- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

Which election this year is most important to the pro-life cause?

That’s easy: the presidential. Two numbers - 68, the average age in years of justices on the Supreme Court, and 26, the average tenure in years of justices since 1970 - underscore that the election of the person whose job it is to appoint new justices probably will have the most durable impact on abortion in an era when laws regulating it have become the domain of the courts.

But a much larger number - 290,000, the number of abortions performed at Planned Parenthood facilities in 2006 - gives pro-lifers reason to believe a much smaller election may prove almost as consequential for their cause. That’s because if he wins re-election for district attorney of Johnson County, Kan., Phill Kline will proceed with the only abortion criminal case against Planned Parenthood since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

When I visited Kansas recently, Mr. Kline helped me understand how his half-decade-long investigation and prosecution of America’s largest abortion seller has made Kansas, in his words, “Ground Zero in the fight for the sanctity of life and the rule of law.”

That may be hard to believe given that, politically, the Sunflower State, more closely resembles a red rose. In 2004, George W. Bush won Kansas by 25 percentage points, becoming the 10th Republican presidential candidate running to win the state. Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932, the longest Senate losing streak for either party in a single state. What’s more, Kansas ranks fifth in the nation in restricting abortion.

But Kansas is also, paradoxically, the late-term abortion capital of the world. Wichita abortionist George Tiller boasts more experience in late-term abortions than anyone else in the Western Hemisphere, “more than 60,000 since 1973,” most to women from out-of-state.

For four years, Mr. Kline, first as Kansas attorney general then as Johnson County district attorney, investigated Dr. Tiller and Planned Parenthood of Overland Park, Kan., amid allegations of illegal late-term abortions. Finally, in October 2007, after years of delay tactics by attorneys for both abortion entities, Mr. Kline filed 107 counts, including 23 felonies, against Planned Parenthood for “unlawful late-term abortions” and other violations.

Mr. Kline’s stunning 107-count indictment was just part of an avalanche of negative publicity that in recent years has sullied Planned Parenthood’s brand name. Planned Parenthood affiliates have been exposed for accepting donations earmarked specifically for black babies; an Ohio facility is under investigation for failing to report a father’s rape of his 16-year-old daughter; and several California centers are under investigation for overcharging the state hundreds of millions of dollars on birth control.

These and other scandals have come, curiously, as Planned Parenthood’s influence has risen. With 860 facilities nationwide, its 290,000 abortions in 2006 constituted about one-quarter of all abortions nationally, a share that has increased significantly each of the last few years. Its annual income surpasses $1 billion, and it receives more than $350 million yearly in tax-payer subsidies.

A conviction in the Kansas case would jeopardize that public funding. And it would embolden other state and federal law enforcement officers to consider their own investigations of Planned Parenthood. Even National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy acknowledges that a conviction in Kansas, “could affect women all over the country.”

Planned Parenthood puts on a brave face in public. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and mid-Missouri CEO Peter Brownlie says he is “certain we will be fully exonerated yet again.” But Mr. Kline told me every judge who has looked at the case has found probable cause to believe that crimes were committed.

That explains why the abortion lobby spent $1.5 million to defeat Mr. Kline in his 2006 re-election bid for attorney general, and why the Planned Parenthood Action Fund plans to spend $10 million on pro-abortion candidates this year, threefold what it spent in 2006.

It also explains why, after Mr. Kline was appointed to his current office, Planned Parenthood sued him in what Mr. Kline calls “the only case we’ve ever seen in the entire nation where the criminal defendant gets to sue the prosecution.”

Planned Parenthood’s personal lawsuit against Mr. Kline was filed ostensibly to force him to return abortion records he had lawfully obtained. But its primary purpose was to delay Mr. Kline’s prosecution of Planned Parenthood until his term ends, in January.

If Planned Parenthood manages to avert justice, Mr. Kline says he will become, “an example as to why, politically, other state officials should not [prosecute illegal acts by the abortion industry].” And both Mr. Kline’s Aug. 5 Republican Primary opponent and his potential Democratic general election opponent have signaled they would discontinue the case.

That’s a prospect sure to relieve the abortion industry, and underscore for pro-lifers why Phill Kline’s election may plausibly be called the second-most-consequential for their cause.

Daniel Allott is senior writer at American Values, a Washington, D.C., area public policy organization.

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