A noon deadline passed Thursday, and a grand jury received nothing from abortion provider George Tiller. Instead, his lawyers rushed to appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court an order to surrender the medical records of 2,000 women.
And they sought and received another hearing this morning to seek further privacy protections in Sedgwick County District Court.
The state’s high court could postpone further proceedings until it studies the appeal Tiller’s lawyers expect to file today.
“We’re seeking an order to quash the subpoenas and to disband the grand jury,” said Dan Monnat, a Wichita lawyer representing Tiller.
Kansas for Life, which initiated petitions that resulted in the grand jury, said the legal moves are a stall tactic.
“He’s trying to protect himself, not the women involved,” said Mary Kay Culp, state executive director. “Their names and identifying information are going to be removed by a third party.”
The 15-member grand jury was empaneled earlier this month based on petitions signed by nearly 7,000 Sedgwick County residents. It had been asked to see whether Tiller obeyed state laws governing late-term abortions. He is one of the few doctors in the country who performs them.
The grand jury had subpoenaed the records of women who sought abortions after 21 weeks of pregnancy over the past five years.
Tuesday, lawyers with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York City announced they were representing the rights of the patients whose records have been subpoenaed.
Wednesday, retired Judge Paul Buchanan ordered the identifying numbers of the files to be given to the prosecutor overseeing the grand jury by noon Thursday.
The district attorney’s office will use a computer to put the identifying numbers in random order, then send the numbers in batches to Tiller. Tiller must turn over the matching files to a lawyer and a doctor whom Buchanan will name.
That process will be repeated until all files are turned over. Patients’ names and other identifying information will be removed before the files are submitted.
Buchanan will hear the latest request from Tiller’s lawyers and the Center for Reproductive Rights this morning.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a similar action to stop a subpoena by a grand jury petitioned to investigate its clinic in Overland Park.
The grand jury there has ordered 16 records from 2003 of abortions performed at the Comprehensive Health clinic.
A hearing is set for Feb. 15 before Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty.
Both clinics say the subpoenas ask for more information than the state Supreme Court said was allowable two years ago during an investigation by then-Attorney General Phill Kline.
Kline is now district attorney of Johnson County.
Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By RON SYLVESTER
The Wichita Eagle