Wichita, KS – A Sedgwick County grand jury has until July 8 to decide whether it will issue indictments against the notorious late-term abortionist George Tiller.
Pro-life groups, including Operation Rescue, have long maintained that Tiller’s late-term abortion business violates the Kansas ban on post-viability abortions at 22 weeks gestation or later.
However, until recently, there have been no efforts to enforce that law, or even spot-check compliance.
For years, Tiller has relied on political favors, purchased with million of dollars of abortion money, to insulate him from investigation and prosecution. Currently, every enforcement agency that might hold Tiller accountable under the law is run by abortion supporters appointed or controlled by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, whose personal relationship with Tiller recently came to light when Operation Rescue published photographs documenting a party hosted by Sebelius and attended exclusively by Tiller and his abortion clinic staff.
Agencies responsible for policing abortion clinics include the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the State Attorney General’s office, and the local District Attorney’s office. Thus far, each of these agencies, with the exception of the AG’s office, has failed to monitor Tiller’s multi-million dollar abortion business and enforce legal violations.
Questions about why the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office dismissed 30 criminal charges filed by former Attorney General Phill Kline in December of 2006 resulted in a letter threatening Operation Rescue leaders with criminal charges.
Four complaints filed with the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts have languished with little progress, one since 2006. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment even admitted during a legislative committee hearing in September, 2007, that they coached abortionists, including Tiller, not to elaborate on reasons for late-term abortions on forms requiring such explanations.
Even the AG’s office, which filed 19 criminal charges against Tiller on less serious charges than were filed by Kline, have allowed intolerable delays and foot-dragging, giving the appearance that their prosecution of Tiller will be less than aggressive.
Pro-life Watchdogs Expose Violations
It fell to pro-life groups to act as watchdogs over an out-of-control abortion industry in Kansas. Operation Rescue led the way in discovering, documenting, and exposing numerous problems at Tiller’s abortion clinic, including:
Numerous botched abortions requiring emergency hospitalization. The death of 19-year old Christin Gilbert from a botched third-trimester abortion. Illegal late-term abortions done for reasons other than the exceptions allowed by law or for bogus “mental health” reasons. Illegal business relationship with abortionist Ann Kristen Neuhaus, who was providing the second opinion required by law before post-viability abortions can be done. (Tiller was later charged with 19 counts related to this.) A pattern of coerced abortions. Violations of the 24-hour waiting period. The possible destruction of evidence. The alleged stabbing death of a 35-week baby that was born alive during an abortion.
Evidence Production Stalled
Frustrated with the lack of interest exhibited by the State in enforcing abortion laws, last September the citizens of Sedgwick County exercised their right under Kansas law to initiate a grand jury investigation of Tiller by obtaining the required number of signatures. A challenge of the process filed by Tiller before the State Supreme Court failed, clearing the way for the seating of the grand jury on January 8, 2008.
The 15 members of the grand jury wasted no time, and began to hear testimony almost immediately. Operation Rescue President Troy Newman was one of those called to testify. Newman presented the grand jury with binders containing 200 pages of documents, including OR’s investigative report on late-term abortions, which continue at Tiller’s Wichita abortion mill to this day.
The grand jury issued subpoenas for nearly 2,000 abortion records. Tiller’s attorneys tied up the subpoenas in court, hoping to run out the clock on the grand jury’s 90-day term. Judge Paul Buchanan, who is overseeing the grand jury, extended its service for a second 90-day term that is set to expire on July 8. No further extensions are legally allowed.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on May 6, that the grand jury was entitled to the evidence. Since then, abortion records have trickled in while the clock continues to run down to its unalterable deadline. While some records may eventually reach the grand jury, the majority will not.
Will it be enough?
Will the grand jury have enough evidence to indict Tiller? That is hard to know, since the grand jury investigative process is done in secret. But Troy Newman remains cautiously optimistic, based on his testimony and documents submitted by him in January, and his subsequent submission of additional evidence in April.
“I can’t say what I told the grand jury, but I am confident that this investigation has produced enough evidence to indict,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “But whether or not they will is an entirely different question. We are waiting and praying for justice.”
Legal Woes Are No Deterrent
Tiller’s late-term abortion business draws women from every state and all over the free world. He takes pride in providing the latest of abortions and has boasted that he has done abortions as late as the day before the babies’ due date.
Kansas law specifies that abortions after 22 weeks gestation can only be done under two very narrow exceptions. Tiller depends on these loopholes to keep his abortion business operating a full capacity.
The first exception is to allow an abortion to save the life of the mother. However, there has never been even one case reported in the history of the State of Kansas that was done for that reason.
Second, a post-22 week abortion is allowed if continuation of the pregnancy would result in a “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant woman. That exception has been taken to include mental health risks to the mother, as long as the risk was substantial and irreversible.
Tiller uses the mental health exception for nearly every post-viability abortion done at his Wichita clinic. However, when pro-lifers are able to speak with women headed for abortions, the women believe they are getting abortions for reasons other than to protect their mental health. They say they are getting abortions because their babies have birth defects, or because they cannot afford another child, or because their parents are forcing them to. One woman recently confided in sidewalk counselors that she was getting a late-term abortion so that her pregnancy would not ruin her “tummy tuck.”
“All these excuses for abortions simply do not meet the standard of substantial and irreversible conditions that would affect the pregnant woman,” said Newman. “Abortions done for those reasons are illegal in Kansas.”
OR Vows To Continue Efforts
Yet, 49 criminal charges, two grand juries, a Legislative inquiry, and one dead abortion patient later, Tiller continues to operate at “full speed ahead.”
“We are praying for indictments, but whatever the grand jury does, we will continue to seek justice for those innocent babies whose lives should be protected, but aren’t,” said Newman. “If this grand jury doesn’t indict, we’ll keep trying. The Bible tells us that the blood of the innocent cries out to God for justice. We hear their cries, and will not stop until justice is done.”