Criminal Trial Against KS Abortion Doctor to Begin

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WICHITA—A Kansas court will hear testimony, beginning today, in the case of a late-term abortion doctor who faces criminal charges.

George Tiller, whose clinic has been the target of picketers and bombings, is charged with 19 misdemeanor counts for having maintained an illegal financial relationship with a colleague, who authorized the late term abortions he performed.

Activists on both sides of the abortion movement call this case critical to the decades-long debate that has surrounded Tiller’s clinic. The doctor provides late-term abortions to women who cannot legally obtain them elsewhere, which has unleashed a great deal of controversy.

Pro-life groups protested outside the courthouse last week, as jury selection took place. About a dozen people prayed and picketed, while a graphic picture of an aborted fetus was displayed on a parked truck nearby.

On the other side of the debate, pro-choice activists claim that Tiller’s practice is an invaluable resource for women who have legitimate health problems. Diane Wahto, a Wichita-area abortion rights supporter, claims that the doctor’s office walls are covered in thank-you notes from grateful women and their families from the world over.

Under Kansas law, late-term abortions are legal when a woman’s health is deemed to be in jeopardy. Many states, however, have legislation that restricts abortion providers as well as those seeking to obtain abortions.

Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization which has attempted for years to shut down Tiller’s clinic and others like it, as well as to restrict women’s access to abortions at local and state levels, hopes that this case will be the death knoll for Tiller’s clinic – and that it will send a message throughout the nation that abortion providers will be prosecuted when they break the law.

If convicted, Tiller could face one year in prison for each of the 19 counts, as well as a fine of $2,500. Tiller’s supporters claim that the clinic will stay open regardless, as several other physicians are employed there.

The clinic has attracted violent opposition in the past, including a bombing and a shooting in which Tiller himself was wounded in both arms. His assailant is serving an 11-year prison term for that attack.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment on the case on Friday. Tiller’s lawyer, Dan Monnat, did state that he plans to appeal the case if the jury does not acquit Tiller.

 

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