By Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life Legislative Director
The stakes are high for Planned Parenthood of Kansas Mid-Missouri, as the prosecution for allegedly illegal late term abortions in 2003 inches closer to a possible trial under Judge Stephen Tatum.
“Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate believe it was the nation’s first criminal case against a Planned Parenthood clinic,” writes John Hanna of the Associated Press. Judge Tatum, “who has yet to decide whether the case will go to trial, has set a July 11 scheduling hearing.”
On Tuesday, seven filings by Planned Parenthood attorneys were “unsealed” (made publicly available). They include pre-trial special requests by Planned Parenthood attorneys for extensive written jury questionnaires, with special one-on-one closed door interviews with potential jurors. More about this below.
Steve Howe, the District Attorney for the Kansas-City suburban district of Johnson County, is pursuing 58 of 107 criminal charges initiated by Howe’s predecessor, Phill Kline. The charges are 29 counts for “unlawful failure to determine gestational age” and 29 counts of “unlawful late-term abortions.”
In November, the prosecution had to abandon 49 charges, including felony false-writings (forged patient forms), when it was discovered that both the Kansas health department and the Attorney General’s office had shredded paper evidence crucial for conviction. (See www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/02/problematic-district-attorney-conclusion-about-kansas-document-shredding-cries-out-for-more-information.)
While technically permissible to poll jurors on their fitness to serve (i.e., citizenship, ties to litigators or their own criminal record), if Planned Parenthood’s specific request is granted, it would deny the public the chance to hear how Planned Parenthood attorneys ask invasive questions including (according to the filing) the juror’s “religious” concerns and “personal, as well as family members and close friends’ experiences with abortion”!
According to the filings released yesterday, Planned Parenthood attorneys also requested that Judge Tatum:
muzzle “as prejudicial” these terms, ‘baby’, ‘infant’, ‘child’, ‘victim’, and ‘late-term abortion’;
preclude any mention of the price of abortion;
and prohibit any mention of patient paperwork with disparate handwritings (referencing the earlier forgery charges).
In additional filings, Planned Parenthood attorneys want the court to dismiss the 29 counts (failure to assess gestational age) because the prosecution’s evidence on gestational measurement and viability comes from two doctors who are not abortionists. If these experts (one a university-based specialist on high-risk pregnancy and the other a family practitioner) do not get excluded by the judge, then Planned Parenthood attorneys want the court to dismiss the charges as just a difference in medical opinions.
“Defense attorneys argued in their court filings that 26 charges covering 13 abortions before July 2003 were filed beyond a two-year deadline for pursuing charges that was in effect at the time,” reports Hanna.
A review of these documents is further proof that when it comes to abortion, lawsuits and trials do not follow the ordinary pathway.
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