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Archive for Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tiller defense claims lawyer, health board OK’d referrals

March 24, 2009

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— The trial of one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers began Monday with defense attorneys trying to cast doubt on whether the doctor intentionally broke a state law requiring that an independent physician sign off on the procedure.

Dan Monnat, a defense attorney for Dr. George Tiller, told jurors in his opening statement that Tiller relied on advice from the state medical board’s director and one of his lawyers when he used Dr. Kristin Neuhaus as a second opinion for some abortions.

Neuhaus operated an abortion clinic from 1997 to 2002 at 205 W. Eighth St. in Lawrence.

Tiller is charged with 19 misdemeanors alleging he failed to obtain a second opinion for some late-term abortions in 2003 from a physician with whom he had no legal or financial relationship.

Kansas law allows late-term abortions if two doctors agree that it is necessary to save a women’s life or prevent “substantial and irreversible” harm to “a major bodily function,” a phrase that’s been interpreted to include mental health.

Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney told jurors in his opening statements that Tiller recruited Neuhaus in 1999, making his Wichita clinic a “one-stop shop” for women seeking abortions. He said that Neuhaus was in essence an employee of Tiller, that the two were so close they had a legal and financial relationship prohibited by the law.

“No one is above the law. It doesn’t matter how just someone feels their cause is,” Disney said.

Monnat told jurors that Tiller had approval from the State Board of Healing Arts and one of his own lawyers to use Neuhaus as a second opinion for abortions — even though Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens noted earlier in the day that Kansas does not allow ignorance of the law or advice of counsel as a valid defense.

Board involvement

In his opening statement, Monnat stated that Larry Buening, then-executive director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, suggested to Tiller in July 1999 that he use Neuhaus as a second opinion.

Monnat said Buening told Tiller the discussion was “off the record” and told him that if asked about it he would deny it, adding that Buening has since said he can’t recall the conversation.

Buening did not return a call from The Associated Press for comment.

Monnat told jurors that the board “recognized and approved” Tiller’s relationship with Neuhaus until 2006, when abortion became a campaign issue in the attorney general’s race.

Disney noted in his opening statement that Tiller provided Neuhaus with legal advice from his attorney, including writing for her the referral form letter used to provide that second opinion. He said Neuhaus — who was paid by patients between $250 and $300 in cash for her consultation — was in essence an employee of Tiller.

“By 2003, Dr. Neuhaus was a full-time consultant for the defendant,” Disney said. “That is all she did. She had no other job, no other source of income.”

Neuhaus testimony

Neuhaus, testifying under a grant of immunity, was expected to be the prosecution’s only witness.

On the stand, Neuhaus repeatedly said she could not recall many details under questioning by Disney — even when repeatedly shown a deposition in which she answered some of the same questions.

She blamed some of the conflicting statements from that 2006 deposition on a “pretty hostile engagement” with Stephen Maxwell, a former assistant attorney general under former Attorney General Phill Kline. “I felt so attacked by him I don’t remember what I was saying,” Neuhaus said.

But under questioning by Disney, Neuhaus testified she was paid in cash by Tiller’s patients, who were told by his staff in advance to bring the cash to pay her. She also acknowledged that the only way the patients could see her was to make an appointment with Tiller’s office.

She also testified that when Tiller called her about consulting in his clinic, Tiller told her that Buening had recommended her to him. Neuhaus said she asked her father, a longtime Kansas lawyer and former judge, about the arrangement with Tiller to make sure it was legal.

Neuhaus returns to the stand today.

Comments

frankfurter 5 years, 5 months ago

Wow, we must be proud as a state of have one of the nation's few late-term abortionists.

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Left_handed 5 years, 5 months ago

Agnostick,

Many of Tiller's patients are from out of state, where the abortions he performs in Kansas would be illegal.

Use your brain, Agnostick, not your condescending liberal arrogance.

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georgeofwesternkansas 5 years, 5 months ago

Its the Lawyer's fault!!

Tiller and Martin Miller using the same defense for murder...How funny...

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

"The #1 cause of abortion is the unwanted pregnancy." -agnostick

Let's reverse the clauses in agnostick's claim and see if we get a defensible position. "The unwanted pregnancy causes abortion." Does this make any sense? Of course not. A condition (pregnancy) cannot force a decision (to get an abortion). agnostick certainly enjoys engaging in bumper-sticker, slogan-esque reasoning.

Additionally, whether a pregnancy is wanted or not is irrelevant. You shouldn't abort a developing child simply because you don't want it. Does our society allow parents to kill their five-year-olds simply because the five-year-old is unwanted?

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

"...offer greater access to birth control." -agnostick

Let me guess, you want taxpayers to fund condom give-aways at high schools and colleges. Good luck defending yourself from herpes, crabs and the human papilloma virus with a condom.

You probably also falsely believe that Plan B, aka the morning after pill, cannot act as an abortifacient.

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georgeofwesternkansas 5 years, 5 months ago

Ag,

Wanted to ask a question and thought maybe you would have the answer.

When a late term abortion is performed, does one hold the baby's head or body while they pith the brain?? After this is done is the body put in the trash or burned??

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sinverguenza 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm glad STRS decided not to have any daughters. Can you just imagine the disease-infested-and-spreading, pregnant-at-12, welfare-loving hot mess that would result from the parenting he'd offer? Or I suppose she could be the spitting image of her father, and in that case, we're all still worse-off than before.

Thank goodness for the little sex education we have. Without it, there could be a whole world of holier-than-thou, uneducated (same thing as abstinence-only educated, folks), misinformed and misinforming STRSs populating the planet.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

agnostick,

Unitentional injury can cause death. However, an unwanted pregnancy cannot cause an abortion. Similarly, an abortion is not "caused" by an unwanted pregnancy. Your attempt at thoughtful retort is apples and oranges.

Also, it's not hard to see through your repeated use of this phrase. You intend for it to confuse people. You hope the result will be less focus on the horror of abortion and a greater focus on your plan to have the government put a Durex 3-pack in the hand of every 15-25 year old in the country.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

Machiavelli,

Tiller's PAC is flush with his abortion money. The Kansans for Life PAC would love a contribution from you, however.

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snoozey 5 years, 5 months ago

Isn't this basically a women's rights issue? All the folks who don't believe that an individual should have the right to make their own personal choice on abortion seem to be whipping themselves into a frenzy. The fact that the charges being brought are misdemeanors makes a clear statement that this is more political posturing that legal trail blazing. Too bad taxpayers have to waste time and money on such useless shenanigans.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

ag,

How about, "The number one reason women get abortions is because having their child today would be inconvenient." And unfortunately, the number one enabler to abortion in our country is permissive abortion laws.

We live in the wealthiest period in human history. Thus, unaffordability is not an excuse.

We live in the most medically advanced country on the planet. C-sections make almost any pregnancy viable for mother and baby. Thus, life of the mother is almost never a reason for abortion.

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Confrontation 5 years, 5 months ago

I've believe that there's a movie being made about STRS's life. It's called "The 75-Year Old Virgin," starring Pat Robertson, with a love interest being played by Bea Arthur.

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MyName 5 years, 5 months ago

Judges and juries generally don't look favorably on the “I can't remember” defense.

Neuhaus isn't on trial, she's a witness for the prosecution. And honestly if she's having trouble remembering things then she's probably not a very good witness for them.

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MyName 5 years, 5 months ago

STRS:

And unfortunately, the number one enabler to abortion in our country is permissive abortion laws.

That still doesn't challenge Ag's almost tautological statement that, if you want to reduce the number of abortions in this (or any country), the first thing you need to do is reduce the numbers of unexpected pregnancies.

We live in the wealthiest period in human history. Thus, unaffordability is not an excuse.

In case you haven't noticed, the wealth hasn't been spread out equally. But the real problem is that, when we were a more agrarian society, new children meant new free labor, which made it an advantageous thing to have a large family, while nowadays new children mean a host of expenses and tough choices. Especially if a women is trying to balance this with finishing an education or getting a decent job. I'm not using this as an apology for abortion, but merely to state the economic factors that may be behind this decision some women make.

We live in the most medically advanced country on the planet. C-sections make almost any pregnancy viable for mother and baby. Thus, life of the mother is almost never a reason for abortion.

Which only supports the earlier statement by Ag about the availability of birth control being a factor in reducing the number of abortions down the line.

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MyName 5 years, 5 months ago

She also acknowledged that the only way the patients could see her was to make an appointment with Tiller’s office. That just might seal the lid on Tiller.

I'm not sure if you can actually say that as the defense hasn't made their case yet. Tiller did refer a number of patients to Neuhaus, but he didn't pay her for the referrals, the patients did, and moreover she was probably free to make her own opinion on these without losing these referrals as there are, doubtless, a limited number of doctors who are willing to take these sensitive cases. All Tiller's lawyers have to show is that he followed the letter of the law.

Next question: How stiff will the sentencing be, if Tiller is indeed convicted?

They're misdemeanors, so he probably won't get much, if any, jail time. He could get anywhere from a reprimand to losing his license. Some of that will depend on politics, but alot of it will be left to whether the people looking at the issue think he did this deliberately or recklessly or not. Assuming he is found guilty and loses all appeals.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

confrontation,

I'll admit, that was pretty hilarious.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

"Reduce the number of pregnancies, and the number of both abortions and births will decrease, as well." -agnostick

I wouldn't disagree with that at all.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

Myname,

I would not disagree that reducing unintended pregnancies is a positive step toward reducing the number of abortions. Our society will also dramatically reduce the number of abortions performed when Roe is overturned and we jail the Dr. Tillers of this world for the criminals they are.

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KansasVoter 5 years, 5 months ago

Will the women to seek illegal abortions be jailed as well? If so, how long will their sentences be? Should they get the death penalty?

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KansasVoter 5 years, 5 months ago

That was supposed to be "the women WHO seek..." Sorry for the typo.

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madameX 5 years, 5 months ago

"Our society will also dramatically reduce the number of abortions performed when Roe is overturned and we jail the Dr. Tillers of this world for the criminals they are."


I doubt this is true. Abortions would still happen, they would just cost more, have no oversight to ensure safety, and be harder to find. But dramatic reductions? I'm sketical.

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 5 months ago

KansasVoter,

No reasonable person wants to jail women who seek or have abortions. In a way, they're as much the victims of our Planned Parenthood-dominated world as the 50 million+ children that have been legally aborted since January 1973. Abortionists, however, are more than deserving of jail time.

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KansasVoter 5 years, 5 months ago

Agnostic -- I wasn't talking about this article, I was talking about STRS's post that said, "Our society will also dramatically reduce the number of abortions performed when Roe is overturned and we jail the Dr. Tillers of this world for the criminals they are." If Roe is overturned, then the women who seek abortions are breaking the law.

STRS -- You said that you wanted to outlaw abortion. If abortion is outlawed, then there must be a penalty for the women who seek the illegal abortions. What should their penalty be? If I hire a hitman to kill my wife both of us will go to prison, not just the hitman.

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