Why Phill Kline Fights On

Today, America celebrates the 232nd anniversary of its independence from Great Britain, a time when, as Lincoln famously put it, “…our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

In Kansas, there is a man who takes Lincoln’s words very seriously in a battle that has produced two-thousand casualties for each American life lost during the war for independence.  For more than five years, he has fought to ensure that all people, created equal under God, are treated that way under the law. 

His name is Phill Kline, and his efforts have placed Kansas, the geographic center of the continental United States, at the epicenter of the abortion debate and made the Sunflower State, as columnist Bob Novak has written, “the fiercest state battleground in the abortion wars…” 

Since 2003, Kline has presided over the only criminal abortion case since Roe v. Wade against America’s abortion behemoth, Planned Parenthood. 

Last October, Kline filed 107 criminal counts, including 23 felonies, against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri for crimes ranging from “unlawful late-term abortions” and “unlawful failure to determine viability for late term abortion” to “making false information” and “unlawful failure to maintain records.”

In a recent interview with this column, Kline explained that his case could represent “a turning point” not only in the abortion debate but in our legal system.  He said, “If this nation cannot act consistent with existing law, to protect the unborn, then we have lost the promise of America.  And the rule of law will crumble.  And all of our rights will be at risk.”

Soon after being sworn in as Kansas attorney general in January 2003, Kline began an investigation of George Tiller, perhaps the most prominent abortionist in America because of his zeal for performing late-term abortions, and a Planned Parenthood facility in Overland Park, Kansas.  At Kline’s request, a judge subpoenaed from those facilities 90 abortion records showing many late-term abortions had been performed that were illegal under Kansas law. 

But through a series of legal maneuvers made possible by an abortion-friendly court system in Kansas, attorneys for Tiller and Planned Parenthood managed to delay producing the abortion records for three years, until just two weeks before the end of Kline’s term.  

Then, after a campaign in which he was outspent 4-to-1, largely due to an influx of funding from national abortion groups, Kline lost his reelection bid for attorney general to a Democratic opponent who dropped all criminal investigations of abortion facilities.

But Kline’s efforts were given new life when local officials appointed him to become district attorney of Johnson County, the office vacated by the newly-elected attorney general (who, incidentally, later was forced to resign due to a sex scandal).  This swap allowed Kline to pursue further his case against Planned Parenthood, and in October, 2007, Kline filed the 107 criminal counts. 

But Planned Parenthood continued to employ legal delay tactics, including taking the unprecedented step as a criminal defendant of suing Kline, its prosecutor, to have a court force him to return the abortion records. 

Kline has faced numerous obstacles in his attempts to get justice.  Not the least of which has been the abortion lobby’s portrayal of him as interested only in his pro-life convictions, not the law.  At a news conference after Kline filed the 107 counts, Planned Parenthood CEO Peter Brownlie said, “We can’t allow anti-choice politicians to harass and intimidate women or doctors in Kansas…No health care provider should be threatened with felony convictions simply because elected officials oppose legal abortion.” 

But while Kline is pro-life, that’s not the fundamental reason why he is prosecuting Planned Parenthood.  Kline says:

“This is not about the morality of abortion but about the rule of law. …It is a recognition that the rule is foundational for all our rights to be respected and it must be enforced, recognized and honored, especially for the vulnerable.  It is the rule of law that requires me to fulfill my oath of honoring the people of Kansas when they pass through the legislature a law that prohibits late-term abortions.  It is my oath of office to enforce that law, despite the political power and wealth of an industry that is seeking rights that no other citizen of this nation has.”

The odds are stacked against Planned Parenthood winning a case in which every judge who has looked at the evidence has found probable cause to believe that crimes have been committed.  But Planned Parenthood may escape punishment if it is allowed to continue delaying the case until Kline’s term ends, in January.  

Which is why Kline has decided to run for reelection as Johnson County district attorney.  Facing a difficult political climate, Kline chose to run because, “It’s the right thing to do. …I can’t walk away when things are undone.”

Kline has a difficult primary battle on August 5th against a Republican opponent who seems uninterested in continuing the Planned Parenthood case.  But Kline continues to fight and explained why with words reminiscent of those upon which our great nation was established:  

“The foundation of every freedom and right that we have is that we will be a nation of laws and that government will act to enforce those laws and use its powers to enforce those laws no matter how powerful or wealthy or what cultural reach a criminal defendant has. But if we send a message that political clout and money can buy court rulings and prosecutors then we have struck a blow to the heart of this nation’s promise.”

How can pro-lifers and people who care about the rule of law help?

Kline says, “We need their prayers, their passion, their time, their financial resources and we need their influence.   We need pro-lifers to come to Kansas, because the battleground is here.”