Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a five-part series looking at District Attorney Phill Kline’s battle with the powerful Kansas abortion lobby and Planned Parenthood. Read Part 1, “Kansas bleeds once more.”
Upon taking office as Kansas attorney general in 2003, Phill Kline began to review the KDHE (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) reports to see just how it was that late-term abortions had actually increased in Kansas after a tough law had been passed to stop them.
In reviewing the reports, Kline noticed that in the spaces provided for “reasons” and “basis,” Dr. George Tiller, the nation’s leading late-term abortionist, offered no medical diagnosis.
Tiller simply reiterated the wording of the law, namely “to avoid substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
Given the gravity of the procedure – that is the taking of a viable baby’s life – Kline believed that some measure of respect for the legal process was due. There was only one way to assess the legitimacy of the work behind that process, and that was to subpoena the patient files.
The files in question were to be found at two Kansas abortion clinics – Tiller’s Women’s Health Services in Wichita and Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.
Although no name of any patient has ever been made public in five years of legal struggle, the abortion industry went to war under the false flag of “patient privacy.”
Politically well wired, the clinics have used the courts and their allies in government and the media to resist Kline’s investigation and define him in the public eye as a religious fanatic, a hayseed Torquemada.
Although Tiller proved more cautious with Kline in office, an abortion that took place in May 2003 would reveal just how confident Tiller was in his ability to weather even Kline’s tenure as attorney general.
That year, as she would later testify before the Kansas Legislature, the then-18 year-old Michelle Berge, now Armesto-Berge, was pressured by her mother to abort her baby in the 26th week of her pregnancy despite the pleas of her boyfriend – now her husband – not to do so.
“It’s murder and I will not do it,” Michelle protested, but her mother had other plans. Staff at Tiller’s clinic eased those plans along by informing Michelle of an allegedly Catholic group that “believed in abortion” and promised baptism for the aborted baby.
As Armesto-Berge would soon learn, Tiller honored Kansas law about as faithfully as he did Catholic doctrine. Not one woman among the five with whom she was being processed, herself included, risked physical or mental health impairment of any sort.
The women talked among themselves during their stay in Wichita. “All were there,” Armesto-Berge testified, “because they were told [late-term abortion] would solve their problems.” These problems ranged from unreliable boyfriends to socially ambitious parents.
After the group watched a video on “Dr. Tiller’s legacy,” a nurse took Armesto-Berge to a private room and prepared her for an ultrasound. When she tried to look at the screen, the nurse abruptly moved the screen away.
She was then taken to another room. There a female doctor inserted a large needle twice to make sure she injected the unborn child, “and that,” said Armesto-Berge, “is when the baby was killed.”
Only after this procedure was completed did Armesto-Berge fill out the paperwork and meet with a counselor, a charge proven by time stamps on her medical records.
After the initial injections, Armesto-Berge underwent a variety of preparations to facilitate the delivery of the dead baby. A late-term abortion of this kind usually takes three days.
By the third day, Armesto-Berge’s labor had proceeded to the point where she was ready to deliver. What follows is not for the faint of heart.
“I remember yelling at the nurse and calling her names and telling her I did not want to be on the toilet,” Armesto-Berge recounted.
“I finally birthed the baby and I distinctly remember seeing the baby on the floor to the left of the toilet.” Said Armesto-Berge, “That image haunts me daily.”
As the Armesto-Berge case illustrates, Tiller and his colleagues were making a mockery of the law. They were aborting babies fully capable of living outside the womb with no valid medical justification.
With Kline openly investigating, the abortion industry got seriously political. In October 2005, after some backstage engineering by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, popular Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, a moderate Republican, announced that he would switch parties to run against Kline in November 2006.
While Kline waited for the lower court to release the patient files that he had subpoenaed, the Kansas abortion industry went to work on Kline.
Tiller invested a small fortune to unseat him, much of it through operations like “Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection,” an anonymous cut-out that just happened to have the same Wichita address as Tiller’s ProKanDo PAC.
The “consumer group” sent out six, coordinated, slick “Snoop Dog Kline” mailers in the weeks before the 2006 election, accusing Kline of abandoning the fight on crime in favor of “snooping into women’s private medical records.”
Between his PAC and the non-profit at the same address, Tiller and allies spent an incredible $1.2 million on the 2006 campaign alone. Kline was blindsided.
From the beginning, the media should have seen how contrived were the abortion’s industry’s worries about patient privacy – all records were fully redacted by the court before Kline ever saw them – but they preferred to run with the Snoop Dog message.
The Kansas City Star’s support for “reproductive justice” in the battle against the “anti-choice extremist” Kline was so passionate, in fact, that Planned Parenthood honored the Star with the “Maggie,” its top national prize for editorial writing.
Tiller dollars flowed to the Democratic Party, and campaign dollars flowed from the Democrats and moderate Republicans to Morrison. This gave him a two-to-one edge over the incumbent Kline in real dollar support, above and beyond Tiller’s indirect aid and the full-throated support of the media.
Morrison beat the now widely reviled Kline handily. When he made his acceptance speech on election night, he drew great cheers in claiming his as “a victory for Kansans who want to make sure their most private personal records are kept private.”
Snoop Dog Kline had been effectively muzzled – or so the abortion industry and its allies presumed. But, as would soon become clear, the celebration was a bit premature.
Tomorrow: “Kline refuses to roll over”