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Archive for Friday, November 2, 2007

Tiller case dismissal motions slated for today

November 2, 2007

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— Sedgwick County District Judge Clark V. Owens will hear arguments today on a motion by abortion provider George Tiller to dismiss the 19 misdemeanor charges Attorney General Paul Morrison filed against him.

Morrison filed charges against Tiller in June for allegedly failing to get an independent second opinion on some late-term abortions as required by Kansas law. Tiller maintains his innocence.

The hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. today at the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

The bulk of the arguments at issue already have been made in hefty court filings now before the judge.

Attorneys for the embattled Wichita doctor argued in court papers that Kansas law, which requires a referral from a second physician before a viable fetus can be aborted, creates an unconstitutional burden on a physician's right to practice medicine.

They contend no other medical procedure requires a concurring opinion, and argued the statute as applied violates a woman's right to obtain an abortion.

They also called it unconstitutionally vague.

In voluminous court documents, Tiller also raised numerous other arguments.

Among them, Tiller's lawyers told the judge the Kansas referring physician requirement violates a citizen's liberty to travel in interstate commerce.

They called it an unconstitutional restriction on privileges and immunities guaranteed every citizen.

And they claimed it violated the due process clause under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In response, Morrison argued that the Kansas Legislature, through statute, expressed a strong interest in protecting potential life, and chose to demonstrate that interest by requiring an unbiased second opinion before a viable fetus could be legally aborted.

Morrison said requiring a second opinion regarding the injury a woman would sustain if she carried a pregnancy to term was not an undue burden on a woman's right to choose. He contended the statute was constitutional.

The Kansas attorney general cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a nationwide ban on an abortion procedure.

The divided court ruled in April that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman's right to choose.

That decision had been widely seen as an opening for additional restrictions on abortion rights.

In his court filings, Morrison cited that case and others to bolster his contention that the state has a substantial interest in protecting human life - especially once the point of viability is reached.

Morrison also cited a federal court ruling that upheld a similar law in Montana that requires a second doctor's opinion before a viable fetus can be aborted.

As for Tiller's argument that no other medical procedure requires a second opinion, Morrison responded that no other medical procedure involves the "purposeful termination of a potential life."

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