Kansas Grants Access to Clinic Records, Protects Patient Information

In a unanimous ruling Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court granted Attorney General Phill Kline permission to investigate records from abortion clinics, but patients’ names and personal information will be withheld from the records he sees. The case relates to 90 records from 2003 which Kline subpoenaed in 2004. Kline wanted the records to include patients’ names, medical histories, contraceptive histories, and psychological profiles, and to have his office choose a doctor who would review the files for possible evidence of late-term abortions or child abuse, according to Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. The clinics in question, Comprehensive Health and Women’s Health Care Services, filed a brief last spring to block the subpoena. In response, Kline filed a motion saying that he did not require patients’ names. The Supreme Court’s decision means that the investigation can go on, but that identifying patient information can be withheld, and any information not related to possible legal violations must be eliminated from the records. Furthermore, an independent judge will choose a physician and a lawyer to review the records and remove identifying or irrelevant material before handing them over to Kline.

The court also decided that Kline must now face District Court Judge Richard Anderson to determine if his initial legal reasons for seeking the subpoena were valid. The clinics were pleased with the ruling, as it will allow them to protect patients’ privacy in the face of Kline’s invasive investigation, reports Kaiser.

Also on Friday, Kline testified in a federal case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) against Kline’s stance that health care workers must report all instances of known sexual activity by people under 16. Kline argues that as Kansas law makes all sexual activity by minors under 16 illegal, all evidence of such activity should be reported as abuse. CRR considered Kline’s reasoning unduly vague, and Peter Brownlie of Planned Parenthood told the Associated Press that clinics routinely report evidence of abuse, but are not required to report consensual sex because they “are required to report only if a patient is injured.” The results of this case about reporting requirements could affect Kline’s inquiry into clinic records by establishing what constitutes evidence of reporting violations or criminal activity.


Associated Press 2/5/06; Kaiser 2/6/06; Kansas City Star, 2/7/06; New York Times 2/4/06

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