22-year-old adult has sex with a 13-year-old juvenile, it is considered statutory rape.

According to Crutcher, the tapes prove that abortion clinics have conspired to protect the identities of rapists, many of whom, he said, are sexual predators. And by supplying birth control pills to a 13-year-old girl who has said she is in a sexual relationship with a 22-year-old man, he said, the clinics are, in effect, protecting and perpetuating the relationship.

Anti-abortion crusaders

The tapes are part of an array of Life Dynamics-produced media — books, videos, radio and television programs and seminars — aimed at making abortion illegal.

Based in Denton, Texas, the nonprofit group has adopted the motto, “Pro-Life: Without compromise, without exception, without apology.”

Shortly after the Kline-led inquisition became public in February, Crutcher posted a statement, titled “Abortion Industry Busted!” on www.childpredators.com, a Life Dynamics-run Web site.

“Stay tuned. Mr. Kline’s criminal investigation is just the beginning,” Crutcher’s statement read. “It may have been a long time coming, but the fur is starting to fly.”

Link to Kline

In August 2004, Kline backed off hiring Ed Zielinski, an attorney with Life Dynamics from 2001 through March 2004, after The Wichita Eagle questioned Zielinski’s background.

Court documents show the Kline-led investigation of the clinics began in October 2004, less than two months after the hiring fell through.

Watson, Kline’s spokesman, said the attorney general’s contact with Zielinski and the soon-to-follow inquisition were unrelated.

“It’s not true,” Watson said. “There is no connection.”

But those being investigated don’t buy that assertion.

“I have no direct knowledge of there being a formal connection, but like Mr. Crutcher says, I can connect the dots,” said Peter Brownlie, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. “From the moment Mr. Kline began talking about protecting predators, I recognized it as the same agenda that Life Dynamics has been pursuing for years.”

‘No credibility’

Though the clinics and Kline have said the inquisition involves broad allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions, the nature of the would-be charges remains under seal.

“We don’t know what information has been given to the judge or what Mr. Kline has been telling the judge,” Brownlie said.

Spokesmen for Planned Parenthood and ProKanDo, an abortion-rights advocacy group founded and supported by Tiller, disputed the validity of the Life Dynamics tapes and transcripts.

“I give them no credibility. None,” said Planned Parenthood’s Brownlie.

“This is just another underhanded tactic that the right-wingers are using to outlaw abortion,” said ProKanDo director Julie Burkhart.

Burkhart and Brownlie said it’s neither wrong nor illegal to answer an anonymous teenager’s questions about the state’s abortion laws. Both said clinic counselors would have asked the caller to make an appointment, during which questions about the relationship and the boyfriend’s age would have been asked.

“We would never do that over the phone because we would have no way to verify who’s on the other end of the line,” Brownlie said. “And, frankly, these aren’t the kind of things you talk about over the phone.”

Brownlie and Bill Hoch, spokesman for Tiller’s clinic, Women’s Health Services, said if the girl had come to the clinic and if counselors had confirmed that she was 13 and her boyfriend was 22, a report would have been filed with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services’ Child Abuse Hotline.

“Absolutely, without a doubt,” Hoch said.

“The situation you’re describing — she’s 13, he’s 22 — would fit within our understanding of abuse,” Brownlie said. “It would be reported to the SRS hot line, that’s our policy and our practice.”

What’s the law?

Currently, the legal definition of what constitutes sexual abuse is up in the air.

Kline in 2003 issued a opinion declaring that sexual relations with a boy or girl under age 16 constitutes abuse and when detected by doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors or social workers, must be reported. Whether the relations were consensual does not matter.

But the opinion was quickly challenged in federal court in Wichita by the national Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of several doctors, nurses and counselors in Kansas. A judge has since granted a preliminary injunction against Kline’s interpretation of the law taking effect.

Reporting instances of underage girls seeking abortions does not guarantee prosecution. Instead, calls are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Oftentimes, consensual sex or sex between “age mates” are not considered worthy of investigation, said Sandra Hazlett, director of child and family policy at SRS.

Those thought to involve criminal abuse, coercion or incest are referred to investigative teams throughout the state. The teams include a social worker and a police officer.

Many of these cases are not prosecuted, Hazlett said, because evidence is insufficient or testimony is unreliable.

Suspected abusers who are not charged are added to the SRS-maintained Child Abuse Registry, a database used in background checks, for potential teachers, day-care workers and others who deal with children.

“There are thousands of names in there,” Hazlett said.

The database is not open to the public because individuals listed have not been convicted of a crime.