Wichita A Kansas grand jury declined Wednesday to indict one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers, saying it did not find enough evidence to indict him on any crime related to abortion laws.
In a written statement, grand jurors said that unless the Legislature amends state law and provides clearer guidelines, it is unlikely any investigation will provide a basis to indict Dr. George Tiller.
The panel said it reached its decision after a six-month investigation that included hearing witness testimony and reviewing documents and medical records of patients of Women's Health Care Services.
Grand jurors said they believed the state Legislature made an earnest attempt to limit late-term abortions by including the words "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" to prohibit the abortion of a viable fetus unless two doctors find the abortion was necessary.
"Our perception is that these words were used to insure that only the gravest of circumstances would allow the abortion of a viable fetus," according to the grand jury statement. "However, the medical records reviewed by this jury revealed a number of questionable late-term abortions with regard to the diagnosis of 'substantial and irreversible impairment."'
But jurors wrote that as the current law has been written - and interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court - late-term abortions will continue for many circumstances that as a matter of common interpretation do not meet the definition.
Lee Thompson, one of the attorneys representing the doctor, said the decision shows Tiller is following the law.
The grand jury was convened after abortion opponents circulated a petition calling for the Tiller investigation. Abortion foes contended Tiller has violated a 1998 law restricting late-term abortions.
The Kansas attorney general's office has filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller in Sedgwick County alleging that the doctor failed to obtain a second opinion for some late-term procedures from an independent physician, as required by law. That trial has ben repeatedly postponed, and is now scheduled for July 28.
Within minutes of the announced decision, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman issued his own statement saying abortion opponents were extremely disappointed the grand jury did not indict Tiller.
"Once again, we are suspicious that corrupt influences in the government, which have been influenced by Tiller's large financial involvement in Kansas politics, may have thwarted justice once again," Newman said.