by Steven Ertelt
February 5, 2008
Topeka, KS (LifeNews.com) — The Kansas Supreme Court temporarily blocked a Wichita grand jury from gaining access to 2,000 abortion records in a case against late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller. He stands accused of doing illegal late-term abortions and a grand jury has been convened to probe the matter further.
Tiller faces charges from both the state attorney general that he did illegal late-term abortions and a grand jury probe contending he violated the law other times over the last five years.
On Wednesday, retired Sedgwick County District Judge Paul Buchanan rejected arguments from his attorneys and a national pro-abortion law firm that relinquishing the records would invade the privacy of the women involved.
He told Tiller’s attorneys to turn over the records to the district attorney’s office by noon Wednesday. They didn’t do so and worked on the high court appeal instead.
Today, the Kansas Supreme Court agreed to block the records request until it has a chance to hold a full hearing on the issue.
According to an AP report, Chief Justice Kay McFarland said Tiller’s challenge to the medical records request raised "significant issues" that the state’s high court should explore.
Judge McFarland also responded to concerns from local prosecutors. He said the grand jury’s term can be extended so the high court’s delay in approving the request for the records doesn’t hinder the jury from conducting the probe.
Both sides have until February 11 to submit legal papers and the Kansas Supreme Court has until February 25 to respond.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, told AP the pro-life group was disappointed by the news.
"There is no way to determine if the reasons for these late abortions were done within the narrow legal criteria without looking at the records themselves," she said. "His lawyers say they are worried about women’s privacy. They are worried about protecting Dr. Tiller."
Last week, the Center for Reproductive Rights signed up to represent the late-term abortion practitioner and join his attorneys’ attempt to prevent the grand jury from obtaining medical records in its investigation.
Despite their help, Judge Buchanan sided with prosecutors who said the records would be redacted and no woman’s name or identifying information would be known as a result of the probe and release of information.
To ensure that, Judge Buchanan ordered that a physician and attorney be present during the transfer of the documents that should have occurred.
Culp previously challenged claims from Tiller attorneys that women involved in the abortions have a fear of their abortion becoming public knowledge.
"First, official Kansas abortion statistics show approximately 91% of such women are from out of state and, secondly, identifying information will be removed before any such records go to grand jurors," she told LifeNews.com.
Tiller attorneys also claim the request would place an undue burden on both Tiller and women seeking abortions because it would tie up abortion facility staff in obtaining and producing such a large number of medical records.
The grand jury is seeking the records of everyone who went to Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services abortion center from July 1, 2003, through January 18, 2008.
The probe is examining whether two doctors determined there was no threat to the health of the mother.
Tiller is accused of violating a state law requiring two physicians to sign off on late-term abortions in cases when the abortion is supposedly needed to protect a mothers health.
Kansans for Life led a petition-gathering effort that got enough signatures to put an old Kansas law into play allowing a grand jury investigation.
The group says more violations of the law may have occurred than the 19 misdemeanor charges former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison charged Tiller with for not following state law.
Related web sites:
Kansans for Life – https://www.kfl.org