Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who has made trying to control women's reproduction a staple of his career, is demanding doctors turn over medical files of women and girls who had second-trimester abortions in Kansas. Using supposed concern for child abuse as a smokescreen (if a 12-year-old is pregnant, she has been raped, and is likely a victim of incest), he claims he needs the information to prosecute criminal cases.
However, Kline's subpoena covers "the entire, unredacted patient files of nearly 90 women who obtained abortions at two Kansas clinics in 2003" - and it is not limited by age or the absence of abuse reports.
His target is Dr George Tiller, a leader in the medical community for his courageous and stalwart support of abortion rights. Dr Tiller is well known in both the pro- and anti-choice camps for his willingness to perform second-trimester abortions as needed, and Kansas law does not interfere with his work.
Dr Tiller often wears a bullet-proof vest to work - even before he was shot by an anti-abortion terrorist outside his clinic in 1993. (He was not wearing protection that day and was lucky to escape with his life.)
Dr Tiller worked hard to try to defeat Kline's bid for attorney general in 2002.
Tiller's clinic, Women's Health Care Services, reports all suspected child abuse cases as required by Kansas law. Of course it is not necessary, and indeed would be highly unethical, to turn over medical files in order to do so. It's not just a smokescreen - it's a ridiculously transparent one.
This is a horrifying intrusion on so many levels. If a government officer can demand and receive confidential medical records - not with a limited scope for a specific person but on what is known in legal circles as a "fishing expedition" - we are in deep trouble.
The New York Times story is here. It's pretty good, although I object to the words "late-term" to describe abortions past the first trimester. For the women Haven serves, for example, 21 or 22 weeks is often the soonest they can obtain a procedure - and that's often because of state laws that block their access to earlier, safer abortions! To read more about that, go here.