A judge in Kansas on Thursday granted abortion provider Planned Parenthood's request to dismiss over two dozen misdemeanor charges stemming from several late-term abortions performed at a Kansas City-area clinic.
Planned Parenthood initially faced a total of 107 criminal charges in October of 2007 – including 23 felonies – when former district attorney Phill Kline was in office. Kline began the investigation in 2005 when he was Kansas' attorney general. He continued his investigation after becoming Johnson County DA in January of 2007.
Howe defeated Kline in the GOP primary in August of 2008. Both men are pro-life.
But it was Howe who asked Judge Stephen Tatum to dismiss 49 of the most serious charges on Thursday, agreeing that many of them did not fall within the state's two-year statutes of limitations. Planned Parenthood attorneys argued that charges covering 13 abortions performed in 2003 were well beyond the two-year deadline.
"Basically, we don't dispute their contention," Howe told The Associated Press.
However, Howe's intention is to reduce the charges to a number he believes his office can successfully prosecute. According to parties on both sides of the issue, it is the first time a Planned Parenthood clinic has faced criminal charges.
The charges currently facing the abortion provider states they violated a Kansas law in 2003 that placed restrictions on abortions performed at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy if the fetus was determined to be viable, or could survive outside the womb. Abortions performed after this time were only allowed to save a woman's life or to prevent "substantial and irreversible harm."
The remaining charges – all of which are misdemeanor – cover 16 abortions. There is one misdemeanor count of not performing an examination to determine the viability of the fetus and one charge of performing an illegal late-term abortion.
Part of the controversy surrounding the case stems from the fact that former attorney general Steve Six, who was appointed by former Democrat Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, apparently destroyed documents that were vital to the felony charges. Sebelius is currently the Secretary of Health and Human Services and has been mired in another controversy over mandates forcing employers to pay for contraceptives for employees.
Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek has been following the case closely for many years and points the finger at Sebelius for appointing pro-abortion judges to the bench.
"What happens when a corrupt state governor, Kathleen Sebelius and her hand-picked court system collude to stall a case so long the statute of limitations runs out?" asked Stanek. "And what happens when that same state governor's health department shreds evidence in that same case?"
"And what happens when a prosecutor with nerves of steel is replaced by a prosecutor with nerves of spaghetti? All three combine for death by a thousand cuts of a rock solid case against Planned Parenthood of Overland Park, Kansas, for committing illegal late-term abortions, failing to report abortions of minors, and falsifying documents."