Note: This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. Eastern to provide an update on the state of the suit regarding Kansas’s TRAP bill.
A witch hunt that began with former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is drawing closer to an eventual conclusion, as another 26 charges against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kansas have been dismissed by a district judge.
Via The Associated Press:
A Kansas judge on Thursday dismissed 26 misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic, honoring a prosecutor’s request to further narrow a criminal case over allegations the clinic performed illegal late-term abortions.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe confirmed Thursday night that District Judge Stephen Tatum signed an order late in the afternoon at Howe’s request. Tatum’s action is noted in online court records, but without any details.
Attorneys for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park had requested in March to have the same charges dismissed. The clinic’s attorneys argued that the charges — covering 13 abortions in 2003 — were filed beyond a two-year deadline for pursuing charges in effect when the pregnancies were terminated.
“Basically, we don’t dispute their contention,” Howe told The Associated Press.
The charges were part of over 100 that were filed against the clinic by then-state Attorney General Phill Kline, who was determined to find the clinic guilty of a crime in order to shut it down. Remaining charges involve accusations that the clinic violated a Kansas law regarding abortions after viability, which the clinic denies.
Kansas formerly allowed late abortions in the case of endangering the health of the woman or girl carrying the fetus. The law was later amended to deny abortions to women on grounds of mental health.
Kansas has had no provider of late abortion care since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.
In other Kansas news, the State sought to have a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Center for Women’s Health, the practice of Drs. Herb Hodes and Traci Nauser, dismissed. The suit was filed in response to the state’s new TRAP legislation, which is meant to close the clinic by enforcing costly and medically unnecessary modifications to the building and way abortions are performed there. A district court judge turned down the request for a dismissal and said the suit could continue to proceed, and that the temporary restraining order on the law would stay intact.
“These regulations have never been anything more than an underhanded attempt to make it impossible for Kansas women to exercise their constitutionally protected reproductive rights,” Bonnie Scott Jones, special counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said via statement. “Politicians have absolutely no business inserting themselves between women and their reproductive health care providers. With today’s decision, the dedicated physicians challenging this law will have their day in court to stand up for their own rights and the rights of their patients.” The Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the clinic owners in their suit.
The ongoing legal fights are a reminder that in many cases, the judiciary can act as the final arbitrator when it comes to anti-choice legislation and lawsuits. Which makes it unsurprising that new candidates for office in the state are now running on a platform of revamping the judicial selection process, arguing that the governor should have the direct right to appoint judges and have their approved by the senate, rather than by a more potentially bipartisan committee as the state currently uses.