Planned Parenthood, Politics and Prosecutorial Good Conduct: The Phill Kline Story

[This article was printed in Lifeline Vol. XXI, No. 1 (Spring 2012) Read in PDF.]

LLDF held its Annual Benefit on November 5, 2011. Once again, the venue was the Terrace Room at The Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland, California. The Terrace Room is a 1920s art deco supper club with a panoramic view of Lake Merritt.

The program began with a thoughtful and inspiring invocation by LLDF board member Terry Thompson and a pledge of allegiance to the flag led by Col. Ron Maxson, one of the founders of LLDF. LLDF board chairman John Streett welcomed the guests and introduced other board members in attendance. Board member Colette Wilson then took the podium to introduce the evening’s keynote speaker, the Honorable Phill Kline.

Describing Mr. Kline as “a lawyer’s lawyer,” Colette touched on just a few of the high points of Mr. Kline’s considerable resume. Following a career in private practice, Mr. Kline served eight years in the Kansas state legislature where, among other accomplishments, he helped draft and pass one of the nation’s most restrictive laws against third trimester abortions. Noting with increasing dismay the lack of enforcement of this and similar laws, he then ran for and was elected to the post of Kansas state attorney general in 2003. He wasted no time in using that position to investigate and prosecute Planned Parenthood for its total disregard of the state’s child abuse mandatory reporting laws. However, he soon discovered that if you try to enforce such laws against Planned Parenthood, “there will be hell to pay.” Faced with a vicious nationwide campaign mounted against him by Planned Parenthood, he lost his reelection bid in 2007. In a strange twist, Mr. Kline was then immediately elected to the office of district attorney of Johnson County—the job previously held by the man to whom he lost his bid for re-election to the attorney general’s office. Mr. Kline served in that position—and continued to prosecute the criminal case against Planned Parenthood—until 2008.

Once at the speaker’s podium, Mr. Kline immediately captured the full attention of his audience with a heartbreaking story of a young girl who was victimized first by her own father, and then by Planned Parenthood. Then, often in the rising and falling cadences of a Southern preacher, Mr. Kline began to tell his story, or as he called it, “the story of Kansas.” It was not simply a recounting of his personal experiences in the pro-life battle, but a story told in larger contexts—cultural, political and even biblical.

Mr. Kline began with his core truth—that human life is precious. That is precisely why, said Mr. Kline, justice in capital criminal cases often takes such an excruciatingly long time. And in spite of the rampant and growing moral relativism in our nation and in our culture, the Natural Law—“the law written on our hearts”—will in most of us still insist on the existence of certain truths, such as the value of human life.

Our country is living a lie, said Mr. Kline. Abortion at its core is a sin, and as with all sin, it begins with a lie. One of our nation’s founding documents states that it is a self-evident truth that we are all endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to life. It is government’s role to protect that right. Why doesn’t it? Because of a host of lies: “It is not a human being,” “It will ruin your future,” etc. And with the sin comes death—spiritual if not physical. Abortion leads to death not only for the individual, he said, but also for the culture and for the nation that sanctions it.

As Kansas state attorney general Mr. Kline set about attempting to enforce the laws relating to abortion. He soon learned that “in a culture that does not recognize truth, there is no law.” Acknowledging his lack of political correctness, Mr. Kline observed, “Our nation’s greatest strength is not our diversity. Our greatest strengths are those truths that bring people of diverse backgrounds to a common understanding.”

Mr. Kline started exploring the operations of Wichita’s notorious late-term abortionist, Dr. Tiller. What he found was shocking beyond belief. One of the exceptions to the Kansas law against late-term abortions allowed for abortion in cases of “severe fetal anomaly.” Included in Dr. Tiller’s definition of “severe fetal anomaly” were cleft palate, Down syndrome and … twins. Twins, reasoned Dr. Tiller, are an “anomaly” and can have a “severe” economic impact on a family.

Attorney General Kline also investigated Planned Parenthood, and specifically its lack of compliance with the state’s mandatory child abuse reporting law. He learned that Planned Parenthood did not see this as a legitimate law, but rather as an invasion of the privacy of the child. “Planned Parenthood does not call child rape ‘child rape’,” he remarked, “They call it ‘intergenerational sex’.” This viewpoint is understandable, he pointed out, given that Planned Parenthood takes its position in such matters from Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey was the 1950’s “researcher” of human sexual behavior, among whose conclusions were that “children are sexual at birth” and that “non-coerced sexual activity with children is not necessarily harmful.”

In the course of his investigation of Planned Parenthood, Mr. Kline subpoenaed the organization’s records. These documents were in the hands of then-Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (now U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services), a staunch Planned Parenthood supporter. Governor Sebelius fought the document request “tooth and nail” for over a year, but Mr. Kline’s office finally obtained the documents. “The documents showed that during a time period when 166 abortions were performed on children 14 and under and as young as 10 in Kansas, Planned Parenthood reported one case of child sexual abuse—and that case was already reported and in the media at the time they reported it.” Federal law does not permit grants of federal funds to entities that refuse to comply with mandatory reporting statutes, and actually provides for a “clawback” of previous grants. Faced with the loss of $350 million in annual federal funding, as well as a possible clawback of funding from previous years, “this investigation became a billion dollar case.” And when that happened, said Mr. Kline, “the law flew out the window in Kansas.”

In Kansas, said Mr. Kline, the Supreme Court is appointed for life without the necessity of confirmation. Five of the seven justices had been appointed by Governor Sebelius. Consequently, the Supreme Court did all it could to thwart the investigation and to prevent the case from moving forward. Nevertheless, Mr. Kline and his office persevered in their investigation. Having reviewed the evidence, a judge found probable cause to believe that Planned Parenthood’s files contained evidence of crimes. Mr. Kline subpoenaed those files and Governor Sebelius increased her efforts to resist their production. She demanded to know the names of all those being investigated and all the evidence against them. Mr. Kline’s investigators refused, due to her close ties with Planned Parenthood, and out of fear that Planned Parenthood would be tipped off and evidence would be destroyed. This fear, Mr. Kline told his audience, was later proven to be well-founded: It has recently come to light that when Governor Sebelius did learn who was being investigated, her state agencies destroyed documents that implicated Planned Parenthood.

In response to the investigation, Planned Parenthood went on the offensive. They filed over 200 ethics complaints against him, causing him to incur staggering legal fees defending himself. Eventually, the attacks on Mr. Kline and on his family for simply doing the job he had been elected to do became increasingly ugly—and not just ugly, but personal and even dangerous:

“The Kansas City Star portrayed me as a child molester in an editorial page cartoon with my hand up a little girl’s skirt saying I was invading their rights. The effort became so aggressive to smear me that my wife was followed for six months by media, as was my daughter. She had feces smeared in her car. We had death threats that forced us to move out of our home. I had canned food thrown at me in the grocery store.

“I cannot tell you how frightening it is to witness how bigoted and hateful this nation can become when lies create a mob.”

Mr. Kline’s prosecution of the case was not without its victories. He related one such victory with obvious satisfaction. Attorney Carol Beier of the National Women’s Law Center (and future Sebelius appointee to the Kansas Supreme Court) entered the case on behalf of Planned Parenthood for the purpose of petitioning the Kansas Supreme Court to quash the subpoena. The Court then sat on the petition, apparently waiting for the two-year statute of limitation on the criminal charges to expire. This result was avoided when Mr. Kline suggested to Governor Sebelius that he would write an omnibus crime bill that she could then sign into law with much fanfare and publicity. She agreed. “We snuck in an extension of the statute of limitations for five years,” said Mr. Kline with a smile. “Governor Sebelius does not read the legislation she signs.”

Although Mr. Kline lost his bid for reelection to the office of district attorney of Johnson County in 2008, he noted proudly that his case against Planned Parenthood is still alive.

“My criminal charges against Planned Parenthood are still on file. They have done everything to try to kill it. But the case still exists…. They have been charged with 107 criminal acts after a judge found probable cause to believe, based on the evidence, that every one of those crimes was committed, including 23 felonies for manufacturing documents in response to the subpoena.”

Mr. Kline noted that while the pro-life community has focused its efforts on getting pro-life legislation passed, it has done little about enforcement of those laws. Emphasizing the practical lesson to be learned from his story, he called to his audience’s attention the importance of the office of prosecutor: “There is more power in the office of prosecutor than virtually any other office in America.” Comparing his experience as legislator with that as attorney general, he said, “When I became attorney general for the State of Kansas, I learned that I didn’t have to count votes. I decided. I decided.” He urged his listeners to “be mindful of those who would ask for your support for the office of district attorney, because I can tell you that across the nation they are looking the other way.”

While Mr. Kline may have been defeated politically by Planned Parenthood and its allies, he is unbowed. His battle is not over. He appears to have emerged from the crucible into which his clash with Planned Parenthood and its political allies cast him no worse for the experience—if anything, even more committed to the cause of justice for all human life. And he retains optimism, clearly rooted in his faith, that “justice shall prevail, for its origin is the Author of Truth.”