Kline Defends Investigation Into Abortion Providers

Crime, Law and JusticeSocial IssuesAbortion IssueHealthJustice SystemPoliticsCrime

Some people say that it's a witch hunt, while others say that former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline went too far in his investigation into abortion providers as Kline took the stand on Tuesday to defend against accusations of ethics violations.

On the second day of testimony in the Kansas Supreme Court Disciplinary Adminstrators hearing, Kline defended his decision to appear on the FOX News program "The O'Reilly Report" against the wishes of the state courts. He said that it was to alleviate fears that he was seeking the identities of abortion patients.

Kline said instead he was trying to identify child victims of sexual abuse and anyone traveling with them when he subpoenaed records from a hotel near Dr. George Tiller's Wichita clinic.

The complaint alleges Kline and his subordinates mishandled abortion patients' medical records and misled other officials while investigating Tiller's clinic and a Planned Parenthood clinic in
the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. Kline, who investigated the clinics as attorney general from 2003 to 2007 and as Johnson County district attorney from 2007 to 2009, vigorously disputes those allegations.
   
Part of the complaint says Kline and his staff falsely claimed in court documents and proceedings that they never tried to identify adult abortion patients. It says Kline's office subpoenaed
records in 2005 from a hotel near Tiller's clinic that offered his patients a discount.
   
Records from the attorney general's office show investigators tried to identify adults staying at the hotel. Kline testified Tuesday that the goal was to identify "traveling companions" of
children seeking abortions, so investigators could determine whether Tiller had reported sexual abuse of the children to authorities, as required by law.
   
"We knew that the children would not be registering under their own names," Kline testified. "Yes, adult patients stayed there, but that wasn't the purpose of the subpoena."

Stanton Hazlett, the state disciplinary administrator who filed the ethics complaint, asked Kline about a confidential document emailed to the Supreme Court violating a non-disclosure agreement. Kline said that when word of his investigation hit the news, hysteria broke out and he was portrayed as a right-wing religious zealot prying into lives without any basis of law.

Kline wanted to send the courts all the accurate information and he argued it didn't violate non-disclosure agreements because it excluded patients names.

Kline filed misdemeanor charges against Tiller in December 2006, accusing the doctor of performing illegal late-term abortions and failing to adequately report the details to the state, as required
by law. The case was dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, and Kline's successor filed different misdemeanor charges the following year.
   
Tiller was acquitted in 2009, shortly before he was shot and killed while attending church.
   
A criminal case against the Planned Parenthood clinic, filed by Kline as Johnson County district attorney in 2007, is pending. The clinic denies the allegations in the 107 charges that it performed illegal abortions and falsified records.

Kline was defeated in a re-election attempt in 2006. He's now an assisting visiting professor of law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell.

The state Supreme Court -- which already has criticized Kline in opinions in abortion cases -- could impose no sanction or a punishment ranging from an informal admonishment to the loss of his
license to practice in state courts. Kline's license was suspended in October after he didn't pay a $50 annual fee.

Outside of the court proceedings, Kline supporters said that they would be there as long as was necessary.

"Insanity isn't exactly the word I want to use, but it's close to that the repetition of all these things that have been brought before the court before and he's been cleared of no wrongdoing," said Kline supporter Pat Adair.

<i>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</i>

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