Olathe News – AG demands that witness not speak on Tiller case

AG demands that witness not speak on Tiller case
By Jack Weinstein/The Olathe News

Attorney General Paul Morrison did all he could to prevent Paul McHugh from speaking Tuesday night except serve him with a court-issued gag order.

In a letter to McHugh, Morrison told the Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry not to add to the comments he already has made to media regarding the George Tiller abortion case.

“We hereby demand that you cease and desist from any and all such statements as they threaten our ongoing investigation and violate the privacy of the women whose medical records you reviewed,” Morrison wrote in the letter.

Former Attorney General Phill Kline, who is now the Johnson County district attorney, filed 30 misdemeanor charges against Tiller, a Wichita abortion doctor, claiming Tiller violated the state’s late-term abortion law.

McHugh was commissioned by Kline to examine the medical records of more than 40 women who had received late-term abortions at Tiller’s clinic. McHugh was asked to determine if the women were in danger of suffering a “substantial and irreversible impairment” to their mental health if they didn’t have abortions. He determined there were no psychiatric reasons to allow the late-term abortions under Kansas law.

The charges were dismissed by a Sedgwick County judge because Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said Kline didn’t seek her permission to file the charges in her jurisdiction. That took place after two other judges in that county found probable cause for Kline to charge Tiller.

Concluding his letter, Morrison wrote: “Should you continue to make such statements, our office will pursue all available remedies – including filing disciplinary charges against you in Maryland and/or filing legal action to recover the more than $5,000 our office has paid you for your services.”

More than 100 people were at the Doubletree Hotel on Tuesday night for what they thought would be a panel discussion featuring McHugh. Many audience members gasped when former Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, who led the discussion, read the letter from Morrison.

Instead of hearing from McHugh, audience members saw an edited version of a 45-minute interview he gave Monday that has been uploaded to http://www.youtube.com. McHugh, who appeared at the end of the taped interview to applause and a standing ovation, declined to comment further.

McHugh said he wouldn’t elaborate on what he had said in the taped interview because that wouldn’t serve a purpose. The privacy of the women whose records McHugh reviewed was one of the first questions he addressed in the interview. “The point was not to identify them as a particular person, but to identify the state of mind they were in,” McHugh said in the interview.

Ben Hodge, an Overland Park Republican, said there was no problem with privacy – an issue raised by Morrison in his letter to McHugh.

“Former Attorney General Phill Kline never had names,” he said. “This gentleman, Dr. Paul McHugh, never had names. The legislators have never had names.

Hodge said that when Morrison campaigned for attorney general, he spoke of Kline’s violation of the patients’ privacy. “Those are false claims,” Hodge said.

Hodge also criticized Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of a recent bill to require doctors to cite the medical reasons for late-term abortions. Sebelius cited privacy concerns as a reason for her veto. Hodge referred to her reasoning as “bogus.” “We assume she’s an intelligent woman,” he said. “So we should assume she’s being dishonest intentionally. I don’t think that is a stretch to say. She knows that this isn’t a privacy concern.”

Sen. Karin Brownlee , an Olathe Republican, criticized Sebelius’ veto of legislation requiring that abortion clinics are inspected and licensed.

“It’s very, very clear that the governor doesn’t want to be a part of good medicine as it relates to abortion, nor does she have any interest in reducing abortions in the state,” Brownlee said.

Jennifer Giroux, a mother of nine from Ohio and the director of Women Influencing the Nation, organized McHugh’s appearance. She began the http://www.chargetiller.com Web site.

Giroux said she planned to take the full interview to Morrison’s office. Giroux said she hoped that Morrison would be grateful she was helping bring evidence to his attention.