Topeka A Kansas doctor won't have to post a bond while appealing the revocation of her medical license over referrals of young patients to the late Dr. George Tiller for late-term abortions, a judge ruled Friday.
The State Board of Healing Arts wanted to require Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who used to practice in Lawrence, to put up a bond of nearly $93,000 as she pursues a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court in hopes of regaining her license. But District Judge Franklin Theis rejected the request and is requiring only that Neuhaus sign a statement saying she'll pay any judgment imposed by the courts.
The board took away Neuhaus' license in June, ratifying an administrative judge's finding that she did not perform adequate mental health exams on 11 patients, ages 10 to 18, before referring them in 2003 to Tiller's clinic in Wichita for late-term abortions. Neuhaus provided second medical opinions required by Kansas law for such procedures.
Neuhaus, who is from Nortonville, about 30 miles north of Lawrence, strongly disputes the board's conclusions and contends her exams met accepted standards of care. Her attorneys told Theis that as long as she cannot practice medicine, the largest bond she can afford to post is perhaps $100 and granting the board's request would deny her legal right to appeal its decision.
"Only the wealthy would have access to the courts," said Kori Trussell, one of Neuhaus' attorneys.
Kelli Stevens, the board's general counsel, said that if the board has no guarantee that Neuhaus will cover the expenses generated by her case, it might have to absorb those costs. Stevens noted that the board's $4.3 million annual budget is financed by fees from the health care providers it licenses.
"It would be unfair for them to bear the cost of her wrongdoing," Stevens said.
But Theis pointed out that the board itself said in its revocation order that it wouldn't require Neuhaus to pay any costs until a court challenge was resolved.
Also, Stevens acknowledged that she knows of no case in which the board sought such a bond in the 13 years she's worked for it. Theis said in his 36 years as a judge, he cannot recall a case, either.
Still, the judge's decision is likely to upset abortion opponents who've been watching Neuhaus for years and pressing the board to impose sanctions against her.
"The awful irony is the court is bending over backward to insure an abortionist is not denied the due process that thousands of unborn children and their mothers were denied in Kansas abortion clinics," said Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for Kansans for Life, who attended Theis' brief hearing Friday.
Neuhaus had an inactive medical license that allowed her to provide limited charity care. She had asked the board to reinstate her to a full, active license.
She provided second opinions for Tiller from 1999 to 2006. He was among a few U.S. physicians known to perform abortions in the final weeks of pregnancy, and he was shot to death in his church in May 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.
The disciplinary case against Neuhaus examined how she concluded that each of the patients had serious mental health issues and that an abortion was advisable. The law at the time required Tiller to obtain an independent second opinion that a patient faced significant and permanent harm if the pregnancy continued.