Kansas Attorney General Faces Opposition from Abortion Establishment
TOPEKA, Kan. — Phill Kline is not interested in invading anyone’s privacy. All the Kansas attorney general said he is doing is his job: to protect children and investigate possible crimes at abortion clinics, which is why he is seeking the medical records of women and girls who have had late-term abortions — a move strongly supported by the state’s Catholic bishops.
But Kline has some powerful obstacles blocking his way: the governor and abortionists.
“Kansas law states that when a 10-, 11-, 12-year-old child is pregnant, they have been raped,” said Kline, a Republican. “And it is my duty as attorney general to investigate that rape and to protect that child and to prevent future rape and also to bring the rapist to justice.”
According to public records, in 2003, 78 children under the age of 14 had abortions in Kansas, where the legal age of consent is 16 and older.
About a year ago, Kline said his office received evidence that indicated “potential concerns regarding criminal conduct,” including the rape of minors. That evidence prompted a judicial inquiry that led Shawnee County District Court Judge Richard Anderson to issue several subpoenas, asking that two unnamed abortion clinics hand over the 2003 medical records involving almost 90 females, including minors.
Because the judge has issued a gag order on the case, Kline would not say which clinics have been subpoenaed. But Kansas is home to the Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita, whose controversial medical director, Dr. George Tiller, has been doing late-term abortions since 1973. It has been widely reported that Tiller’s is one of the two unnamed clinics involved. His establishment is currently under investigation by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts and Texas authorities for the mid-January death of a 19-year-old Texas girl following an abortion.
Meanwhile, the clinics have responded by asking the Kansas Supreme Court to quash the subpoenas, labeling the records requests a “fishing expedition” that could lead to “a knock on the door of a woman who exercised her constitutional right to privacy by special agents of the attorney general who seek to inquire into her personal medical, sexual or legal history.”
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, along with 14 other female state lawmakers, recently criticized the attorney general for his investigation.
“I find the potential to reveal very personal health histories of women and girls extremely troubling,” said Sebelius during a news conference. Her office did not respond to a request for an interview. The governor has been criticized by pro-life advocates for vetoing a 2003 bill which would have imposed more restrictions on abortion clinics. A spokeswoman for Tiller did not return a call for an interview either.
‘Above the Law’
The politically-charged issue led the Catholic bishops of Kansas to take a clear stand on the subject.
In a joint statement issued Feb. 28 by the Kansas Catholic Conference, the bishops urged abortion clinics to inform authorities whenever a female under the age of 16 arrives at the clinics after being impregnated.
“Sex crimes against children must not be shielded and hidden,” the bishops said. “Privacy rights should never be used to shield those who molest children from investigation by government authorities. To use the mantras of choice and privacy as a means to block the investigation of child rape is an unconscionable act.”
Kline, who is a Christian and said he is guided by the “inherent value of human life that is part of the foundational promise of America,” fired back at his critics by saying it’s usual for records to be handed over during investigations.
“Everyone always complies with subpoenas, from doctor’s offices to medical clinics to hospitals,” he said, adding that the judge is the one who would receive the records from the abortion clinics, not him. “Only abortion clinics believe they’re above the law.”
He continued, “We haven’t asked for all their medical records,” Kline said. “We’ve just asked for what the clinics have. They act as if they are the family doctor, and the abortion doctor has been having dinner with the family once a week.”
Kline said that he has no problem with the judge redacting the names of the women and girls to protect their privacy and emphasized that he wants to protect the privacy of all involved — except the perpetrator of a crime.
“I don’t protect the secrecy of the child predator,” he said. “I expose him and put him in prison. That’s my job.”
The issue of privacy brought up by pro-abortion advocates seems a bit disingenuous, according to a local pro-life group. Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, said her group recently pointed out that Tiller’s website contained a notice regarding its fund-raising policy. Unless a female patient discovered the notice and opted out, the patient’s name, address, phone and date of services would be released to outside fund-raisers, she said.
“These abortion clinics are stonewalling and screaming privacy when it’s convenient for them,” said Culp, who added that as soon as media scrutiny focused on what she referred to as “the breach of privacy” on Tiller’s website, the paragraph was deleted. According to an Associated Press story, the clinic’s spokeswoman said the information was “mistakenly” put on the website and that Tiller doesn’t disclose information to fund-raisers.
Culp’s group also estimates that Tiller has raised, either personally or through his political action committee, more than $200,000 to help defeat Tim Shallenburger, the Republican pro-life challenger to Sebelius during the 2002 gubernatorial race and Culp said he has given $23,000 to the governor’s political action committee.
Kline said he would also be ready to enforce state law on criminal abortions. Kansas restricts abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, except when “continuation of the pregnancy will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
Local pro-lifers have viewed the subpoenas and subsequent media uproar as positive news, despite the possibility that the Kansas Supreme Court can block the investigation by agreeing with abortionists’ point of view.
Kathy Ostrowski, legislative research director for Kansans for Life, called it “heartening” to find “integrity” in public office.
“This is a great day for us,” she said, “as the truth unfolds that we’re working for a good cause.”
Carlos Briceño writes
from Seminole, Florida.
- March 13-19, 2005