Kansas court refuses to intervene in case of abortion records leaked to Bill O'Reilly

Thursday, November 30th 2006, 4:15 pm
By: News On 6

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Supreme Court refused Thursday to intervene on behalf of two abortion clinics in a dispute with the state attorney general over patient records that were leaked to ``The O'Reilly Factor.''

The clinics had asked the court to seize the records of 90 patients from Attorney General Phill Kline and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate how Fox News' Bill O'Reilly got access to abortion records for a Nov. 3 broadcast.

The court offered no explanation for its ruling in a one-sentence order signed by Chief Justice McFarland.

Kline received edited versions of the records in October from a Shawnee County judge after a two-year legal battle. He said he was investigating whether clinic doctors performed illegal late-term abortions and violated a state law requiring them to report suspected child abuse.

The clinics, operated by Dr. George Tiller in Wichita and by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park, argued that Kline was on a ``fishing expedition'' that violated the patients' privacy. They also said Kline, a strong abortion opponent, could not conduct an objective investigation.

O'Reilly interviewed Kline during the segment where O'Reilly discussed the leaked information. A spokeswoman for Kline, who lost his re-election bid four days after the broadcast, has said he doesn't know how O'Reilly got the records.

Kline accused the clinics of trying to thwart his investigation and argued that the court had no authority to appoint a special prosecutor or take over a criminal investigation.

The ruling means Kline, a Republican, can continue his investigation, refer potential cases to county prosecutors or file charges himself before leaving office Jan. 8.

Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney representing the clinics, declined to comment, saying he had not examined the ruling.

Kline said: ``These motions were without legal basis and the decision is appropriate.''

Paul Morrison, a Democrat who will succeed Kline, said he has not decided whether he will continue the investigation.