- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) | One of the nation’s few late-term abortion doctors was acquitted Friday of misdemeanor violations of state abortion rules; but moments after the verdict, the state’s medical board announced that it was investigating accusations against him that are nearly identical to those the jury had rejected.

Prosecutors had accused Dr. George Tiller of having received second opinions in 2003 from a doctor who was essentially an employee of his, not independent as state law requires, but a jury took only about an hour to find him not guilty of all 19 counts.

Dr. Tiller, who could have faced a year in jail for even one conviction, stared straight ahead as the verdicts were read, with one of his attorneys patting his shoulder after the decision on the final count was declared. His wife, seated across the courtroom, fought back tears and nodded. The couple declined to speak to reporters afterward.

“You would hope it would be over,” Tiller attorney Dan Monnat said. “But there is a group of people who want to suppress the constitutional rights of women.”

Dr. Tiller, 67, has charged that the prosecution was politically motivated. A pro-life attorney general began the investigation into his clinic more than four years ago, but both his successor, who filed the criminal charges, and the current attorney general are pro-choice.

Prosecutor Barry Disney said the case was one “that needed to be tried for the community, for everyone to have resolved.”

Soon after the verdict was announced, the state’s Board of Healing Arts made public a complaint against Dr. Tiller that charges, as the prosecutors did, that Dr. Tiller and Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus - who provided second opinions on late-term abortions before Dr. Tiller performed them - had financial or legal ties that violated the law regarding abortions. The complaint was filed in December but not released until Friday.

The board, which regulates doctors, could revoke, suspend or limit Dr. Tiller’s medical license, or fine him.

Board spokeswoman Kristi Pankratz said the criminal case and its outcome did not affect the administrative case, which will “proceed on its own merits.”

No hearings have been scheduled yet, she said.

Kansas law allows abortions after a fetus can survive outside the womb only if two independent doctors agree that it is necessary to save a women’s life or prevent “substantial and irreversible” harm to “a major bodily function,” a phrase that has been interpreted to include mental health.

According to trial testimony, Dr. Tiller’s patients paid Dr. Neuhaus $250 to $300 in cash for providing the consultation and the only way patients could see her was to make an appointment with Dr. Tiller’s office.

Phill Kline, the former attorney general who started the investigation, expressed frustration at the prosecutors who tried the case, noting that their only witness was Dr. Neuhaus.

“You do not win cases nor achieve justice by calling one witness and ordering your staff not to initiate any additional effort to gather evidence,” he said in a statement.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said pro-life advocates never thought Attorney General Steve Six would prosecute Dr. Tiller aggressively enough.

“Even if Tiller had been found guilty, he would have appealed to the Supreme Court,” Ms. Culp said, noting that four of the Kansas high court’s seven justices were appointed by pro-choice Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

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