Kansas Fighting Disclosure of Who Helped Write Abortion Restrictions
As part of a crusade to made abortion legal-in-name-only, the Kansas legislature issued a host of new, mandatory restrictive guidelines that all clinics providing abortion services must follow and then gave clinics just a few weeks to comply or lose their licensing. Abortion rights advocates challenged the new restrictions right away and the state of Kansas is fighting back-hard.
Kansas is so intent in outlawing abortion entirely that it is willing to battle over commonplace legislative history requests. Lawyers for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the attorney general want to prevent two abortion clinics from learning how those rules were crafted and have asked a judge to limit the scope of what information is shared with the clinic’s lawyers.
The discovery dispute is framed at challenging “overly broad” requests for information that the state argues will not lead to relevant evidence. The state has also denied open records requests from both The Kansas City Star and The Associated Press, which asked for similar documents related to the drafting of these rules.
Abortion providers want the opportunity to question Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Secretary of Health and Environment Robert Moser about the new rules, including what steps were taken in developing them and who was involved in researching and writing them. They are also asking for records related to meetings and communications between the governor’s office and anti-choice groups Kansans for Life and Operation Rescue.
The state is arguing that legislative immunity protects them from disclosing this information in the context of litigation but have yet to provide a justification for denying the open records request.
Discovery objections are commonplace and typically used in conjunction with a disclosure of information — a party will object to a request to preserve the objection for trial while simultaneously providing the information requested. That is because the standard for what is discoverable in the context of litigation is extremely broad. Here the state’s position is unusually aggressive, suggesting the requests are likely to lead to some damaging information for the state.
The anti-abortion tactics already drew scrutiny when it was disclosed that the state had hired lawyers tied to the infamous Koch Brothers to defend its plan to strip Planned Parenthood of funding, which of course just begs the question of what, or who, is the state trying to hide?
Photo from steakpinball via flickr.