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Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2007

House speaker supports Legislature’s late-term abortion review

June 27, 2007

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— Some legislators are pushing their leaders to initiate a review of late-term abortions in Kansas, and House Speaker Melvin Neufeld says the idea makes sense because of the debate surrounding Dr. George Tiller.

Tiller is among the few U.S. doctors performing late-term abortions, and in December, then-Attorney Phill Kline filed 30 misdemeanor charges against him, alleging the Wichita doctor violated restrictions in Kansas law on such procedures. A judge dismissed the case for jurisdictional reasons.

Kline, an anti-abortion Republican, left the office on Jan. 8, having lost last year's election to Paul Morrison, an abortion rights Democrat. Morrison began his own investigation and plans to announce Thursday or Friday whether he'll file new charges against Tiller.

Lawmakers who oppose abortion want their leaders to appoint a committee to meet this summer and fall to examine Kansas' law on late-term abortions and whether it can be strengthened. The Legislature's top seven leaders plan to meet July 6 to decide what issues will be studied before the 2008 session convenes Jan. 14.

"Given the level of interest, it would seem to be a logical thing to do," Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said of a late-term abortion study.

But some lawmakers were skeptical. Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, questioned whether lawmakers would learn anything new, and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said the value of a study would depend upon legislators' intent.

"If people just want to make it a political football and try to put Dr. Tiller on trial, I'm not sure that will be all that productive," Hensley said. "I'd have to be assured that we were doing it for all the right reasons, as opposed to making a political circus out of it."

Abortion opponents don't believe Morrison will pursue Tiller aggressively because of Tiller's political activities against Kline. While neither Tiller nor a political action committee he formed gave money to Morrison, the PAC spent more than $650,000 in 2005 and 2006, some to help finance anti-Kline mailings and some for polls and phone banks.

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