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Judge OKs Planned Parenthood record review

A judge has approved a plan for handling patient records sought by a grand jury investigating a suburban Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge has approved a plan for handling patient records sought by a grand jury investigating a suburban Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic.

Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty approved the plan Thursday despite objections from the prosecutor, who has fought abortion-rights measures.

The plan, proposed by Planed Parenthood, allows the grand jury to see a spreadsheet with medical information taken from the records of 16 patients. Moriarty will compare the spreadsheet to the records to make sure the information is consistent before giving the spreadsheet to the grand jury.

The grand jury issued a subpoena to the Comprehensive Health in Overland Park clinic Jan. 7 demanding the records of 16 patients. The grand jury wants the records so it can investigate whether the clinic violated restrictions requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions and a 24-hour waiting period before any abortion.

Independent attorneys for the grand jury and lawyers for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri had reached the agreement last week on how to handle the records. But Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights, had objected to the plan.

"It's the grand jury's job to investigate Planned Parenthood — not for Planned Parenthood to investigate itself," Assistant District Attorney John Christopher Pryor told the judge Thursday.

He said the plan is ridiculous and means the judge could end up being a witness to the grand jury.

But Moriarty said judges regularly decide what information can be viewed by which party.

Rick Merker, one of two special counsels to the grand jury, agreed.

"If we can't trust the court, then there is something wrong with our system of justice," Merker said.

Plan seeks to protect identities, clients
Planned Parenthood attorney Pedro Irigonegaray said the plan allows the grand jury to obtain information while still protecting the confidentiality of the patients' records.

Abortion opponents, led by Operation Rescue, forced the county to convene the grand jury using a petition process in place in Kansas law since 1887. Kansas is among six states with such a process.

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said the agreement is suspicious.

"We cannot trust the outcome of this investigation because the secret investigative process has been violated, subpoenas have not been honored, improper communications have taken place between special prosecutors and Planned Parenthood attorneys, and because of the appearance of impropriety concerning censored evidence," Newman said in a statement Friday.

The grand jury's 90-day term expires next week, but Moriarty could extend it.