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Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline.

Bleeding Kansas

National | Pro-lifers say the state is not enforcing its law against post-viability abortion

Issue: "Safe haven," Sept. 15, 2007

Pro-lifers in Kansas want to know: Which part of "no person" does late-term abortionist George Tiller not understand?

Last week an interim committee continued its hearings in the Kansas legislature on statute 65-6703, which states that "no person shall perform or induce an abortion when the fetus is viable"-unless that person is a doctor and has a documented referral from a second doctor who is not "legally or financially affiliated" with the abortion-performing doctor. Both physicians must determine that the abortion is necessary to save the mother's life, or that continuing the pregnancy will cause "a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."

Patient records obtained by former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, as well as abortionist Tiller's own public remarks, suggest that Tiller has violated that law thousands of times, in many different ways. According to an August 2005 affidavit filed in Kansas v. Tiller, Michelle Armesto said she never consulted with a doctor at all on the reasons for her May 2003 abortion before a physician at Tiller's clinic injected her 25-week baby with a lethal substance.

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"No one asked me why I was getting an abortion, nor any other questions about my health," stated Armesto, whose parents threatened to kick her out of the house and cut her off financially if she did not abort. Armesto was an 18-year-old high-school senior at the time.

The legislative hearings were designed to probe the clarity and enforceability of Kansas' post-viability law, which is based on a Pennsylvania statute upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court case. The majority of the hearing committee is pro-abortion, according to Kline-but he said the evidence against Tiller is so compelling that lawmakers were under public pressure to take some kind of action.

"Their objective, I believe, is not to show that there is something wrong" with Tiller's practice or with the state's non-enforcement, Kline said, "but to refocus attention elsewhere, for example, on refining the law."

Still, pro-lifers are glad for the hearings: "We are saying to the legislature, enforce the law, don't change it," said Pat Adair, a longtime abortion opponent and former president of Kansans for Life. "We are saying, you made this law-what is the sense of making it and not having it enforced? It's just a farce. You guys may as well go home and do your farming."

That Kansas lawmakers are holding hearings at all shows the strength of Kline's evidence. In November 2006, based on patient records (with names withheld) that he obtained from Tiller's clinic, Kline charged the abortionist with 30 counts of performing illegal post-viability abortions. But a judge in December threw out the charges, ruling that Kline lacked jurisdiction-even though the law gives the state attorney general authority to review for legality abortions performed under the post-viability law.

Kline's battle to obtain Tiller's records played out during an election year. His opponent, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, a pro-abortion Democrat, centered his campaign on what he characterized as Kline's assault on women's "medical privacy." Morrison unseated Kline last November but, said Kline, "he could not ignore the evidence I had collected."

Based on that evidence, Morrison filed 19 new charges against Tiller involving the abortionist's relationship with a doctor named Kristin Neuhaus. Records show that Tiller paid Neuhaus to rubber-stamp his diagnoses that the post-viability abortions he performed were medically necessary-but Morrison himself called the charges he filed "hyper-technical."

"We expect him to try to dismiss them through some resolution such as a series of fines, then change the statute," said Kline, who, ironically, now holds Morrison's old job as Johnson County D.A. Kline said he does not expect the interim committee to issue any "meaningful report" on the hearings, but he'll continue to work with abortion opponents to press for enforcement of the law: "We are dealing with an industry that takes life at its most vulnerable and innocent, and slaughters it."

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