For the first time in its inglorious history, Planned Parenthood is facing criminal charges. These originated with a case former Johnson County, Kan., District Attorney Phill Kline filed in 2007, charging Planned Parenthood’s suburban Kansas City clinic with, among other things, 23 felonies for falsifying copies of abortion reports.
The pre-trial hearing on this case, now being managed by current Johnson County DA Steve Howe, was to have taken place Monday. That was not to be.
Last Friday, Howe’s office asked for – and was granted – a postponement after learning that the key records had been shredded years ago by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
This shredding took place in 2005 when the KDHE was under the aegis of then-governor and now Obama Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. At the time, Kansas reigned unchallenged as the nation’s late-term abortion capital.
The Kansas City Star has rushed to the defense of Planned Parenthood. This has surprised no one. In 2006, Planned Parenthood had honored the Star with its top editorial honor, the “Maggie,” for its work in defeating Kline’s bid to be re-elected Kansas attorney general.
In one single paragraph, Star apologist Barbara Shelly managed to make more mistakes than some columnists make in a lifetime. Writes Shelly, the editorial page editor: “It turns out the documents being sought, which Planned Parenthood submitted to the clinic in 2003, were shredded in 2005 as part of an approved protocol used by the department for years. The records were long gone when Kline filed charges in 2007.”
For starters, Planned Parenthood did not submit these records to “the clinic.” Rather, its clinic submitted these records as required to the KDHE, which reported to Sebelius.
Yes, these records were shredded in 2005, but by this time they were already key evidence in a criminal investigation against Planned Parenthood. The Sebelius administration knew this.
In 2003, Kline, then attorney general, sought to obtain records from two Sebelius-controlled agencies, Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS), which receives reports of child sexual abuse, and KDHE, which receives compliance reports regarding abortions.
According to Kline, Sebelius closely monitored his investigation into the enforcement of Kansas laws regarding child rape and late-term abortion violations as these were major campaign issues in 2002 and would likely be again in 2006.
When Kline’s attorneys approached SRS for help in its investigation, the agency balked. When a judge reviewed Kline’s case, he found reasonable cause to believe SRS records contained evidence of criminal activity, and he subpoenaed the records. The Sebelius administration fought the subpoenas.
By the summer of 2004, Kline finally received what he needed from SRS. The records showed that during a time when 166 abortions were performed on children under 14 in Kansas, only two of the cases had been reported to SRS as evidence of child sexual abuse. All 166 of them should have been.
To verify that Planned Parenthood performed some or all of these abortions, Kline needed the information in the KDHE reports. These were created by statute for the purpose of aiding law enforcement.
The reports are not medical records. Nor do they contain patient names. They are, however, coded in such a way that, with KDHE’s assistance, investigators could identify the clinic that performed a given abortion.
In late May 2004, District Court Judge Richard Anderson, a Democrat, subpoenaed the KDHE compliance reports, and KDHE resisted vigorously. In June, Anderson denied KDHE’s motion to quash the subpoena and ordered that copies of the records be produced.
In late June 2004, KDHE produced copies of the subpoenaed records. Only a Star reporter could believe that these same records were innocently and routinely shredded in 2005.
In July 2004, Kline received an unwelcome surprise when the Washington-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) sued him as a way of challenging Kansas’s mandatory reporting laws.
Kline has long wondered how CRR knew enough to file suit. The subpoenas ordered by the court were to be kept secret. He believes that Sebelius, in violation of court order, tipped CRR off. The timing of the suit certainly raises that possibility.
Encouraged by the CRR lawsuit, KDHE quickly filed a new motion for a stay of the subpoenas and a return of the file copies that Kline had secured. Judge Anderson denied KDHE’s motion.
At this point, the Sebelius administration had to be worried. The evidence Kline had gathered could potentially cost Planned Parenthood, a key political ally, $350 million a year in federal funding if convicted of failure to report child rape.
Kline’s investigators isolated the codes of the two abortion clinic that were performing abortions on girls 14 and under. When they requested the coding information to identify the clinics, KDHE again refused to cooperate.
And again Judge Anderson had to intervene to force KDHE to do its job. The clinics in question, to no one’s great surprise, proved to be George Tiller’s in Wichita and Planned Parenthood’s in Johnson County.
In October 2004, Anderson found probable cause that the records at both clinics contained evidence of crimes and promptly subpoenaed individual case files. Predictably, the clinics filed a motion to quash, which was denied.
Now the clinics and the Sebelius administration knew Kline’s office was zeroing in on some inconvenient truths. And so the clinics took their fight to the Sebelius-friendly Kansas Supreme Court. This move initiated some of the most bizarre legal shenanigans of any criminal case ever, but that is a story for another day.
It was at the height of this tense legal battle that the KDHE under Sebelius started to destroy the original documents, and it did so without any notification to the court or to investigators.
This would not have been a problem in itself if the copies KDHE had originally produced for Kline, already validated for court use, were available, but they are not.
When Kline left office in January 2007, he gave those copies to Judge Anderson for safekeeping. Paul Morrison, Kline’s successor as AG, promptly requested the copies from Anderson.
Sebelius had persuaded Morrison, the Republican Johnson County DA, to switch parties and run against Kline. With nearly 2 million in indirect backing from Tiller and the enthusiastic support of the Star, Morrison won.
What Sebelius did not expect was that the Republican precinct captains of Johnson County would elect Kline to complete Morrison’s term as DA in Planned Parenthood’s home. As DA, Kline was able to make his own copies of the KDHE records and take them back to Johnson County.
No sooner did Kline do that than Morrison asked Judge Anderson to order Kline to return those copies. Anderson refused, telling Morrison that Kline’s evidence against Planned Parenthood was strong.
Morrison responded by holding an improbable press conference at which he announced that Planned Parenthood had done nothing wrong. He then joined Planned Parenthood in secret lawsuits suing both Kline and Anderson.
In May 2007 – a month after Judge Anderson told Morrison’s office, “There is evidence of crimes in the records that need to be evaluated” – Planned Parenthood held a gala fundraiser in Kansas City to celebrate Sebelius’s birthday.
Now back in Johnson County, Kline had the opportunity to review the KDHE records. In doing so, he realized that Planned Parenthood had apparently falsified copies of the records it sent to KDHE.
Prior to filing the charges, Kline had to show the evidence to Anderson. Anderson had the Topeka PD document expert check the records and promptly found probable cause. In October 2007, Kline charged Planned Parenthood with committing 107 criminal acts, including the 23 felonies of manufacturing documents.
The question the Star should be asking now is this: Where are the validated KDHE records Morrison received from Judge Anderson? Right now, no one is saying. Were they, too, “routinely” shredded?
The copies of the copies that Kline kept in the Johnson County DA’s office can be used in court, but establishing their chain of custody is difficult and time-consuming. This is what Johnson County DA Howe must do to move the case forward.
Planned Parenthood is sitting on this $350 million Shreddergate powder keg. It remains to be seen what Sebelius and friends can do other than duck for cover.