I've been away for awhile, in our nation's capitol, but I'm back on the prairie now, and going over old newspapers. The big news 'round here this week is that the Johnson County District Attorney, Phill Kline, has lost the Republican primary, and will be leaving that office.
This is not mere parochial chit-chat. Phill Kline was the darling of the national anti-choice movement, so relentlessly monomaniacal in his pursuit of abortion providers that he even turned off the majority of Republicans in Kansas City. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The bare-bones backstory is as follows:
In 2002, Kline ran for (and won) election to office as the state's Attorney General. It was a very close race, and his opponent, a county district attorney who spent only $150,000, likely would have beaten him had he campaigned across the state (he was too busy prosecuting cases). It was another example of how wingnuts have perfected the art of winning by flying under the political radar while sending out dog whistles to the faithful. We all braced ourselves for what was to come.
It didn't take long. Almost immediately, he began pursuing Dr. George Tiller, one of the few abortion providers in the nation who performs late-term procedures.
Kline's focus on Tiller made Inspector Javert look like an adolescent with Attention Deficit Disorder. He began by charging the doctor with 30 misdemeanors for allegedly performing 15 illegal late-term abortions on women ages 10 to 22 without properly reporting the details to the state. The crimes in question would concern failing to report sexual abuse (which is defined, ipso facto as underage sex), as well as late-term abortions administered without following state-mandated procedures. To bolster his case, he demanded the records of 30 young women, ostensibly to determine if these particular abortions had been done illegally, but he was really on a fishing expedition to see what he could find.
He was stymied at almost every turn (ultimately a judge dismissed the charges against Tiller), and in 2006 lost his re-election bid by a wide margin. Undeterred, he got himself appointed to the post of Johnson County district attorney (his opponent in the state race had been the county DA, necessitating the appointment of a new one), home to a Planned Parenthood. He then began this new job by filing 107 charges against the organization, for (again) failing to report the sexual abuse of children, the performance of so-called "partial-birth" abortions, and the creation of false information in the medical records. Planned Parenthood adamantly denies all charges and believes them to be politically motivated. No kidding.
The person who beat Kline in the Republican primary, Steve Howe, is also anti-choice, but considered to be moderate. He was a prosecutor in the DA's office for eighteen years before being fired by Kline upon his appointment to the office in 2006. Although it remains to be seen, most political watchers think it's unlikely that, if Howe is elected, the case against Planned Parenthood would proceed. Howe made his bones in white-collar criminal prosecutions and consumer protection, and has said that public safety would be his priority, should he emerge victorious over his Democratic opponent in the general election (his opponent, Democrat Rick Guinn, was also a prosecutor in the DA's office before being fired by Kline).
However this election goes, let us give thanks that Mr. Kline, who so cavalierly made the lives and health of women his very own political football, has himself finally been kicked where it counts: out the door.