A Kansas prosecutor last week dropped all remaining criminal charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood facility accused of performing illegal late-term abortions. The decision ended a nine-year legal battle initiated by then-Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline to prosecute the abortion giant in criminal court. (See "Vengeance on the prairie," WORLD Magazine, May 21, 2011.)
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced that 32 misdemeanor charges against Planned Parenthood had been dismissed. Those charges were the last part of a criminal case Kline filed in 2007 that initially included 107 criminal charges, 23 of which were felony charges of "false writing" for faking abortion reports.
Howe said his decision to end the case came after consulting current Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. All three are Republicans.
"I don't think [the decision] is going to satisfy anybody, but that is the reality of what we have to deal with today," Howe said during a news conference at his office at the courthouse in Olathe, Kan. "But ultimately, the decision should be about the law and the evidence."
Most of the charges from 2007 have been dismissed over the previous 10 months, notably when Howe's office revealed last fall that state officials in departments controlled by Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, then-governor of Kansas and now secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama, had years ago shredded documents that were key evidence against Planned Parenthood, a major Sebelius supporter. (See "Shredded evidence," Oct. 25, 2011.)
The Kansas pro-life community has long complained that pro-abortion politicians have been protecting the Planned Parenthood facility, including two Democrats who followed Kline in the attorney general's office before Schmidt won it in the 2010 election.
The just-dropped charges dealt with allegations that the Planned Parenthood facility had in 16 cases violated a state law that restricted late-term abortions after an unborn child was viable, or could survive outside the womb. The facility was accused of not properly determining whether an unborn child was viable, but Howe said "extensive research" by his office led it to conclude that Planned Parenthood had met the tests spelled out in the law.
But Kline, now a visiting assistant professor of law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., said Howe's statements indicated that "he doesn't understand the case." The evidence, Kline wrote in an article published at LifeNews.com, suggested that the Planned Parenthood facility falsely reported the gestational age of the unborn child in order to claim the child was not viable.
The evidence available to Howe included a report from Dr. T. Murphy Goodwin, a prominent neonatologist, who analyzed pathology reports from the facility and, based on the weights of the aborted children, concluded that in all 29 cases he reviewed they were much later in gestation than Planned Parenthood claimed and, in fact, viable. In short, wrote Kline, the evidence suggested that the Planned Parenthood facility falsified the gestational age of the children to justify illegal late-term abortions, not whether the tests required after the 21st week were completed properly.
Howe's statement therefore "misses the point," Kline wrote. He also accused Howe of not following up other evidence that would have allowed him to continue to prosecute other charges because of "political fear."
Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka, Kan., attorney representing Planned Parenthood, praised the decision: "Finally, the truth comes out."
"Being found innocent and getting away with something are two completely different things," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life.
"The truth also remains that no one has acted to ensure that the hundreds of child victims of sexual molestation taken to Kansas abortion clinics are safe," Kline said. "This remains the most shocking and sorrowful fact emerging from this story of corruption and cover-up."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.