HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, April 14, 2008

Abortion Records in Kansas

Phil Kline, the Johnson County District Attorney, who has been filing criminal cases against Planned Parenthood, has requested and thus far been denied medical records from the various clinics.  The Kansas City Star reports here and here on how his case is proceeding.  Mr. Kline had subpoenaed the medical records but the Health and Environment Department has refused to turn them over to him.  According to the Kansas City Star,

A Kansas agency has refused to turn over abortion records subpoenaed by Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline.  And if Kline doesn’t get them, Planned Parenthood attorneys said Monday, Kline’s criminal case against Planned Parenthood could crumble.  “If he (Kline) doesn’t have the evidence, how can he prosecute?” asked Planned Parenthood attorney Pedro Irigonegaray. “… Without records, that is an impossible task.”  District Court Judge Stephen Tatum has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on a motion to quash the subpoena filed Friday by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

Kline wants the agency to produce the records and provide testimony authenticating them at a two-day preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.  Health and Environment Department spokesman Joe Blubaugh said his agency’s attorneys say the law prohibits them from turning over the records.  However, Blubaugh said, “we’ll comply with whatever the court rules on it.”

Kline in October filed a 107-count criminal complaint against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Comprehensive Health, its Overland Park clinic. Twenty-three of the counts, which are felonies, accuse the clinic of “making a false information.”  Specifically, those counts accuse the clinic of manufacturing or forging documents in August 2006 regarding 23 late-term abortions. Kline is seeking the state agency’s records regarding those abortions.  The remaining counts are misdemeanors. They accuse the clinic of 26 counts of failing to maintain records sometime between 2003 and 2006; of 30 counts of failing to determine the viability of a fetus before late-term abortions performed on various dates in 2003; and of 28 counts of performing illegal late-term abortions on various dates in 2003.  Irigonegaray contends all the misdemeanor charges are based upon information contained in the 23 records that Kline has subpoenaed.

In the Health and Environment Department’s motion to quash, chief legal counsel Yvonne Anderson writes that state law allows identifying information on abortion patients to be released only to the state attorney general and the state Board of Healing Arts — and then only for use in a criminal or disciplinary proceeding.  Anderson pointed out that legislation is pending to change those rules; state Rep. Lance Kinzer, a Republican from Olathe, has introduced a bill that would allow district attorneys to access the records.

Irigonegaray said the records Kline is seeking already have been reviewed by former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. Morrison’s investigation of Planned Parenthood found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.  However, during a January court hearing on Kline’s criminal complaint, Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson raised questions about whether Morrison should have cleared the clinic.  Anderson testified that his review of the abortion records showed that information provided by Planned Parenthood did not “match up” with records from the state agency. . . .

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