Kansas Supreme Court Halts Abortion Grand Jury genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

Conservative Nanny State

If you've never heard of Phill Kline, consider yourself lucky. At the same time, if you oppose those who have made a career of vilifying abortion providers for political gain, Phill Kline may be enemy number one. When one hears the expression, "What's the matter with Kansas?", the former Attorney General's fingerprints are apt to be found. Fortunately, Kansas voters rejected Kline's reelection bid. Sadly, the defeat did little to deter Kline's obsession with criminalizing the actions of abortion providers and intimidating those who have had the procedure or might consider it in the future.

Today, the Kansas Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the latest efforts of Kline and his zealous supporters to review the medical records of some 2,000 women who visited the clinic of Dr. George Tiller, a prominent medical provider who has become the focus of the anti-abortion crusade.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a grand jury from obtaining patient records from a physician who is one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers.

The grand jury is investigating whether Dr. George Tiller has broken Kansas laws restricting abortion, as many abortion opponents allege. The grand jury subpoenaed the medical files of about 2,000 women, including some who decided against having abortions.

Abortion opponents forced Sedgwick County to convene the grand jury by submitting petitions, the second such citizen investigation since 2006 of Tiller, who has long been at the center of the nation's abortion battle. His clinic was bombed in 1985, and eight years later a woman shot him in both arms.

Tiller's attorneys asked the Supreme Court to quash the grand jury's subpoenas, and the court agreed to block their enforcement until it considers the issue.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland said Tiller's challenge raised "significant issues" about patients' privacy and a grand jury's power to subpoena records.

The grand jury is seeking records of all women who visited Tiller's clinic between July 2003 and last month and were at least 22 weeks pregnant at the time. The grand jury also subpoenaed information about current and former employees and referring physicians.

The edited patient records would not have the women's names, but they would have patient identification numbers. Tiller's attorneys claimed in court last week that in an earlier investigation, former Attorney General Phill Kline was able to track down patients' names using the identifying numbers on patients' files.

The tactic has been employed by Kline and his supporters for a number of years and many of his detractors see it as an effort to terrorize women who might seek out an abortion.

Kline's effort to portray himself as a law and order prosecutor are little more than a sleight of hand designed to oppose abortion. His willingness to victimize women who have made the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy demonstrates his disregard for the privacy of these individuals as well as the lengths he will go to advance his political aspirations.

Additionally, Kline and his ilk hope to highlight the flexibility granted to physicians in making exceptions to late term abortion restrictions. The courts have required that many of the laws limiting late term abortions be designed to allow physicians to protect the health and welfare of the pregnant woman...a provision abortion opponents would prefer be omitted from such laws.

One can only hope that the Supreme Court will limit these virtual witch hunts and maintain the privacy and dignity of the women in question. All too often, those vehemently opposed to abortion fail to consider the difficult circumstances confronting these women.

The fact that these same activists frequently object to comprehensive sex education and unrestricted access to birth control simply compounds the issue. I find it ironic that many within the GOP accuse the Democratic Party of favoring a nanny state. Truth be told, countless Republicans not only favor a nanny state; they would like to mete out their own brand of punishment to those who fail to comply with the imposition of their narrowly defined beliefs.

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