Lawmakers: Sebelius owes Kansans ‘candor’ on reasons for abortion reform veto
KDHE also accused of blocking a criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood
A group of Kansas lawmakers said Thursday that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius offered a misleading justification for her veto of an abortion reform bill, and urged other legislators to join them in voting to override the veto during a wrap-up session that begins April 30.
The lawmakers, from both the Kansas House and Senate, also charged that the Sebelius administration is using the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to impede a criminal case filed against Planned Parenthood in Johnson County District Court. Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, who spoke on behalf of the group, said some legislative remedy could be sought if the department continues to impede the criminal case.
The comments came during a press conference in Olathe Thursday. Kinzer spoke on behalf of a group of lawmakers that included Reps. Anthony Brown, Steve Brunk, Owen Donohoe, Pat George, Mario Goico, Kasha Kelley, Mike Kiegerl, Mike O’Neal, Marc Rhoades and Arlen Siegfried, and Senators Karin Brownlee, Tim Huelskamp, Julia Lynn and Peggy Palmer.
In issuing a veto of the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, Sebelius said, “SB 389 allows a variety of individuals to seek a court order preventing a woman from obtaining an abortion, even where it may be necessary to save her life.”
Kinzer said Sebelius’ argument was “disingenuous.”
“The stated basis for the governor’s veto of CARA is a straw man that deserved to be knocked down,” Kinzer said. “She owes the people of Kansas candor on this important issue.”
Kinzer said the injunctive relief provision contained in CARA only allows an injunction against a person who is reasonably believed to be acting in violation of an existing state law on late-term abortions.
Under no circumstances would CARA result in an abortion being prevented when the procedure was necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman, Kinzer said.
Kinzer also said that according to data provided by abortion providers themselves, in the 10 years Kansas has kept such statistics, not one late-term abortion provider has ever cited the death of the mother as a justification for a late-term abortion, even though over 5,000 of the procedures have been performed during that period.
Kinzer and the other lawmakers also condemned KDHE for its refusal to honor a subpoena issued by Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline in a criminal proceeding against Planned Parenthood. Kline is asking the department to authenticate late-term abortion reports the attorney general’s office obtained in 2006 under court order and which were moved to the Johnson County district attorney’s office following a ruling by Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson.
The department is seeking to quash the subpoena, on the grounds that women who received late-term abortions could be identified.
Kinzer and his colleagues disagreed, pointing out that it would be impossible to identify an abortion recipient through the department records that Kline is seeking. Kinzer distributed blank copies of the specific KDHE forms in question to reporters to demonstrate that the documents could not contain any queries that could lead to the identification of a patient. Kinzer charged that the department’s effort to quash the subpoena was part of a pattern by the state agency, which he called a “guardian angel” for the influential abortion industry in Kansas.
Later Thursday, Johnson County District Court Judge Steve Tatum convened an emergency hearing requested by Planned Parenthood seeking an order to quash the subpoena.
During the hearing, a Planned Parenthood attorney argued that in filing a motion to require the department’s testimony, Kline had attached a document that was under court seal, a contention disputed by Kline. The Planned Parenthood attorney asked that Kline be held in criminal contempt and that the case be dismissed. Both motions were denied. In addition, motions by Planned Parenthood that the court not consider Kline’s legal brief, and that the court seal the two exhibits and the brief, were also denied.
Tatum said that as a safety precaution he wanted to review in advance any additional motions that either side intended to file.
During Thursday’s hearing Tatum noted that the documents in question had nothing to do with patient privacy. He is expected to rule on the motion to quash the subpoena today.
The ruling could be a test of a new law passed unanimously by the Kansas House and Senate during this year’s legislative session designed to put an end to the Kansas judiciary’s recent trend toward secret proceedings.
According to the new statute, “Good cause to close a proceeding or seal or redact records, whether upon the motion of a party, or on the court’s own motion, does not exist unless the court makes a finding on the record that there exists an identified safety, property or privacy interest of a litigant or a public or private harm that predominates the case and such interest or harm outweighs the strong public interest in access to the court record and proceedings.”