Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Abortion-Grand Jury Law, Limits Power
by Steven Ertelt
May 6, 2008
Topeka, KS (LifeNews.com) — The Kansas Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law that pro-life advocates have used to call grand juries to investigate Planned Parenthood and abortion practitioner George Tiller. However, the high court also ruled that the citizen-called grand juries don’t have unlimited powers.
The unanimous decision is a victory for pro-life groups and their efforts to hold the abortion industry accountable for possible repeated violations of abortion laws.
The court rejected a request from Tiller’s lawyers to strike down the state law, which is one of the rare ones in the county allowing citizens to call grand juries after achieving the requisite number of signatures.
Tiller claims having local citizens ensure he is following state abortion laws constitutes harassment.
However, the court ruled that the grand juries are constitutional provided a local judge supervises their efforts and that district court judges are responsible for making sure the grand juries don’t go beyond their limits.
At the same time, the Kansas Supreme Court also refused to quash or modify the subpoena requests from a Sedgwick County grand jury looking into Tiller.
Tiller wants two subpoenas stopped that could require him to turn over the redacted files of 2,000 abortions covering several years and also include allegations he didn’t assess the viability of the unborn child beforehand or consult a second physician.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Stephen Six is asking the high court to stop a third subpoena asking him to turn over 60 redacted abortion records related to another Tiller probe that could help the grand jury.
The grand jury wants redacted abortion records to determine whether Tiller has violated various state abortions laws. Instead of overturning the subpoena request, the court set guidelines for whether the requests should be enforced and returned the case to lower courts.
Grand juries are not licensed to engage in arbitrary fishing expeditions, nor may they select targets of investigation out of malice or with an intent to harass, the court wrote in the decision.
The high court ultimately said the district court should decide whether the subpoenas constitute harassment or a legitimate attempt to hold Tiller accountable. The records will be redacted, with any identifying patient information deleted, but the state high court said the district court should make sure that happens.
Pro-life advocates hoped the Kansas Supreme Court would return a decision in the case quickly because the grand jury is set to expire on July 7.
Kansans for Life director Mary Kay Culp previously talked with LifeNews.com about the hearing the court had before its decision and said the biggest irony occurred when Tillers attorney repeatedly asked the high court to hold the grand jury accountable yet refused to allow Kansas officials to hold Tiller accountable.
"Every time a legitimate investigatory agency or law enforcement attempts to investigate Tiller, he runs to the courts and asks them to build a wall between investigators and his records, Culp said.
Culp said Tillers attorneys continue to assert false privacy concerns even though the information in the records is redacted and doesn’t contain any identifying information.
Before the hearing, Kansans for Life held a press conference with a woman who had an abortion at Tillers center and later found her abortion records didn’t match the actual medical information about her and her unborn child.