TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that a Sedgwick County grand jury investigation into a doctor who performs late-term abortions can go forward.
The ruling, issued Thursday, dismissed a petition filed last month by Dr. George Tiller, one of the nation’s few physicians who performs late-term abortions. He challenged the legality of the grand jury proceedings.
The grand jury investigation in Wichita, like one started in Johnson County looking into Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, was created by a citizen petition drive led by abortion foes.
Kansas is one of only six states that permits citizens to petition to create a grand jury.
Abortion foes hailed the ruling. Tiller’s attorneys, Lee Thompson and Dan Monnat, said in a statement issued Thursday that the petition drive was politically motivated.
“It’s been repeatedly determined that Dr. Tiller is innocent of any wrongdoing and we just regret that taxpayers’ dollars are now going to have to be spent to enable this grand jury to move forward,” they said.
A Johnson County district judge on Tuesday denied Planned Parenthood’s request to block the start of the panel, and the organization had planned to appeal. But Planned Parenthood attorney Bob Eye said Friday that the clinic would not appeal, saying the ruling issued in the Tiller case would likely apply to its case.
“We respect the court’s decision. We think the similarities would have resulted in the same decision, and we aren’t here to waste the court’s time,” Eye said.
Impaneling a 15-member grand jury in the Planned Parenthood case will begin Dec. 10 and it can meet for up to 90 days, although that can be extended by the district court. It takes 12 grand jurors to issue a recommendation.
Chief Judge Michael Corrigan in Sedgwick County said he didn’t know when the grand jury there will begin its work.
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman called Planned Parenthood’s decision another victory on top of the Supreme Court decision.
“We are celebrating these victories today and are looking forward to seeing justice done, both in Sedgwick and Johnson counties, through the grand jury process. We finally have some hope that the system is beginning to function as it should,” Newman said in a statement.
Abortion opponents want the grand jury to look into whether Planned Parenthood’s Overland Park clinic provided illegal late-term abortions. Eye said no late-term abortions are done at the clinic and Planned Parenthood is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Planned Parenthood already faces a 107-count criminal complaint filed by Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline in October. The complaint includes 29 misdemeanor counts of providing unlawful late-term abortions.
Kline, an anti-abortion Republican, started investigating Planned Parenthood in 2003 when he was attorney general. After a court battle, he eventually gained access to some of the clinic’s patient medical records.
Paul Morrison, an abortion-rights Democrat who defeated Kline last year to become attorney general, reviewed the records Kline obtained and found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.
However, Morrison filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller in June, alleging Tiller failed to get a second opinion on some late-term abortions from an independent second physician, as required by law.
All content © 2007 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.
By CARL MANNING
Associated Press Writer