Thursday, February 24, 2005


You might recall that John Ashcroft's Justice Department sought to obtain a number of abortion records last year, then abandoned the effort. Well, now (as you may already know via Atrios) it's happening in Kansas. AP reports:

Attorney General Phill Kline is seeking the complete medical records of nearly 90 women who received late-term abortions to search for evidence of crimes, according to court documents....

Kline, an abortion opponent, scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon, and his office said he would discuss "questions raised relating to child rape and abortion in Kansas."

The clinics' brief said Kline had demanded their complete, unedited medical records for women who sought abortions at least 22 weeks into their pregnancies. Court papers did not identify the clinics.

The records would include the patient's name, medical history, details of her sex life, birth control practices and psychological profile. ...


Given the reference to "child rape," it's quite likely that this involves one of Kline's crusades: He's ordered all health-care providers in Kansas -- abortion clinics in particular -- to inform authorities of evidence of any underage sexual activity. See, it's a felony to have sex with a minor in Kansas even if you're also a minor. Never mind that such a requirement might deter a teenager -- say, a fifteen-year-old girl impregnated by her fifteen-year-old boyfriend, whom she loves very much -- from seeking not only abortion, but prenatal services, STD treatment, or other medical care.

(A restraining order has been issued and Kline's directive isn't being enforced.)

One possible target of all this is Dr. George Tiller, who's been attacked by right-to-lifers for years:

...[In 1991] Operation Rescue went to Wichita and staged a 46-day picket in front of the Women's Health Care Services clinic operated by Dr. George Tiller. During that time, 2,700 protesters were arrested. Dr. Tiller was chosen for this 'mission' because he is one of the few abortion providers in the country that performs late-term therapeutic abortions to save the lives and health of women. His clinic has been bombed and he was shot several years ago by Shelly Shannon, who remains in jail for this crime....

More recently, right-to-lifers have staged a boycott of La Quinta Inns, claiming that a La Quinta hotel in Wichita offered discounts to Dr. Tiller's patients and arranged with him to allow nurses to check on the patients there after abortions. La Quinta has now distanced itself from Dr. Tiller.

Also recently, Kline held a press conference at which he announced, erroneously, that a subpoena Dr. Tiller had received from the Texas attorney general's office was in connection with the death of a 19-year-old who'd had an abortion at Dr. Tiller's clinic. Kline backpedaled after the Texas AG's office said the woman's death wasn't under investigation:

Kline, who opposes abortion, said he may have misspoken.

"It probably could have been worded more delicately," he said.

The AP story notes that two clinics have filed legal arguments opposing Kline's attempt to get the records of the 90 abortions. One lawyer interviewed by AP said he couldn't even confirm or deny whether the clinic he represented was Dr. Tiller's, citing a gag order.

One tangential detail: As I told you at the time, Merrie Turner, an anti-abortion activist who was arrested in Wichita in 1991, organized a "First Ladies' Inaugural Tea" last month in connection with the inauguration ceremonies for President Bush. A featured speaker was Judge Roy Moore.


UPDATE: In The New York Times, Jodi Wilgoren covers the story (and basically makes this post superfluous). She confirms that the Tiller clinic is the target, and adds this:

Although Mr. Kline emphasized statutory rape in his news conference, many here on both sides of the abortion debate said they suspected that his real target was doctors who provide late-term abortions.

Kansas law restricts abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, where the fetus would be viable outside the womb, except when "continuation of the pregnancy will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."

Though I'm a bit puzzled -- how are they going to find an abortion outside the 22-week limit from patient records? Assuming any clinic in Kansas did perform a late abortion outside that limit, I can't imagine the fact would be put on paper. It seems far more likely that Kline is trying to intimidate women and girls seeking abortions, as well as looking for very young girls to feed to the media as tabloid fodder.

"When a 10-, 11- or 12-year-old child is pregnant, under Kansas law that child has been raped, and as the state's chief law enforcement official it is my obligation to investigate child rape in order to protect Kansas children."

--Kline, quoted in the Times story

Protesters outside his clinic have seen girls that look as young as 10 or 11 going in for abortions....

--a pro-lifer in the comments to Atrios's post on this story

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