Destruction of Evidence Lead to Delay in KS Planned Parenthood Trial

MSNBC is reporting that on Monday, a Kansas trail court judge postponed the criminal case against Planned Parenthood of Mid-Missouri Kansas after the revelation the Kansas Health Department had destroyed crucial Planned Parenthood relevant abortion reports in 2005, under then-Governor and current Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. The clinic, which is located in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, faces 107 charges– including 23 felony counts alleging it falsified documents as well as multiple misdemeanor counts for failing to maintain abortion reports, failing to perform viability tests on fetuses, and unlawful late-term abortions.

The documents destroyed by the Department of Health– 23 original copies of the state late-term abortion compliance reports from Planned Parenthood– were vital evidence for the prosecution in its efforts to prove forgery. The Health Department claims that the destruction occurred during routine document shredding. Despite strong objections from Planned Parenthood, Judge Stephen Tatum granted the prosecutors two weeks to see if they would have enough evidence to go on.  The next hearing, on November 9th, will assess the progress made by Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe’s office.

This mishandling of important documents on behalf of the Kansas Health Department is most decidedly worrisome. As District Attorney pointed out in court yesterday, the 2003 abortion reports from the late George Tiller’s clinic were still available as of 2010– why should these 23 critical documents be destroyed? It is true that charges were not filed under 2007 but, in 2005, then-Attorney General of Kansas Phill Kline (who later filed these charges against Planned Parenthood as Johnson County District Attorney) had attained probable cause of crimes committed related to late term abortions and was seeking patient files. It seems only reasonable that documents that would be relevant in any way would not be shredded.

Despite the lack of this critical evidence, we must hope that the District Attorney’s office is able to build a solid case for the sake of the well being of women and their children. Additionally, perhaps the state of Kansas should look into the destruction of these documents which seems either grossly negligent or else vaguely suspicious.

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