Kan. AG Worried About Abortion Case File

The Associated Press
Monday, January 8, 2007; 10:05 PM

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas' new attorney general said Monday he's concerned that patient records his predecessor gathered in a failed attempt to prosecute a nationally known abortion doctor may have been copied and are not secure.

Former Attorney General Phill Kline, who lost the November election, had appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case against Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the nation who perform late-term abortions.

Kline's successor, Paul Morrison, said he plans to fire the special prosecutor, a Democrat who has protested outside Tiller's clinic in the past. But he said Kline had already given the man partial records on 60 abortion clinic patients, edited to avoid identifying them.

"I do have concerns about how many copies have been made of that material and who's got possession of them," Morrison said moments after his swearing in.

He said of the special prosecutor, Wichita lawyer Don McKinney: "I do not view him as being even remotely independent or remotely objective."

McKinney predicted that Morrison will never prosecute Tiller, who helped finance hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising aimed at defeating Kline last year. "He's going to dance with the gal that brung him to the ball," McKinney said.

After a two-year legal battle Kline obtained patient records from Tiller and other abortion providers, but his attempt to charge Tiller in Sedwick County late last month failed because of a jurisdiction issue.

Kline alleges that Tiller performed 15 illegal late-term abortions in 2003 on patients ages 10 to 22 and failed to properly report the details of the procedures to state health officials.

Tiller's attorneys say the allegations are groundless. Don Monnat, a Wichita attorney representing Tiller, said patient privacy remains a big concern because McKinney has protested against the doctor.

"Are we now going to see the contents of our medical records show up on anti-abortion Web sites and in anti-abortion literature?" Monnat said.

But Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said she fears privacy is an excuse to keep evidence against Tiller from ever reaching court. "His claim that there is some security issue with the evidence is ridiculous," she said.

Morrison, an abortion-rights supporter, said he will not withdraw a request McKinney filed Friday with the Kansas Supreme Court to have Kline's charges against Tiller reinstated, but he said he plans to review the evidence against the doctor before deciding whether to prosecute.

"We will give those allegations a really good review, and I'm going to use my independent judgment on it," Morrison said.

© 2007 The Associated Press