Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- National anti-abortion leaders Wednesday put finishing touches on a letter to be sent to all members of Congress urging suspension of more than $300 million in federal funding of Planned Parenthood until a massive criminal case brought in Kansas against the abortion rights organization is settled. That launches an attack against the nation's largest purveyor of "reproductive health care" -- including abortions.

On Oct. 16, Kansas District Judge James F. Vano in suburban Kansas City spent eight hours reviewing a 107-count grand jury indictment against Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri Inc. and decided there was "probable cause" to proceed. Allegations of unlawful late-term abortions and other abortion-connected crimes were brought by Johnson County District Atty. Phill Kline, a pro-life hero nationally who is viewed as a fanatic by abortion rights advocates. The prosecution alleges violation of state and federal laws and falsification of documents to justify it.

This opens a new front in the endless abortion wars. No change in the status quo had seemed possible for the pro-lifers. The 5 to 4 Supreme Court advantage for abortion is frozen, and a Democratic-controlled Congress will not pass new anti-abortion legislation, much less a constitutional amendment. The offensive against abortion now takes dead aim at Planned Parenthood and attempts to expand a Kansas criminal prosecution into a nationwide assault.

"Bloody Kansas" was the battleground between rebel and loyal forces nearly 150 years ago, and it is now an epicenter of abortion conflict. While polls show Kansas voters 60 percent pro-life, anti-abortion activists call the state "the abortion capital of the world" -- mainly because of Dr. George Tiller. At his Wichita clinic, Tiller is one of the few American doctors still performing late-term abortions.

The struggle has ripped asunder Kansas's dominant Republican Party, with Kline at the heart of it. He won passage of anti-abortion legislation during eight years in the state House of Representatives, before his narrow 2002 election as state attorney general. Kline's vigorous prosecution of alleged abortion offenses made him the principal national target of the abortion industry.

It pumped an estimated $1.5 million into the 2006 campaign for attorney general of Paul Morrison, the pro-choice Republican Johnson County district attorney who turned Democratic to run against Kline. Dr. Tiller personally contributed $121,000 to his ProKanDo PAC, which spent $322,680 in the campaign against Kline. An affiliated non-profit group, Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection, spent more than $400,000 on "educational mailings" obviously aimed against Kline. Badly outspent, Kline relied on an old-fashioned hand-shaking campaign and was swamped at the polls.

Next occurred a bizarre event worthy of Shakespeare. Since Morrison was elected district attorney as a Republican, under state law his replacement was selected by the GOP's precinct committeemen. They chose Kline. The abortion lobby's campaign against him had made him unelectable to any office, ruling out a full term as district attorney next year. So, with time short, he immediately went to work in his new job.

His 107 charges against Planned Parenthood include allegations of "unlawful late-term abortions," "unlawful failure to determine viability for late-term abortion," "making false information" and "unlawful failure to maintain records." Anti-abortion activists see Kline's prosecution as the springboard for a national campaign. Forty other states have abortion laws similar to the Kansas statute that says abortion is legal only when the fetus cannot live independently outside the mother's womb -- that is, not "viable."

Whether or not enough prosecutors can be found to seek Kline-type indictments around the country, anti-abortion strategists are aiming at Planned Parenthood and its 860 facilities nationwide. Concerned Women for America and other pro-life organizations signed this week's letter to members of Congress asking for suspension of federal funding that amounts to about one-third of the organization's budget: "We urge you to act to ensure that our tax dollars are not subsidizing abortion clinics that perform possibly illegal abortions."

While the Democratic-controlled Congress surely will not defund Planned Parenthood, it will be pressed to fulfill its oversight mission with congressional hearings. The socially conservative Family Research Council Wednesday called for a Justice Department investigation. And Republican presidential candidates -- who proceed gingerly on abortion -- will be called to combat in this war.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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