Tiller challenges charges
Phill Kline’s broad interpretation of a law governing how health care providers report teen sexual activity fueled his investigation of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, the doctor’s lawyers said Tuesday in Sedgwick County District Court.
Tiller’s defense team is trying to persuade a judge to throw out 19 misdemeanor charges against the doctor because they say the case is based on evidence that Kline collected through abuse of his authority as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
Kline was sued in federal court over his legal opinion on teen sex, and a judge ruled the opinion invalid.
The charges against Tiller stem from how he performed abortions on fetuses that were potentially viable outside the womb. They were filed by attorney general Paul Morrison, who succeeded Kline, and are being pursued by current attorney general Steve Six. But Tiller’s lawyers argue the charges rely on evidence collected by Kline.
Tiller’s lawyers Tuesday showed the connection between Kline’s opinion and his investigation of the state’s two abortion clinics, including Tiller’s.
Barry Disney, the prosecutor handling the case for Six, argues that Kline acted appropriately in the course of the investigation.
Tom Williams, special agent in charge of the investigations division when Kline served as attorney general, took the stand Tuesday to outline his role in examining the abortion clinics beginning in 2003.
Kline called for an investigation into Kansas’ abortion clinics three months after taking office as attorney general, Williams said.
Williams said the initial focus of the investigation was to examine whether abortion providers such as Tiller were properly reporting procedures involving young teenagers who might be the victims of sexual abuse.
Two months later, Williams said, Kline gave his controversial opinion on what health care providers, teachers and others must report to state authorities as child abuse.
Kline ruled that almost any sex among teenagers — even consensual activity among those of similar ages — should be reported.
The broad ruling so outraged health care providers and social workers that a group sued Kline in federal court and won.
Williams said he filed affidavits with a judge in Topeka saying that Tiller and an abortion clinic run by Planned Parenthood weren’t following the reporting procedures. But Dan Monnat, who represents Tiller, contends the affidavits were based on faulty data.
Williams said he wasn’t asked to look into the reporting activities of doctors who performed live births for nearly two years.
“It was an incremental investigation,” Williams said. “We couldn’t look into everything at once.”
Williams said the data he used against the abortion clinics came from previous years, when the reporting requirements were more stringent than Kline’s opinion.
Tiller’s lawyers claim Kline targeted the Wichita doctor because he’s one of the few in the nation who perform late-term abortions.
By the numbers
Williams said he wrote sworn affidavits saying he found a “statistical anomaly” in the reporting of sexual abuse cases from Tiller’s clinic, noting a “paltry” four reports in little more than a year.
Monnat tried to show that investigators manipulated numbers to advance their investigation. He maintains that few teenage girls seek abortions, out of the thousands that are performed in this state each year. Even fewer are victims of sexual assault.
According to Williams’ testimony:
• From 2001 to 2003, 35,945 abortions performed in Kansas’ two clinics were reported to the state’s Department of Health and Environment. Of those, about half were Kansas residents.
• Nearly 1,700 abortions were performed 22 weeks or more into the pregnancy. Most (1,532) were for women from out of state.
• Of the 158 late-term abortions performed on Kansas women, 35 were performed after the fetus was termed viable.
Williams compared those to reports from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services:
• Out of some 19,000 reports of sexual abuse over a 20-month period, 90 were under age 16 and potentially pregnant.
• Only nine of those 90 girls had visited an abortion clinic, even for consultation.
• Four were reported by Tiller’s clinic as potential victims of sexual abuse.
Based on Williams’ report, Shawnee County District Judge Richard Anderson decided probable cause existed to launch the investigation against Kansas’ abortion clinics for failure to report child abuse.
Williams returns to the witness stand today. Morrison is expected to testify as the hearing continues throughout the week.
Reach Ron Sylvester at 316-268-6514 or [email protected]. All content © 2008 THE WICHITA EAGLE and may not be republished without permission.
By RON SYLVESTER
The Wichita Eagle