George Tiller will learn today when he’ll be scheduled for trial, after a judge ruled Monday that prosecutors can proceed with 19 misdemeanor charges against the Wichita abortion provider.

Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens denied a motion by Tiller’s lawyers to dismiss the charges, brought more than a year ago by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Owens will meet with lawyers today to decide scheduling.

Dan Monnat, one of the lawyers who represents Tiller, said he expects arguments to continue over the abortion records from Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services clinic, which led to the charges.

Tiller has denied that he had an inappropriate professional relationship with a doctor who gave second opinions.

A 1998 Kansas law requires women seeking certain late-term abortions to get an independent medical opinion. Before a woman can terminate a pregnancy on a potentially viable fetus, the law requires two doctors to agree that the abortion is necessary to preserve the life and health of the mother. Courts have determined this includes mental health.

Prosecutors say Tiller had a financial relationship with Ann Kristin Neuhaus, a Nortonville doctor who provided second opinions on Wichita abortions in 2003.

Owens ruled that the state’s requirement for a second opinion doesn’t put an “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to seek an abortion.

“A second physician requirement arguably ensures that a woman receives more information about her decision from another physician who does not stand to benefit financially from the abortion,” Owens wrote in a 35-page opinion that also outlined 35 years of abortion law in the United States.

Owens pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court’s original 1973 ruling that upheld a woman’s constitutional right to receive an abortion said that states have an increased interest in limiting abortions the closer a woman gets to the end of her pregnancy.

Monnat said he expects the debate to continue over the abortion records from which the attorney general’s office based its charges.

“We are still going to have to look closer at about how it was determined that the attorney general was justified in going after women’s abortion records,” Monnat said.

The records were obtained by then-attorney general Phill Kline in 2006, after a lengthy legal battle that reached the Kansas Supreme Court.

Kline had been pursuing the records of 90 women and girls who had abortions at the clinic since 2003 — the first year he took office.

He got the records in October 2006, just before his defeat for re-election by Paul Morrison. Morrison’s office reviewed the records then filed the current charges on June 28, 2007.

Seven months later, Morrison resigned after a sex scandal. Stephen Six, Morrison’s appointed successor, inherited the case.

Assistant Attorney General Veronica Dersch continued the prosecution.

Abortion opponents had reason to celebrate with Owens’ ruling. The groups last year petitioned to empanel a grand jury to further investigate Tiller. But that grand jury disbanded July 2 with no indictment.

Kansans for Life says it still doesn’t trust Six, a Democrat, with the prosecution.

“The assistant AG’s in court have been a disappointment,” said Mary Kay Culp, the group’s state director, “and given the current AG’s penchant for laying down for Tiller, we’re not sure where they will end up at trial.”

Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-6514 or [email protected]. All content © 2008 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.


A trial date for George Tiller will likely be set Tuesday, his lawyers said today, after a judge refused to dismiss 19 misdemeanor charges against the Wichita abortion provider.

But lawyer Dan Monnat said this afternoon that any trial would follow hearings over the legality of how the Kansas Attorney General’s Office obtained the women’s abortion records from Tiller’s clinic that led to the charges against him.

Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens ruled earlier this afternoon that the case against Tiller should proceed, after he found the Kansas abortion statute is constitutional.

Owen’s ruling came more than a year after the Kansas Attorney General’s Office filed the charges, accusing Tiller of breaking a 1998 state law requiring that a second, independent Kansas physician sign off on most late-term abortions.

Prosecutors say Tiller relied on Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, of Nortonville, for his second opinion for abortions in 2003, and she had a financial relationship with him that is against the law.

Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-6514 or [email protected]. All content © 2008 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.


With time running out, the grand jury investigating abortion provider George Tiller has yet to see any medical records subpoenaed directly from the doctor, the judge overseeing the panel said.

District Judge Paul Buchanan told the Associated Press that independent experts reviewing the records have gotten fewer than 20 redacted medical files so far in the first installment from Tiller. Jurors have not yet received them.

The two experts, a doctor and a lawyer, will review the material before it goes the grand jury. Buchanan said he expects to eventually receive a sampling of between 160 and 170 redacted files dating from Jan. 1, 2004 to the present.

The grand jury’s term expires July 8, and under Kansas law cannot be extended again, said Judge Michael Corrigan, the county’s chief judge.

“They have a lot to do by July 8 and it is questionable how quick it will take to get something done,” Corrigan said.

Buchanan, who is overseeing the grand jury, said Tuesday that he anticipates jurors will have some medical files before their term runs out. But when pressed about whether they will have enough time to make a decision before the clock runs out, he replied: “I have no idea what is in these records or what evidence they have received otherwise.”

In Kansas, judges do not supervise the day-to-day investigation of a grand jury.

Dan Monnat, one of the attorneys representing Tiller, said redacting the medical records is a “time-consuming process” for the law offices and the clinic.

“We are not trying to run out the clock,” Monnat said. “We are trying to timely comply with the court’s order while at the same time guaranteeing the privacy of the patients to the degree permitted by the court’s orders.”

Meanwhile, a separate criminal case against Tiller also appears stalled one year after then-Attorney General Paul Morrison filed 19 criminal charges against him.

His predecessor, former Attorney General Phill Kline, had filed 30 misdemeanor charges against Tiller in Sedgwick County in December 2006, only to see a judge dismiss them the next day for jurisdictional reasons.

Morrison, who defeated Kline in the 2006 election, charged Tiller in June 2007 on allegations of failing to get an independent second opinion on some late-term abortions in 2003.

Prosecutors do not anticipate the trial on that case to go forward on June 16 as scheduled, said Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Attorney General Stephen Six.

Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens has yet to rule on defense motions asking him to dismiss the case and to expand the number of jurors, she said.

In addition, prosecutors are still waiting for copies of transcripts and other documents so they can provide them to the defense, Anstaett said.

Reach Roxana Hegeman at 316-268-6514 or [email protected]. All content © 2008 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.


The grand jury investigating Wichita abortion provider George Tiller adjourned Wednesday afternoon without a criminal indictment.

Retired Sedgwick County District Judge Paul Buchanan, assigned to preside over the grand jury, said the panel returned a finding of “no true bill,” meaning criminal charges would not be filed.

The grand jury was convened in January through a petition drive by anti-abortion groups seeking an investigation into whether Tiller violated state abortion laws.

In a statement released by the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office, the grand jury said:

“After six months of conducting an investigation that included hearing extensive witness testimony, reviewing volumes of documents and medical records of patients of Women’s Health Care Services (Tiller’s clinic), this Grand Jury has not found sufficient evidence to bring an indictment on any crime related to the abortion laws.”

Lee Thompson, a lawyer for Tiller, said the Wichita grand jury had received 160 records from the clinic — the result of a lengthy legal battle that found its way to the Kansas Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court limited the number of records the grand jury could subpoena and still protect the privacy of women who had abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The grand jury indicated in its statement that it struggled with a complex Kansas law regulating late-term abortions.

The law says that after 22 weeks of pregnancy, doctors must first determine if a fetus can survive outside the womb. If a fetus is determined viable, then an abortion can be performed only if two independent doctors determine that carrying the pregnancy to term would cause “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

The Kansas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have interpreted that to include the mental health of the woman.

The grand jury said it found “questionable late-term abortions” but said Kansas law needs to be clearer before any investigation is likely to yield criminal charges against Tiller’s clinic.

“As the current law is written and interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court, late-term abortions will continue for many circumstances that would seem, as a matter of common interpretation, not to meet the definition of ‘substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,’ ” the grand jury said in its statement.

Tiller is one of only a handful of doctors in the country who perform late-term abortions.

The law allows doctors to make medical decisions, Tiller’s lawyers said.

“To a lay person, it could be indigestion,” Tiller’s lawyer, Laura Shaneyfelt, said, “but to a trained medical professional it could be a heart attack.”

Thompson commended the grand jury for not “substituting a common interpretation or personal feelings” for the law.

A spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Stephen Six said the grand jury’s statement validated his office’s decision to pursue only 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller.

In a case filed last year, Tiller stands accused of not getting a second opinion from an independent physician, but rather one tied to him financially. Tiller has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

Those charges await a ruling by Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens before continuing to trial.

Following Wednesday’s decision, an anti-abortion group said the government isn’t aggressive enough in limiting Tiller’s practice.

Kansans for Life, which led the petition drive for the grand jury, blamed Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston for not giving the grand jury proper legal guidance.

Mary Kay Culp, Kansans for Life’s executive director, said her organization would work to help re-elect Phill Kline, an anti-abortion advocate, as district attorney in Johnson County and to defeat Foulston, who is up for re-election here.

“The law doesn’t need to be changed. The enforcers of the law need to be changed,” Culp said.

A Johnson County grand jury under Kline’s guidance returned a similar finding in March. Kline blamed the judge presiding over the grand jury for its finding that no criminal charges were appropriate against an abortion clinic run by Planned Parenthood.

Dan Monnat, a lawyer on Tiller’s legal team, said the repeated attempts against Tiller ultimately cost the public.

“It’s unfortunate for the taxpayers of the state of Kansas who again and again have to endure the expense of these investigations over someone else’s political agenda,” he said.

All content © 2008 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.