Thursday, September 28, 2006

Kansas AG Alarms Abortion-Rights Side

HT to Marti

Associated Press Writer

September 27, 2006, 2:08 PM EDT

TOPEKA, Kan. -- GQ magazine declared he would do anything to stop abortion and called him the future of the anti-abortion movement. Planned Parenthood put him on a list of 15 Americans it saw as major threats to abortion rights.

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline has emerged as one of the nation's foremost foes of abortion by tangling with abortion clinics and health care providers in this heartland state, where is now running for a second term.

His opponents were even more alarmed recently after someone leaked a campaign memo he wrote in August, outlining an aggressive plan to court conservative Christians with a blitz of speaking engagements at churches.

His Democratic challenger, Paul Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney, has accused Kline of pursuing a narrow, personal agenda as attorney general and has called the memo cynical.

Kline has waged a nearly three-year legal battle with two abortion clinics to obtain information from patient medical records. He has said he needs the information to prosecute child rapists and determine whether the clinics are violating restrictions on late-term abortions.

Critics contend he is on a fishing expedition that invades patient privacy, and Morrison has promised publicly to drop the battle.

Kline also has issued a legal opinion that says health care providers and others are required under state law to report all underage sex, even between consenting youngsters. A federal judge ruled otherwise, and Kline appealed.

Kline also supported an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage, and defended a law that allowed the state to punish illegal sex involving minors far more harshly if the participants are of the same sex, until the Kansas Supreme Court struck it down last year.

"My position on the life issue is not born out of my faith but out of what I view the role of the government to be -- to protect the most innocent and the most vulnerable," Kline said recently. "I'm not doing anything but enforcing the law."

He and supporters have complained that he has received unwarranted attention for the memo, and that his other accomplishments are being overlooked.

In 2003, he intervened when the nonprofit Health Midwest hospital system was being sold to the for-profit HCA Inc. Twenty percent of the assets of that $1 billion-plus sale eventually stayed in Kansas. He also successfully argued the state's case before the U.S. Supreme Court in defending its capital punishment law.

"Phill is charismatic and out in front. People either really like that, or they don't. With personalities like Phill, there's usually no gray area," said Ryan Wright, executive director of the Kansas Traditional Republican Majority, a moderate group that is nevertheless supporting all GOP candidates.

Morrison suggested that Kline's "personal agenda" has distracted him from fighting crime.

This year, Planned Parenthood Federation of America's online magazine listed Kline as one of 15 "anti-choice extremists and political hard-liners," along with Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

"The attorney general should represent the interests of everybody in this state, as opposed to those who share your beliefs," Morrison said.