Women’s Mental Health Complaints Weren’t Enough To Warrant Abortions Performed At A Wichita Clinic, Says A Psychiatrist Hired By Former Attorney General Phill Kline.
A psychiatrist who reviewed abortion files for former Attorney General Phill Kline said Monday that records of late-term abortions at a Wichita clinic did not meet state legal standards for allowing the procedures.
The records showed the abortion patients were distressed for a variety of reasons, but the files did not establish the “substantial and irreversible” harm required by Kansas law to abort a viable fetus, said Paul McHugh, a professor and former department head at Johns Hopkins University.
Lawyers representing physician George Tiller, who runs the clinic, immediately issued a statement calling the psychiatrist a “hired gun witness” and strongly criticizing him for publicly discussing the contents of the records.
The 44 files at issue are probably the most-discussed medical records in state history.
Kline’s efforts to obtain the files — and subsequent complaints by his opponents that he was invading medical privacy — were at the heart of the campaign in which Democrat Paul Morrison defeated Republican Kline in November.
Although the records have been talked about at length, McHugh’s statements Monday were the first detailed public revelation of what the records actually contain.
He said the diagnoses included 31 cases of major depression, 10 cases of acute stress, one case of post-traumatic stress, one case of acute anxiety and one file which contained no diagnosis.
“They (the patients) were very distressed,” he said. But, he added, “that’s a psychological state… not a psychological disorder.”
Some of the reasons patients cited for their mental distress were serious, such as “I feel guilty, I feel ashamed, I don’t want to put my parents through this,” he said.
In other cases, he said the reasons were “trivial,” such as being unable to participate in a game or go to a concert.
Overall, he said, the reasons given primarily raised social, not psychological, issues.
Those could have been dealt with through adoption or social services, he said.
Kline, an abortion opponent, had cited the records in filing 30 misdemeanor criminal charges against Tiller in December.
The charges, alleged illegal abortions and inadequate record-keeping, were dismissed on jurisdictional issues.
Morrison spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said the attorney general’s office has reviewed the medical records and additional information and expects to wrap up its investigation of the case by the end of the month.
Of McHugh’s disclosure, she said, “It’s unfortunate that some parties to the case and some previous parties are not respecting the ongoing investigation.”
Tiller’s lawyers blasted McHugh in their statement.
“Reports that a hired gun witness retained by Phill Kline is discussing the contents of subpoenaed abortion-patient records is highly disturbing,” said the statement by lawyers Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat.
“This blatant political use of private medical records validates every conceivable concern Dr. Tiller and the (Kansas) Supreme Court have expressed about the subpoena issued by Phill Kline,” the statement said.
McHugh said the files he reviewed had been stripped by court order of any patient-identifying information, so he does not think privacy is an issue.
The psychiatrist was brought to Kansas this week to discuss the records by Jennifer Giroux, mother of nine children and the head of a socially conservative group called Women Influencing the Nation.
The group operates the Web site www.chargetiller.com and has lobbied the state Legislature for a resolution directing Morrison to reinstate Kline’s charges.
McHugh is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion today in Overland Park with a group of state legislators who oppose abortion, Giroux said.
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527.
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By DION LEFLER
The Wichita Eagle