Planned Parenthood Files Motion Questioning Medical Relevancy of Anti-Choice Witnesses

It may seem as though Phill Kline’s name should only be resurrected within the context of  anti-choice history.  Phill should be allotted his earned chapter in the book recounting the fear and terror endured by providers and patients through the years, at the hands of politicians and terrorists… often one and the same. Phill may even be allotted multiple chapters, as his legacy shows how far down the rabbit hole one man can spiral, ultimately ruined by his fetal obsession. Unfortunately, Phill’s obsession not only ruined his career as a Kansas politician, but also contributed to the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.

Today, Mr. Kline’s zealotry is still playing out in a Kansas courtroom. The charges he brought in 2007 against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri stand as a prime example of how lengthy state court battles over abortion can become. This lawsuit is the first of its kind against Planned Parenthood, as it weighs criminal charges upon a health care provider.

Then Johnson County District Attorney, Phill Kline accused Planned Parenthood of performing post-viability abortions. Phill Kline is no longer DA, but the charges linger under the acting DA’s custody. The majority of the charges had previously been dismissed and this week, Planned Parenthood has requested that the remaining charges meet the same fate.  From the Kansas City Star:

Planned Parenthood is asking that the remaining charges be dismissed, contending that the witnesses’ testimony is irrelevant and that some of the charges are based on nothing more than a “reasonable medical disagreement.”

In court papers, Planned Parenthood pits its own witness, Maureen Paul, against the prosecutors’ witnesses. Paul is the editor of “Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care.” Court papers describe the publication as the “standard medical text” on abortion practice.

The court papers detail what the physicians at Planned Parenthood did to calculate the gestational age of the fetus to determine viability. Planned Parenthood uses Paul to help make its case that it took the appropriate steps, arguing that prosecutors are relying on opinions that do not reflect what is “common, accepted or necessary practice” for physicians performing an abortion.

Planned Parenthood’s lawyers further contend that Goodwin and Gillett are not dealing with abortions so their circumstances are completely different from what happens at an abortion clinic.

In this motion, Planned Parenthood is attempting to force the prosecution to take into consideration standard care and best practice as viewed through the modern, professional lens of abortion care. This motion stands as a direct challenge to the anti-choice practice of habitually and flagrantly calling medical ideologues “experts” and pointing to two-bit, outdated, non-peer reviewed studies as “science”. 

Whether it be “fetal pain or the abortion/breast cancer “link,” or providing fetal viability testimony, anti-choicers are creative in finding their witnesses under whatever rock they lurk.  If they have any medical credentials whatsoever, they are deemed “experts in the field,” regardless whether their specialty has anything to do with women’s health, or whether their evidence is truly evidence or just anti-choice hyperbole wrapped in creative  medical terminology. 

The willingness of predominately anti-choice state legislatures to embrace such “evidence” as fact lies in the fact that elected officials are generally not physicians, nor are they lawyers… so the medical and legal basis with which such legislation is presented, no matter how dubious, is swallowed whole by a body that is just looking for cover so that they may pass their political football one more yard down the field. 

It is refreshing to see some examples of citizens with medical credentials stepping forward in many state legislatures to present factual counter to the claims of anti-choice medical zealots, but we need more of them. In Kansas, it remains difficult to find individuals to present factual medical testimony to counter the crazy talk. This isn’t due to lack of belief in the need for abortion care by the medical community. It is due to fear. Kansas is the land where physicians are shot for treating women in need of abortions and the mere mention of providing care brings death threats.  Abortion care is a field in which clinic landlords are stalked and harassed, which doesn’t bode well for any pro-choice physicians brave enough to provide testimony. 

Here’s to hoping that Planned Parenthood’s request for witness scrutiny is honored and that anti-choice ideologues are not allowed to be colored experts in a proceeding that should be put to rest as yet another chapter in the hateful saga of Phill Kline. 

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