Friday, February 25, 2005

this is the matter with kansas

Kansas's Attorney General Phill Kline, that's two "l's," is demanding records from Kansas abortion clinics. Kline has subpoenaed all abortion records for patients under 16 and patients receiving late-term abortions. At a press conference yesterday, Kline explained that "as the state's chief law enforcement official it is my obligation to investigate child rape in order to protect Kansas children."

Okay, I'm going to try to give this claim honest consideration, ignoring the fact that this guy is a virulent anti-abortion advocate and that he may be investigated for violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Well, maybe I'm not.

But I will point out some things which don't seem to be receiving much coverage on this.

Obviously, Kline is practicing misdirection, trying to package his assault on late-term abortions behind the more media-friendly child abuse prevention issue. But the two concerns are completely separate, with different circumstances for patients and different laws governing them. Even in Kansas, it seems like the precedent requiring healthcare providers to release records is much more potent in abuse or neglect cases than in cases involving "illegal" abortion. The latter is even shakier when you consider that Kansas law permits late-term abortions if the mother-s health is threatened -- which gives pro-choice doctors some leeway and makes the concept of "illegal" late-term abortions more subjective.

But, moving on to the child abuse issue, the rationale is that in Kansas any sex under the age of 16 constitutes a sex crime, and thus pregnancy would provide evidence of child rape. It's not at all clear to me how possessing evidence that a crime occurred will help the A.G. prosecute that crime, unless the clinic releases literally every personal detail they have on their patients, including their sexual history, who paid for treatment, previous jobs, marital status, other medical information -- all things that, while they might help a little, don't seem to justify a subpoena, especially when it will violate medical privacy. It still seems a roundabout way of prosecuting child abuse crimes, compared to the more traditional alternatives.

For one thing, while underage pregnancy may equal evidence of sexual abuse in Kansas, it's obviously not the only evidence. Especially since instances of sexual abuse may not result in pregancy for underage girls, definitely will not in underage boys, and (with apologies in advance for this observation) will also not result in pregnancy for pre-pubescents.

I guess my point is not to minimize the evidence Kline has subpoenaed, but rather to put its magnitude in perspective. (like that? that's a little ivy league bullshit spin for you to enjoy) It seems significant to me that Kline hasn't embarked on a broader campaign to stop child abuse. It would be equally questionable, but Kline hasn't taken the next "logical" step and attempted to subpoena OB/GYN records of underage pregnancies carried to term. Nor has he subpoenaed school guidance counselor records or depositions from 7th-grade living-skills students. I wouldn't put it past him, though. Nor has he, to the best of my limited knowledge, made a public show of pursuing more traditional routes to preventing child abuse. In fact, I'd guess that he's a strong opponent of health education and counseling in Kansas public schools. So all this prompts us, rightly, to wonder how committed Kline truly is to his stated cause. I think his motives are a little closer to what we might suspect -- he's waging a war on the precious few pro-choice doctors and clinics left in Kansas.

That's nice. This guy needs to stop using his position to persecute women and concentrate on spelling his goddamn name correctly.

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