by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
After nearly two years of court battles, the notorious Wichita abortion provider, George Tiller finally goes on trial today. He is facing 19 misdemeanor charges.
The charges stem from technical legal issues about whether the 67 year old Tiller had an improper financial relationship with a doctor providing second opinions on late term abortions. Under Kansas law, a late-term abortion where the fetus could be viable outside the womb requires a second medical opinion about whether giving birth could endanger the mother’s mental or physical health.
Although neither side will discuss the evidence, the state is expected to contend that Tiller’s relationship with Ann Kristin Neuhaus, the second doctor who signed off on the 19 abortions in question, violated the physician independence provision. Neuhaus has had temporary restrictions put on her medical license in the past for performing an abortion on a patient after the patient withdrew her consent.
Tiller’s Wichita clinic is the largest late-term abortion clinic in the free world and employs three out-of-state abortionists, including the notorious partial birth abortionist LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska. Women come to Tiller’s abortion mill from all over the world to get late-term abortions that are illegal or unavailable elsewhere.
The clinic also has a long and grisly history of botched abortions. In fact, only a week before the trial began, a patient was rushed from Tiller’s clinic to Wesley Medical Center. Eyewitnesses say there were no flashing lights or sirens and the patient was completely covered in a sheet when rushed into the emergency room, leaving them to wonder if she was dead or alive.
In spite of his disturbing history, Kansas’ Catholic Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has had a long and friendly relationship with Tiller.
Media bias has kept many of the facts about Tiller out of the public eye by focusing instead on incidents such as the 1986 bombing of his clinic and a six week blockade of the facility that took place in 1991. In 1993, Tiller was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent.
Pro-lifers fear this kind of bias may creep into the trial as well. The pro-life group, Operation Rescue, noted that several potential jurors were dismissed during jury selection last week because of their strong pro-life beliefs while no jurors were dismissed because they expressed strong “pro-choice” beliefs.
“Tiller’s abortion clinic operates outside the bounds of the law and moral decency,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “How many women must suffer life-threatening injuries or even death until he is jailed and his dangerous abortion business is shut down?”
Assistant Kansas Attorney General Barry Disney is expected to begin presenting evidence to a jury of six today before Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens.
Each count against Tiller carries a maximum penalty of as long as a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
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