Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.– Daniel Webster
He has been portrayed as a nutty prosecutor with an unrestrained interest in women’s medical records. He has been run out of his own state. He has to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars he doesn’t have, to pay his legal fees. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has accused him of domestic terrorism, intimidation, and abuse of office for doing his job — enforcing the law and protecting the innocent. Innocent children, as it happens. But that’s not humiliation enough. Not if you’re the enemy of Planned Parenthood.
Today in Topeka, Kansas, a man goes on trial for insisting Planned Parenthood be held accountable for what it claims to be about: women’s health care and safety.
Phill Kline is the former attorney general of Kansas and former Johnson County prosecutor there. He now lives and teaches in Virginia, at Liberty University’s Law School, but will be sitting before a three-lawyer panel today for supposed ethics violations. Stanton Hazlett, the Disciplinary Administrator appointed by the Kansas supreme court, found that his violation — his conflict of interest in investigating the nation’s largest abortion provider — was “strong personal anti abortion beliefs.”
At any time, this attack on Kline would be an outrage. In late February 2011, it should set off five-alarm sirens.
Before there was a House vote to potentially begin to end funding of Planned Parenthood, as there was Friday; before there was a 22-year-old girl named Lila Rose leading private investigations exposing Planned Parenthood as a safe haven for pimps of underage girls; before there was a Philadelphia prosecutor exposing a “house of horrors” too long protected by abortion politics, there was Phill Kline, a law-enforcement official doing his job.Today Kline remains the only prosecutor in the United States to have brought charges against Planned Parenthood. And for this, Planned Parenthood and its allies are determined to see him pay. As if he hasn’t already: Even when he wins it is portrayed as a defeat.
Denis Boyles, author of Superior, Nebraska: The Common Sense Values of America’s Heartland, has explained well the predicament Kline finds himself in, dragged back to his home state for one final humiliation for insisting on doing his job — enforcing the law:
Kline’s strategy was simple: Kansas law requires abortion clinics to document the procedures they perform. Kline suspected that they had performed illegal late-term abortions and abortions on underage girls. To find the truth, he needed to compare the documents sent by the subpoenaed clinics with the records submitted by the clinics to the state health department in the routine reporting of their abortions. It wasn’t a fishing trip; Kline knew what he was looking for.
When, after a long battle, the records finally arrived, Kline asked a district judge, Richard Anderson, to compare the two sets of documents. Anderson hired experts, removed the personal info, went over them all carefully and in a pre-trial hearing, finally said, “it appears someone has manufactured” portions of the paperwork that had been subpoenaed. Anderson said that could mean “that somebody committed a felony in an attempt to cover up a misdemeanor. . . . [T]here is evidence of crimes in those records that needs to be evaluated.”
And while pro-life Republican Sam Brownback may now be governor, Kline will not be getting a warm reception by the judicial branch today. The Kansas judiciary-appointment process is the antithesis of transparency: Judges are appointed by the governor, without confirmation, effectively for life. And the long-standing inquisition against Kline is led by a (former Democratic governor) Kathleen Sebelius-appointed former lawyer for the National Women’s Law Center, known for her activist-like rants against him.
For years, the extent of Kline’s investigation of abortion clinics was a single subpoena to the now late — he was brutally and unjustifiably murdered in May 2009 — George Tiller, and a single subpoena to Planned Parenthood. He kept the statute of limitations from expiring in 2005, with legislative help. They would eventually be ordered to produce the records and be charged — thank you, Phill Kline.
Eight years after Kline’s initial action, 107 charges still stand as an open case against Planned Parenthood — 23 of them felonies for manufacturing records in response to the subpoena.
Kline has repeatedly won on legal issues. Three district court judges have reviewed his evidence and found probable cause to believe that the crimes were committed as charged. And yet none of them have reached trial.
The state supreme court, meanwhile, has allowed Kline to be sued twice. It silenced a key witness (Judge Anderson) and ordered an investigation of Kline, involving five years, over 30,000 pages of documents, along with subpoenas, depositions, and witness interviews.
What a relief to Kansans that a man who no longer holds elective office nor lives in the state is being persecuted for trying to hold taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood accountable for allegedly refusing to report statutory rape (a practice we have now seen is not foreign Planned Parenthood and its mission). This week’s hearing amounts to the tormenting of a man for doing his job. And, God help him, for doing it while daring to believe that not only is failing to report child rape wrong, but that the whole culture of death is a corrosive evil. (Never mind that he did nothing about the latter but be open about it in the occasional speech.) For this, Rachel Maddow accuses him of domestic terrorism. For this, he is professionally and financially destroyed.
Among the complaints Kline faces this week is having had “no allegation of a definitive complaint of failure to report on the part of the clinics.” In other words: It was unethical for him to initiate an investigation of Planned Parenthood for failure to report statutory rape, because a child did not come forward and say the clinics did not report it. Children tend not to do that. Law enforcement does not need a victim to come forward in order to launch an investigation and does not need permission of a court to start an investigation. The whole outrage about Planned Parenthood’s not reporting such a thing is that doctors can be the first line of defense against child sexual abuse and sex trafficking: If they report it, the perpetrators can be stopped. But when they refuse to report it, victims are left victimized. Planned Parenthood proves itself a “safe haven” for predators.
Kline is also accused of “misleading a state agency” by not announcing the full scope of his investigation. Again, both law and common sense would seem to be on Kline’s side here. Informing others can compromise evidence, place people in harm’s way, and damage the reputational interests of the target of an investigation.
It’s hard not to conclude — as Mary Kay Culp, state executive director of Kansans for Life, has — that dragging Phill Kline in front of a panel this week has everything to do with an attempt “to undermine the Planned Parenthood case and . . . an opportunity to intimidate any prosecutor who would go after the abortion industry.”
“It strikes me as virtually impossible to believe that this case would have reached this point had the underlying prosecution not involved abortion,” state representative Lance Kinzer tells me.
A source intimately familiar with the campaign to bury Kline’s reputation tells me: “This is not only a story about how that industry seeks to destroy its enemies and how the Kansas supreme court and Sebelius corrupted the judicial system to assist that effort — it is also an example that Planned Parenthood now holds up to prevent future prosecutions. Everyday prosecutors are presented or made aware of wrongful conduct by Planned Parenthood and every day they look away because of their political concerns.”
Not just political concerns: Watching what’s happening to Kline, they have reason to fear for their very livelihoods and their families’ future.
Kline should be applauded for having brought charges against Planned Parenthood. He should be considered a trailblazer, and a hero for women and children and law and justice. Instead, Planned Parenthood and its allies plan to dance on his professional grave in the coming days, making him a disgraced former prosecutor for the history books.
Friday’s short-term defunding vote and the coverage of the most recent Live Action investigations suggest that, after decades of pro-life attempts to pull the veil away from Planned Parenthood, a profit-making institution that benefits from taxpayer money and frequently bipartisan support, it may finally be being gradually exposed for its embarrassingly dangerous, lackadaisical attitude toward sexual crimes against minors. Thank you, Phill Kline!
And so he is punished, humiliated, and made to suffer in Topeka.