Friday, June 29, 2007

Kline, Morrison and shades of gray

The big story in Kansas law and politics this week is the attorney general investigation of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller. Is it possible to sort the political posturing from the facts to ascertain the merit of the charges against Tiller?

One thing that makes this so terribly difficult is the confidential nature of the records Phil Kline and Paul Morrison have based their charges on. Without having seen them ourselves, we have no way of knowing who has handled things the more appropriate way.

In the absence of direct knowledge of what they have found in those records to support their approaches, assumptions based on the political leanings of each man become the default position. Knowing Kline is pro-life and Morrison is pro-choice, it is all too easy to assume we know how each is approaching this situation based on his respective views of the legality of abortion.

However, my belief is that it is most likely neither man is a demon or saint. I certainly have my own political views and beliefs about who I think makes the better attorney general. Although I was not a fan of Kline as attorney general, I agree with him on some level when he says that Morrison's decision to bring charges today is vindication of his approach. Morrison's charges give credence to Kline's assertion there is something in those records indicating an improper legal or financial tie between Tiller and the referring physician in performance of abortions on viable fetuses in violation of K.S.A. 65-6703.

The same would seem to be true of Kline's allegation that Tiller performed abortions on young women who could only have become pregnant through statutory rape and failed to report this in violation of K.S.A. 38-1522*. (See AG Opinion 2003-17.) It was Kline's view that abortion providers are required to make a report when they perform an abortion on a woman under the age of consent. A literal reading of the applicable statute supports this view. I personally wonder, however, about targeting abortion providers. What about doctors who deliver the babies of underage girls? They are under the same obligation to report abuse, yet they have not been the target of investigation.

I may not agree with the law regarding the performance of abortions on viable fetuses or the selective application of abuse reporting laws, but the role of the attorney general is to enforce the law. The AG cannot fairly be held accountable for the content of these law, and if we have concerns, those are fairly placed at the doorstep of the Legislature, not the AG.

The most recent details about this situation can be found here:
AG Charges Wichita Abortion Doctor with 19 Misdemeanors
Lawrence Journal-World
Abortion Doctor Faces Misdemeanors
Topeka Capital-Journal
Physician Associated with Tiller was Disciplined by Kansas Board
Kansas City Star
Planned Parenthood Clinic Won't Face Charges
Kansas City Star
Neuhaus Attorney Denies She Had Financial Ties to Tiller
Lawrence Journal-World

* Note: K.S.A. 38-1522, which is cited in AG Opinion 2003-17, now resides at 38-2223.

Diana Lee is a solo practitioner in Lawrence, Kansas. She can be reached at Copyright © Diana Lee (2007) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Diana Lee.

1 comment:

simon said...

well written, affectionate, and interesting blog.

if you ever get the chance, come visit me



my blog is (not as menacing as it sounds :-) )