Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kansas Planned Parenthood Clinic Charged

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Planned Parenthood clinic was charged Wednesday with providing unlawful abortions and other crimes by a county prosecutor who had engaged in a high-profile battle with the clinic when he was Kansas attorney general.

Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline charged the Overland Park, Kan., clinic with 107 counts, 23 of them felonies. Besides 29 misdemeanor counts of providing unlawful late-term abortions, the clinic is charged with multiple counts of making a false writing, failure to maintain records and failure to determine viability.

Case documents have been sealed, according to a court order. The first hearing is set for Nov. 16.

Kline's office did not immediately comment on the charges.

Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri's president and chief executive officer, said Wednesday that the group hasn't had any contact with the district attorney's office but has heard rumors for months that Kline, an abortion opponent, was planning to file criminal charges.

"I've heard nothing at all about specific charges that have been filed," Brownlie said. "We always provide high-quality care in full accord with state and federal law."

As for allegations that Planned Parenthood performed illegal late-term abortions, Brownlie said its clinic doesn't perform any abortions past the 22nd week of pregnancy.

Attorney General Paul Morrison previously reviewed all of the allegations upon which Kline's criminal charges are based and found no wrongdoing, Morrison spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said.

"We are skeptical that these charges have any merit, and we continue to wonder how much politics influenced Mr. Kline's decision to file these charges," Anstaett said.

Planned Parenthood, Kline and Morrison are embroiled in another lawsuit pending before the Kansas Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood sued Kline, and Morrison later successfully intervened on the state's behalf.

Documents in that case remain sealed as well, and neither Kline nor Planned Parenthood have discussed it, but Morrison warned Planned Parenthood's attorneys in June that Kline appeared to still have access to copies of patient records he had obtained as attorney general. Morrison said those records were forwarded from the attorney general's office to the district attorney's office a few days before Kline left the attorney general's office.

As attorney general, Kline fought for two years to get abortion records from the Overland Park clinic and a Wichita clinic operated by Dr. George Tiller. He said he was investigating whether clinic doctors performed illegal abortions and failed to report suspected child abuse; the clinics alleged he was on a "fishing expedition."

Portions of the sealed documents were leaked to Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who discussed them in a segment where he interviewed Kline days before Kline lost his re-election bid in November. Kline has denied being the source of the leak.

Kline filed charges against Tiller in December, while he was still attorney general, but a judge threw out the case, saying Kline didn't have the jurisdiction to file it.

In June, Morrison filed charges against Tiller that Morrison described as technical violations. Morrison said he found no wrongdoing at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

Morrison, an abortion-rights supporter, was a Republican serving as Johnson County district attorney when he became a Democrat to challenge Kline, a Republican, for the attorney general job. After Morrison won, local GOP activists picked Kline to take Morrison's old job.