KANSAS CITY, Kan. – An anti-abortion group says it has the patient records of dozens of women and girls who sought treatment at a Kansas City, Kan., abortion clinic last month — a claim the clinic's attorney says is meant to scare off potential patients and would suggest a crime was committed.
Troy Newman, the president of Wichita-based Operation Rescue, said a confidential informant delivered boxes to the group about two weeks ago that contained the records of 86 female patients who sought treatment at Central Family Medicine, a Kansas City, Kan., clinic also known as Aid for Women.
Newman said the records contained patient names, addresses and other identifying details, as well as information about patients' pregnancies. He said he didn't know how the man obtained the records, but he said the man insisted he obtained them legally.
Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for the clinic, said she contacted the FBI after someone broke into a locked Dumpster on clinic property about 10 days ago. She said doubts Operation Rescue's claims because she said there's no way the clinic would have discarded April patient records, and that documents of that nature always get shredded first.
She said the only way someone could have gotten the clinic's patient records would be to steal them, and that if Operation Rescue truly does have them, then the group and anyone involved should be charged with theft.
"It certainly appears to me that a crime was committed," Pilate said. "I hope those people understand the gravity of what they've done. This has nothing to do with the safety of women or the sanctity of records. This is about scaring women away."
Newman said the man who gave Operation Rescue the files found similar, unredacted abortion records last summer and turned them over to the governor's office, attorney general's office and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, which licenses medical professionals. He said the state did nothing with those records, so the informant brought the latest batch to Operation Rescue.
"It's my position that nothing happens in the state without the public scrutinizing it," he said. "There are too many back-room deals without our knowledge, then things are swept out the door and ignored unless someone said something."
Representatives from the three state offices did not immediately respond to phone messages seeking comment about Newman's claims on Thursday.
Abortion records have been the focus of court battles in Kansas since 2003, when Phill Kline, the state attorney general at the time and an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, began investigating clinics. Kline obtained access to information in patient records, and later became entangled in a professional ethics proceeding — partly over how the records were handled.
Last October, the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys recommended that Kline's law license be suspended indefinitely, an issue that will be decided by the Kansas Supreme Court. He has already allowed his Kansas law license to lapse.
Kline, who is now a visiting professor of law at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., denies breaking ethics rules during his investigations of clinics in Overland Park and Wichita while he was attorney general, and later as Johnson County district attorney.
Just as Kline had alleged during his probe, Newman said the records Operation Rescue received contain proof that the clinic provided illegal medical procedures, covered up child abuse and filed misleading reports with state agencies.
"This shows that Phill Kline was onto something," Newman said. "Another prosecutor in the state should reopen the investigation and see what's going on."
Newman said the records also contained empty cash envelopes that included the name of the patient and amount paid, and that he thinks this could indicate that the clinic was committing fraud or tax evasion by not reporting the money.
Pilate called that assertion reprehensible.
"People can pay for services in whatever way they find appropriate," she said. "Cash is legal tender. My clinic serves a low-income, at-risk clientele, and these are women who may not have bank accounts."
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com