Kansas Attorney General Accused of Violating Gag Order
Two abortion clinics have accused Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline of violating a gag order barring him and the clinics from discussing publicly Kline's attempts to obtain the unedited medical records of 90 women and girls who sought late-term abortions in 2003. Kline is accused of holding press conferences and giving interviews on his investigation while the gag order was still in place. According to the Associated Press, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed tp the clinics’ request last week to lift the gag order following Kline’s violation. The clinics have announced that they plan to inform the patients whose unedited medical records are being requested.
The Washington Post called Kline’s subpoena of these medical records the strongest move yet by a state official against providers of late-term abortions. Attorneys for the two clinics targeted by Kline have told the Kansas Supreme Court that “the logical and natural progression of this action could well be a knock on the door of a woman who exercised her constitutional right to privacy, by special agents of the attorney general who seek to inquire into her personal, medical, sexual or legal history,” the Washington Post reports.
Kline, who has said that he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, began his attempt to force the release of private medical files in secret last fall, claiming that he needs these records in order to prosecute child rape. However, Kline has also subpoenaed the records of women over the age of 16, which is the age of legal consent in the state. The Attorney General is refusing to give the clinics more details about the investigation, with the state’s lawyers saying that doing so would be akin to “arguing that suspects in a criminal investigation should be allowed to oversee the investigation,” according to the Washington Post.
In 2004, then US Attorney General John Ashcroft sought abortion records from hospitals and Planned Parenthood clinics in order to prosecute those who had violated the abortion procedures ban passed by Congress in 2003. Several federal judges ruled against Ashcroft’s action, and the abortion procedures ban has since been ruled unconstitutional three times.
Media Resources: Washington Post 3/15/05; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 3/15/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 2/13/04, 9/8/04, 3/2/05