|© Jack Cashill
July 21, 2008
Not since 1859, when the citizens of “Bleeding Kansas” approved the Wyandotte Constitution enabling Kansas to enter the Union as a free state, has a Kansas election grabbed the nation’s attention as the one about to take place.
At stake is the District Attorney position in Johnson County. This suburban Kansas City may be the most populous and affluent in Kansas, but the DA race usually attracts little attention beyond the metro.
This year is different. The current DA Phill Kline has brought criminal charges against Planned Parenthood—the first time anywhere–and the abortion industry understands the ramifications if Kline prevails.
The industry and its allies in the state house and the media are prepared to do whatever they must to defeat Kline in the August Republican primary, if they can, or more likely in November’s general election.
If Kline can be deposed in a solidly Republican Kansas county, there is little chance that any district attorney anywhere will risk his career, as Kline has done, to challenge the industry.
There is a lot at stake. Incredible as it may seem, Kansas has emerged as the late-term abortion capital of the world.
This is no exaggeration. Indeed, in 2007 more than 90 percent of the late-term abortions in Kansas were performed on women from out of state.
In the past two years alone, women have come from 48 states and many points beyond to have abortions in Kansas. It is not that Kansas has uniquely liberal abortion laws. Rather, it’s that Kansas has been uniquely indifferent to their enforcement.
The story of this year’s election could begin in any number of places, but a likely starting place is 2002, the year Democrat Kathleen Sebelius first ran for governor and Kline ran for state Attorney General.
A state representative from Johnson County, Kline, then just 42, showed real promise of becoming a statewide, even a national political leader.
Good looking and well spoken, Kline had the advantage of being a Republican in a state that gave George Bush 60 percent of its vote both times.
Kline had the disadvantage, however, of being unapologetically pro-life in a state whose reigning political establishment prized “moderation” even above party affiliation.
As a state representative five years earlier, Kline had helped draft legislation to check the state’s then thriving late-term abortion business. To understand the controversy that has followed, it is necessary to understand the law and the logic behind it.
Although in Roe v. Wade the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the laws of all fifty states and declared abortion a? legal option everywhere, the court has consistently allowed the states some regulatory power.
After the 1992 Casey decision, the legal? marker for state intervention became “the viability of the fetus.” By “viable” the court meant that the unborn would be able to? live outside the womb, even if requiring medical assistance. ??
When Kansas enacted its restrictions on late term abortion in 1998, the existing science estimated viability in the 20-24 week range, and Kansas codified it at 22 weeks.
Legislators demanded that for the unborn beyond 22 weeks, viable or not, a physician would have to file a report relating the reason for the abortion and the basis for that determination.
In the case of a viable baby, the new law allowed for a late-term abortion on only “to preserve the life of the pregnant women” or to prevent her from suffering “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
In such a case, a second unaffiliated physician would have to confirm the risk to a mother’s life or health.
As Kline and his allies understood, in no known circumstances does a late-term abortion spare a woman substantial physical or mental impairment, let alone her life.
The new law and the reporting requirement should have put a major dent in Kansas’s flourishing late-term business, but by this time the abortion industry had learned to work the system.
Industry honchos, most notably Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, made enough strategic donations to enough politicians to assure that no one enforced the law as written or even as interpreted.
In fact, the number of late-term abortions in Kansas actually increased in the three years after the restrictions were passed.
When Kline chose to run in 2002, Tiller sensed trouble and responded accordingly. Like an old world mafia don, he understood that he and his business, though tolerated, could not be embraced publicly.
If Tiller himself or his ProKanDo political action committee (PAC) gave directly to Chris Biggs, the obscure Democrat running against Kline, the GOP would use that information against Biggs.
So Tiller and Democratic operatives set up a separate PAC called Kansans for Democratic Leadership (KDL).
KDL existed for a total of 36 days. Except for a $1,000 donation from a labor union, all of KDL’s $265,000 reported income came from ProKanDo or Tiller himself, and none of these transactions were made public until after the election.
Given the pro-choice bias even in Midwest newsrooms, most of the state’s media endorsed the unheralded Biggs. The then-governor, moderate Republican Bill Graves, refused to endorse Kline.
The KDL-sponsored ads heated up the airwaves in the last weeks, warning Kansans about the extremist in their midst. And a badly bruised Kline eked out a half-percent victory in an election that should have been a landslide.
A more opportunistic politician would have heeded the message from the moderate establishment and left the field to the abortion industry, but Kline was not easily dissuaded. The battle for the soul of Kansas was about to be joined.
Tomorrow, part II: The Abortion Battle Heats Up