Commentary: Phill Kline, Planned Parenthood and the anti-abortion movement

The Kansas City StarFebruary 18, 2011 

Phill Kline’s supporters this week took to the Internet to celebrate their hero’s accomplishments and drum up donations.

You’d have thought the former Kansas attorney general was running for office again.

Except instead of yard signs, the donations will pay for Kline’s defense against ethical complaints that could cost him his law license. His hearing will start Monday.

And as always, Kline’s martyrdom on behalf of the right-to-life movement was the hook.

“It is a fact … that the abortion industry, pro-abortion politicians and friends in the judiciary appointed by (former) Gov. Kathleen Sebelius are using mob-like tactics to try and take Phill Kline down,” right-to-life activist Jill Stanek said this week during a 90-minute webcast.

Each year, the Kansas Supreme Court’s Office of the Disciplinary Administrator gets 1,000 complaints about lawyers. Some 300 merit investigation, and 30 of those proceed to a hearing — accusations that the lawyers cheated their clients, took legal shortcuts or violated other rules.

Never before has a full-on publicity campaign for a defendant been launched ahead of the proceedings.

There was the audio-only webcast. Among the speakers was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said the charges against Kline were “a real stretch.” A fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, newly elected to represent western Kansas, pronounced the state court system “corrupt.”

Kline’s wife, Deborah, had some unkind things to say about people in my line of work. More than once, she said, she has run over the newspaper with her car — on purpose.

Ouch.

The event sparked chatter on anti-abortion blogs and websites, including a new one devoted to Kline’s case: plannedparenthoodcorruption.org.

The purpose of all of this, other than to raise smack for Kline’s lawyers? After all, it’s not like the PR will sway the outcome of his case.

My guess is that it’s aimed mostly at revving up the anti-abortion movement. And partly it’s about making excuses for Kline, should the three-member panel find him guilty of misleading judges, withholding information and disobeying judicial orders in his prosecution of Planned Parenthood.

Said Stanek: “We are going to spend this first phase exposing their kangaroo court tactics.”

If you think that means more phases ahead, bingo.

Phase two: “Connect the dots” between Planned Parenthood and all the “corrupt politicians and judges in Kansas.”

Phase three: Mine hearing testimony for info that can be used to inflict PR damage on Planned Parenthood.

There was no mention of a phase four, but my guess is Kline, who’s been teaching at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., will be on the speaking circuit a lot more in the future. After being out of the public eye for so long, his career needed a boost.

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