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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Judge reviewing Kansas doctor’s fate in abortion case

July 8, 2013

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— A Kansas doctor faces a crucial court hearing this week in her fight to regain her medical license and overturn a regulatory board’s finding that she performed inadequate mental health exams before referring young patients to the late Dr. George Tiller for late-term abortions.

Attorneys for both Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus and the State Board of Healing Arts expect Friday’s hearing in Shawnee County District Court to be the final one before Judge Franklin Theis rules. Neuhaus is appealing the board’s revocation of her license a year ago, a decision preventing her from providing even charity care.

Neuhaus, formerly of Lawrence, and her attorneys argue the revocation is the result of a long-standing campaign by abortion opponents to limit access to abortion. Neuhaus provided second opinions that Tiller needed under Kansas law to perform late-term abortions at his Wichita clinic, and the board’s case against Neuhaus stemmed from an anti-abortion leader’s complaint.

Bob Eye, one of Neuhaus’ attorneys, said absent abortion, “I doubt there would have even been a complaint.”

The 55-year-old Neuhaus gained national attention over her association with Tiller. He was among a few U.S. physicians known to perform abortions in the final weeks of pregnancy and was shot to death in May 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.

Abortion opponents believed Neuhaus helped Tiller circumvent state restrictions on late-term abortions by certifying that potential patients’ mental health problems were serious enough to warrant terminating their pregnancies. The board agreed with an administrative judge that Neuhaus had “seriously jeopardized” patients’ care with inadequate mental health exams from 1999 to 2006. One board attorney argued that Neuhaus had disregarded patient safety.

“The decision of the board should be upheld,” Kelli Stevens, the board’s general counsel, said last week.

For years, anti-abortion group Kansans for Life raised questions about Neuhaus’ activities, including her association with Tiller. Neuhaus, from Nortonville, a small town about 30 miles north of Lawrence, also performed abortions until 2002.

Starting in 2009, as she pursued a master’s degree in public health, Neuhaus had an inactive medical license that allowed her to provide limited charity care. When hearings in her case began in 2011, she asked the board to reinstate her full, active license.

The board, however, took away her inactive license last July over concerns about the exams in 2003 on 11 patients aged 10 to 18.

In 2003, Kansas law restricted abortions at or after the 22nd week of pregnancy if the fetus was viable. In those cases, pregnancies could be terminated only if the patient faced death or “substantial and irreversible” harm to “a major bodily function,” including mental health.

Neuhaus’ reports on the 11 patients, compiled with a “PsychManager Lite” computer program, were five pages or less and didn’t cite details from patients’ statements or data gleaned from her exams.

The administrative judge hearing the case for the board said in some cases, the young patients were described as suicidal, but Neuhaus didn’t recommend further treatment. The judge said Neuhaus simply “answered yes/no questions” using the computer program and assigned whatever diagnosis “the computer gave.”

Neuhaus strongly disputes the board’s characterization of how she used the program and testified during a hearing that she sometimes refused to allow abortions to go forward.

She also testified that she didn’t put more details in her records to protect patients’ privacy. The Kansas attorney general’s office began investigating abortion providers, including Tiller, early in 2003. In 2006, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly strongly criticized Tiller and discussed a few of his patients’ cases on his cable-news talk show.

Also in 2006, Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, filed the complaint leading to the board’s action against Neuhaus.

“Nobody wants women subjected to quackery,” Sullenger said.

Tiller faced misdemeanor criminal charges from 2007 to 2009, alleging that, in relying on Neuhaus for referrals, he wasn’t getting the independent second medical opinion required by state law. He was acquitted two months before his murder, but at the time, a separate complaint was pending before the Board of Healing Arts.

In 2011, shortly before the board acted against Neuhaus, Kansas legislators tightened state law on late-term abortions so it no longer included the mental health exception.

Neuhaus argues her mental health exams met accepted standards of care and notes that none of the patients involved complained to the board.

“The fact is, there’s been no harm, and they couldn’t show there was any harm,” Eye said. “The complaint came from the anti-choice clique.”

Comments

Larry Sturm 1 year, 5 months ago

Why would she jepardize her medical license by giving false information.

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

Apparently she wasn't allowed to give any information, since she wasn't allowed to defend herself.

C.D. Henning 1 year, 5 months ago

And this physician did not follow the law? Evidence?

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 5 months ago

This woman was convicted by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in what amounted to a kangaroo court that had already made it's decision after being packed with handpicked anti-abortion members. The "state" (i.e. Brownback) was permitted to enter testimony by "expert" witnesses (who were, themselves, openly anti-abortion) and the doctor was not permitted to present any defense witnesses (which included the writer and developer of the computer program she used in aiding her assessments).
I won't go into the fact that the entire thing was touched off by a complaint made by a radical anti-abortion Federal felon who was convicted of attempting to blow up a clinic in California. In a word, this entire proceeding was a fraud and a set up.

kansanjayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

It is not a fraud if there was evidence to indicate that this "doctor" did not live up to the standard of care. The fraud over the years in Kansas has been the political cover offered to the abortion industry in the face of these types of abuses!

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

Most of the patients that she was accused of not doing her job were rape victims. A 10 year old who is pregnant has been raped, period. She needs to have the pregnancy terminated to save her health. Her body wouldn't be able to give birth without complications. And her rapist needs to be in prison. Patients 16-18 can have sex legally, but 10 years old? Would anti-abortion people really stop an abortion happening for a 10 year old? Really? I guess her body didn't shut down to protect her against pregnancy during the rape. Give this woman her license.

kansanjayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

You do not consider the life-long emotional scars foisted upon a woman who is forced to destroy a baby in her womb even at a young age. The abortion solution is no solution at all, it is an act of violence, against the woman and the child!

chootspa 1 year, 5 months ago

I would imagine the literally life threatening consequence of having to birth the product of incestuous rape would leave even more life-long emotional scars. Assuming she survived.

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 5 months ago

You do not consider the "life-long" effects on a child forced to sustain a pregnancy that she is not equipped, either physically or emotionally, to sustain. This is a form of child abuse.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

What proof, besides anecdotal from anti-abortionists or studies done by anti-abortionist sympathizers, is there of "life-long emotional scars" as the result of any abortion?

I'm also not sure about the "forced." Is there evidence that people were being forced to have abortions against their will?

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

This is meant to put fear in the hearts of anyone who does legal abortions. They will come for you, one way or another. They might kill you or they might just make your life miserable---and then kill you.

akt2 1 year, 5 months ago

If you don't have/have never had a uterus your opinion doesn't count.

kansanjayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

I guess that is one opinion that not all of us share...the destruction of the human embryo is a gross violation of human rights....we should protect unborn children.

chootspa 1 year, 5 months ago

If you really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, you'd start campaigning for subsidized birth control being made available to anyone who asks for it. Banning abortion doesn't prevent abortion because it doesn't prevent unplanned pregnancies. It just means more women will die from botched abortions and pregnancy complications. Killing women for having sex you didn't pre-approve is hardly a "pro life" stance.

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

And then most conservatives want to abandon that help once they are born. Most people who claim to be pro-life are in reality pro-birth. They could care less after birth.

straightforward 1 year, 5 months ago

Does my opinion count if I've ever lived inside of a uterus?

Shelley Bock 1 year, 5 months ago

Then, also care about them once they are born by providing sufficient assistance and an education. Care about lives that have been born.

ebyrdstarr 1 year, 5 months ago

Most late-term abortions are not about unwanted pregnancies to women who engaged in consensual sex. They're about the young victims of sexual abuse. Can't really blame the family of a 10 or 12 year-old girl for not suspecting she was pregnant in the first months of pregnancy. They're about women with very much wanted pregnancies who faced catastrophic health problems or fetal abnormalities. What's so difficult about understanding the issue before commenting on it?

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

Because it doesn't fit their agenda? Because they would lose much of their emotional appeal? Because they're not really interested in facts? Because they're not really interested in lowering the number of abortions? Because they want to control women's sex life and uteruses?

Because they don't understand that there might be more sympathy for their cause if they were forthright and honest and didn't support violence (I'm not talking just about physical violence, but intimidation, mental stress to those who need abortions, etc.)

There has been an outcry for more mental health interference since the Newtown shooting. Why isn't there an outcry for the same thing for people who rape, especially, let's say, fathers/stepfathers or other family members who rape minor children?

Centerville 1 year, 5 months ago

ebyrdstarr: we've been down this road before (you must be new to this issue, as you've strayed pretty far from the party line. I hope you'll be forgiven).
Young victims of sexual abuse who are pregnant are, by definition, victims of statutory rape. But Governor Sibilius declared that "It's not rape. It's Romeo and Juliet!" So her favorite abortionists wouldn't have to be bothered with, you know, the law.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

Who is this Governor Sibilius you speak of? I did a search and found no such person.

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 5 months ago

The "Romeo and Juliet" policy decision didn't cover kids under 16 years old and their partners were in the same age range. NONE of the children in the doctor's reports met that criteria. If you're going to slam a former governor, at least get it right.

ebyrdstarr 1 year, 5 months ago

Do you have any authority for your claim? At all? Because all I found from google searches were other comments by you. (Of course, if she said this in connection with factually, if not legally, consensual sex between two teenagers who were both over 14 and within 4 years of each other, she was right. It isn't rape.)

For the record, had there been any evidence whatsoever of Dr. Tiller having failed to report sex abuse to relevant authorities, he would have been charged with a crime.

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