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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Quashes Subpoenas|Seeking Abortion Records

(CN) - Kansas health employees are not required to hand over abortion records to former state Attorney General Phill Kline or testify about the contents of those reports, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled.

In 2004, Kline subpoenaed Shawnee County District Judge Richard D. Anderson, attorney Stephen W. Cavanaugh, and employees of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for records on abortions performed in the state the previous year.

The state agency disclosed its 2003 abortion records, some of which had been submitted to the Department of Health and Environment by the Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Although the trial court cautioned Kline not to publicly disclose the records, he discussed them on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" in 2006.

His appearance on the show led two abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood, to file a mandamus action accusing Kline of wrongfully disseminating information from patient records.

"During the broadcast, host Bill O'Reilly suggested that O'Reilly had been made privy to the contents of the redacted records," the Supreme Court wrote in an opinion related to this case.

Planned Parenthood filed another mandamus action objecting to Kline's transfer of the abortion records to the district attorney's office when he lost his re-election bid as state attorney general and became Johnson County District Attorney.

The abortion records were also used to support the criminal prosecution of George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who performed abortions. Tiller was acquitted by a jury, but was murdered last May outside his clinic.

As Johnson County District Attorney, Kline prosecuted Planned Parenthood in 2007, alleging 107 counts of false statements, failure to maintain abortion records, failure to determine fetal viability before a late-term abortion, and unlawful performance of late-term abortions.

Planned Parenthood tried to quash a subpoena directing Dr. Elizabeth Saadi, the interim director of the Center of Health and Environmental Statistics, to testify and to produce reports from 23 abortion procedures.

The trial court agreed that the subpoena should be quashed.

The Kansas Court of Appeals then transferred the case to the Kansas Supreme Court, where the decision to quash was upheld by Justice Carol Beier.

"Reports submitted by an abortion clinic to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment cannot be released to a district attorney," Beier wrote. "The reports thus qualify as 'other protected matter' ... and any subpoena from a district attorney, insofar as it seeks production of the reports themselves or testimony revealing their contents must be quashed."

Beier also ruled that Judge Richard Anderson, who presided over the inquisition, could not testify about the contents of specific abortion reports. However, the court said Anderson could testify about relevant events regarding the former attorney general's inquisition.

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