Kansas investigates Operation Rescue's child sexual abuse claim against abortion clinic

The Kansas City StarMay 4, 2012 

Kansas regulators said Thursday that they are investigating claims by an anti-abortion group that it has documents showing that a Kansas City, Kan., clinic broke the law by not reporting child sexual abuse.

Wichita-based Operation Rescue said it has “bits and pieces” of paper that identify patients at Central Family Medicine, a clinic that provides first-trimester abortions and related family planning services. The group says the clinic “cavalierly discarded” the papers.

The attorney for the clinic fired back, saying the allegation that child sexual abuse cases weren’t reported to authorities was untrue. She said any clinic documents Operation Rescue claims to have were either falsified or stolen from a locked trash bin.

Kelli Stevens, general counsel of the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, said Thursday that her agency is looking into the Operation Rescue records issue.

“We do have an investigation concerning that, but we can’t speculate on any of the issues involved,” she said.

Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue’s senior policy adviser, said that a confidential informant provided the papers and that no laws were broken in their acquisition.

“It’s no secret we seek information about abortion clinics,” Sullenger said. “Americans have the right to know what goes on in these places. It’s not a pretty picture.”

If Operation Rescue does have any documents from Central Family Medicine, they were stolen, said the clinic’s attorney, Cheryl Pilate.

“This is about trespass and theft,” Pilate said. “This has nothing to do with the sanctity of records or with protecting women. They are trying to frighten women away from having an abortion.”

Pilate said the clinic reported to police and the FBI on Monday about an apparent break-in at its trash bin. The bin is kept locked and papers dumped in it are shredded, she said.

A witness told the clinic last week about the break-in, Pilate said. A review of video from a clinic security camera showed that a pickup truck pulled up to the full trash bin in the evening, just before the scheduled trash pickup. The video shows two people at the bin.

On Wednesday, Operation Rescue reported that boxes of papers had been delivered to its offices. The papers were not official patient records, Sullenger said, but various pieces of paper that included 86 patients’ names, contact numbers and information about sonograms and ultrasounds.

“And the age of the baby,” Sullenger said. “I know way too much about these women.”

As to the clinic’s denial that it did nothing wrong, Sullenger said: “Of course they are going to bellyache and complain. They broke the law.”

Among the documents Operation Rescue claims to have from the clinic are forms pre-printed to include a “no” answer to a question asking if a report of suspected abuse was filed.

Pilate said the Operation Rescue allegations are part of a national strategy by anti-abortion groups to obtain and further their cause with the abuse of clinic papers.

“This was a locked Dumpster on private property,” Pilate said. “They (Operation Rescue) have in their possession stolen property.”

Pilate said some of the papers were “scrap” that the clinic has a legal right to dispose of in a landfill.

“Never to be seen again,” she said. “They can’t even find dead bodies in a landfill.”

Kansas requires doctors to maintain patients’ medical records for at least 10 years, but there is no requirement that doctors retain drafts of patient notes or other papers that are not intended to be part of the final record. Pilate said Central Family Medicine’s records policies comply with state law.

Sullenger said the person or persons who brought the boxes of documents were not anti-abortion activists, nor were they paid.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said the papers were being held in a secure location and had been offered to authorities. The names will not be released to the public, he said.

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