News Abortion

More Charges Against Kansas City Planned Parenthood Dismissed

Robin Marty

Over two dozen charges regarding abortions performed nearly a decade ago have been dismissed by a dstrict judge.

Note: This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. Eastern to provide an update on the state of the suit regarding Kansas’s TRAP bill.

A witch hunt that began with former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is drawing closer to an eventual conclusion, as another 26 charges against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kansas have been dismissed by a district judge.

Via The Associated Press:

A Kansas judge on Thursday dismissed 26 misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic, honoring a prosecutor’s request to further narrow a criminal case over allegations the clinic performed illegal late-term abortions.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe confirmed Thursday night that District Judge Stephen Tatum signed an order late in the afternoon at Howe’s request. Tatum’s action is noted in online court records, but without any details.

Attorneys for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park had requested in March to have the same charges dismissed. The clinic’s attorneys argued that the charges — covering 13 abortions in 2003 — were filed beyond a two-year deadline for pursuing charges in effect when the pregnancies were terminated.

“Basically, we don’t dispute their contention,” Howe told The Associated Press.

The charges were part of over 100 that were filed against the clinic by then-state Attorney General Phill Kline, who was determined to find the clinic guilty of a crime in order to shut it down. Remaining charges involve accusations that the clinic violated a Kansas law regarding abortions after viability, which the clinic denies. 

Kansas formerly allowed late abortions in the case of endangering the health of the woman or girl carrying the fetus. The law was later amended to deny abortions to women on grounds of mental health. 

Kansas has had no provider of late abortion care since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.

In other Kansas news, the State sought to have a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the Center for Women’s Health, the practice of Drs. Herb Hodes and Traci Nauser, dismissed. The suit was filed in response to the state’s new TRAP legislation, which is meant to close the clinic by enforcing costly and medically unnecessary modifications to the building and way abortions are performed there.  A district court judge turned down the request for a dismissal and said the suit could continue to proceed, and that the temporary restraining order on the law would stay intact.

“These regulations have never been anything more than an underhanded attempt to make it impossible for Kansas women to exercise their constitutionally protected reproductive rights,” Bonnie Scott Jones, special counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said via statement. “Politicians have absolutely no business inserting themselves between women and their reproductive health care providers. With today’s decision, the dedicated physicians challenging this law will have their day in court to stand up for their own rights and the rights of their patients.” The Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the clinic owners in their suit.

The ongoing legal fights are a reminder that in many cases, the judiciary can act as the final arbitrator when it comes to anti-choice legislation and lawsuits. Which makes it unsurprising that new candidates for office in the state are now running on a platform of revamping the judicial selection process, arguing that the governor should have the direct right to appoint judges and have their approved by the senate, rather than by a more potentially bipartisan committee as the state currently uses.

News Law and Policy

Another Acquittal Handed Down in Freddie Gray Case

Michelle D. Anderson

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams said prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the crimes and wanted him to rely on "presumptions or assumptions.”

A Baltimore judge on Monday acquitted another police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams cleared Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking Baltimore Police Department officer charged by Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct.

The judge heard closing arguments last week.

Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died of a spinal injury he suffered after being taken into police custody in April 2015. His death sparked widespread protests and helped inspire a number of reforms, including an effort by local grassroots activists to allow citizens on police trial boards. The boards, introduced in the 1990s, make decisions about disciplining officers that can be affirmed or reversed by the police commissioner.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Mosby sought to hold Rice responsible for failing to secure Gray in a seat belt while riding in a police transport van following his arrest.

But Williams, according to a Baltimore Sun report, said prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the crimes and wanted him to rely on “presumptions or assumptions.”

Williams had dismissed a second-degree assault charge midway through the trial, while the state had dropped a misconduct charge after recognizing Rice was not directly involved in Gray’s arrest, according to the Sun.

Rice, who is white, is the fourth officer out of six charged by Mosby to go to trial. His trial represents the third acquittal in connection to Gray’s death. Williams cleared officers Edward Nero and Caesar R. Goodson Jr. in May and June, respectively.

The first trial, concerning Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury, or mistrial, in December. Porter’s second trial is scheduled to begin on September 6. The trial of Officer Garrett E. Miller is slated to begin July 27; Sgt. Alicia D. White, October 13.

All officers charged by Mosby pleaded not guilty.

Closing arguments in Rice’s bench trial came on Thursday, the same day officials from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ) announced they had filed friend-of-the-court briefs on July 14 in an effort to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Baltimore’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3.

The union had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the police department from providing internal affairs police records to Baltimore’s civilian review board.

The CJSJ, which is a coalition of grassroots groups and national organizations like Baltimore United for Change, the Baltimore Algebra Project, and Amnesty International, said the union lawsuit is an effort to block “institutional changes leading to police accountability and transparency.” The coalition’s leadership argued that the suit would disable the “civilian review board from carrying out its responsibility in bringing much-needed transparency to Baltimore policing.”

The union had opposed the reform efforts because the proposed changes would allow citizens who lacked “specialized knowledge” about policing to review internal matters, according to the Sun.

News Family Planning

Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood

Nicole Knight Shine

The Republican-backed law specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails "to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court to block an Arizona law defunding Planned Parenthood, arguing in a legal challenge filed Thursday that the Arizona measure is “illegal.”

The GOP-backed law, signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in May, specifically targets abortion providers, excluding any facility from Medicaid that fails “to segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions.”

Federal law already bars health-care providers from using Medicaid dollars for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

In an 18-page complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the restriction is impermissible under Medicaid statutes, and they ask for an injunction on the law, which goes into effect August 6. Planned Parenthood said in an emailed statement that the law could slash funding for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care, affecting more than 2,500 Medicaid patients in the state.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency, did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Lee, staff attorney at the ACLU, called the Arizona law “another attempt to intimidate doctors who provide abortion and to punish low-income women in particular,” in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Planned Parenthood operates 11 medical centers in the state, including three in underserved and impoverished communities with high rates of infant mortality, according to the court filing.

At least ten states, including Arizona, have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding—the fallout from a string of deceptive smear videos masterminded by David Daleiden, the head of the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress, who now faces a felony record-tampering charge.

“This case is about the people who rely on us for basic care every day,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an announcement of the Arizona suit. “We’ll continue fighting in Arizona, and anywhere else there are efforts to block our patients from the care they need.”

The Arizona law represents the state’s second attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision finding a similar defunding measure, HB 2800, violated federal Medicaid law.

In April, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to all 50 states saying that cutting funding to qualified providers solely because they provide abortion care violates federal law.

Independent analysis suggests gutting Planned Parenthood funding exacts a toll on health care.

2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office indicated that health-care access would suffer under Planned Parenthood funding cuts, with the potential for $650 million in additional Medicaid spending over a decade and thousands of more births.

In Texas, births surged 27 percent among low-income women who were using injectable birth control but lost access to the service when the state cut Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.