New Kansas Attorney General Worried About Abortion Patient Records

Kansas' new attorney general said Monday he's concerned that patient records his predecessor gathered in a failed attempt to prosecute a nationally known abortion doctor may have been copied and are not secure.

Former Attorney General Phill Kline, who lost the November election, had appointed a special prosecutor to handle the case against Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the nation who perform late-term abortions.

Kline's successor, Paul Morrison, said he plans to fire the special prosecutor, a Democrat who has protested outside Tiller's clinic in the past. But he said Kline had already given the man partial records on about 90 abortion clinic patients.

"I do have concerns about how many copies have been made of that material and who's got possession of them," Morrison said. He said of the special prosecutor, Wichita lawyer Don McKinney: "I do not view him as being even remotely independent or remotely objective."

McKinney did not return a telephone message left at his office seeking comment.

Kline waged a successful two-year legal battle to get patient records from Tiller and other abortion providers, but his attempt to charge Tiller in Sedwick County late last month failed because of a jurisdiction issue.

Kline alleges that Tiller performed 15 illegal late-term abortions in 2003 on patients aged 10 to 22 and failed to properly report the details of the procedures to state health officials.

Tiller's attorneys say the allegations are groundless.

Tiller has long been a target of protests by abortion opponents. His Wichita clinic was bombed in 1985, and a protester shot him in both arms eight years later. He also helped finance hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising aimed at defeating Kline in 2002 and 2006.

Morrison, an abortion-rights supporter, said he will not withdraw a request McKinney filed Friday with the Kansas Supreme Court to have Kline's charges against Tiller reinstated, but he said he plans to review the evidence against the doctor before deciding whether to prosecute.

"We will give those allegations a really good review, and I'm going to use my independent judgment on it," Morrison said.