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Kansas Attorney General Seeks Women's Abortion Records

Two clinics in Kansas are fighting attempts by Attorney General Phill Kline to subpoena unedited medical records of 90 women and girls who sought late-term abortions in 2003. Kline’s attempt to force the release of private medical files began in secret last fall, according to the Kansas City Star. “I find the potential to reveal very personal health histories of women and girls extremely troubling,” said Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D), according to the Knight Ridder. Although Kline claims that he needs these records in order to prosecute child rape, in a brief filed with the state Supreme Court the clinics called Kline’s action a “fishing expedition,” the New York Times reports. The age of legal consent in Kansas is 16, but Kline has also subpoenaed the records of women over the age of 16.

“Why focus on the records of patients who had late-term abortions, after 22 weeks – even though many underage teens presumably obtain abortions sooner – if the intention is to punish sexual predators, not late-term abortion providers?” asks an editorial by the Wichita Eagle critical of Kline’s action. In their brief, the clinics challenging the subpoena point out that not only does Kline want the names to remain on the medical records, but also personal details such as sexual history, marital status, and employment history. “How can a woman’s method of birth control or prior history of abortions or use of drugs and medication be relevant?” the clinics ask, according to the Times.

Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita is one of the two clinics targeted by Kline. Lawyers representing the clinic, run by Dr. George Tiller, called Kline’s action “a direct and potent threat to the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights,” the LA Times reports. The clinic is also the target of an ongoing campaign by Operation Rescue West, which has been constantly picketing the clinic, the homes of clinic workers, and businesses that supply goods and services to the clinic. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project has worked closely with Dr. Tiller’s clinic over the years to counter violent attacks and threats by anti-abortion extremists. Dr. Tiller himself has courageously withstood repeated attacks by anti-abortion extremists, including an attempted assassination in 1994 by an Army of God adherent in which he was shot five times.

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Media Resources: Kansas City Star 2/25/05; New York Times 2/25/05; Knight Ridder 2/25/05; LA Times 2/26/05; Wichita Eagle 2/25/05; Statement of Attorney General 2/24/05

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