Topeka Kansas regulators Friday postponed a ruling on whether a physician should lose her license over allegations that she provided substandard care for young patients whom she referred to Dr. George Tiller for late-term abortions.
The State Board of Healing Arts decided it would wait until June 22 to take up the case of Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus. Board President Gary Counselman said board members didn't receive copies of 70 pages of previously submitted legal arguments from Neuhaus' attorneys until Thursday afternoon and wanted more time to review them.
"We're very uncomfortable proceeding at this point," said Counselman, a Topeka chiropractor.
Neuhaus, from Nortonville, a small town about 30 miles north of Lawrence, has a license that allows her to provide limited charity care but had asked the board to reinstate her to a full, active license.
Neuhaus provided the second medical opinion Tiller needed under Kansas law to perform late-term abortions at his Wichita clinic. Kansas law on late-term abortion at the time required that each patient face "substantial and irreversible" harm to her health if her pregnancy continued.
Tiller was murdered in May 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.
An administrative judge ordered the revocation of Neuhaus' license in February after concluding she had performed inadequate mental health exams in 2003 on 11 patients, aged 10 to 18, compiling reports of five pages or less on each with a "PsychManager Lite" computer program. The board must decide whether to accept the judge's order; if it does, Neuhaus still can file a court challenge.
Neuhaus has argued her exams met accepted standards of care and has noted that no patient complained. Some abortion rights advocates question whether she can get a fair hearing with Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, in office, but Bob Eye, one of her attorneys, said he's anticipating that board members will keep open minds.
"We cannot change the fact that this is a politically charged environment when it comes to reproductive rights," Eye said. "This is a complaint that was instigated by the anti-choice groups."
Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, called the delay "contrived." The case before the board is tied to a complaint Sullenger lodged in 2006.
"There's no reason for this," Sullenger said.