Grand Jury Declines to Indict Late-Term Abortion Doctor

A grand jury that was convened to investigate notorious late-term abortion provider George Tiller adjourned a six-month investigation Wednesday without issuing an indictment.

In a written statement, the panel of 15 grand jurors said they did not have enough evidence to indict him on any crime related to abortion laws.

Grand jurors said they believed that the Kansas State Legislature worded abortion laws in a way that would only allow late-term abortions in "the gravest of circumstances" where the continuation of pregnancy would cause "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

The Kansas Supreme Court has interpreted the language of "substantial and irreversible impairment" to include the mental health of the mother, according to grand jurors in the statement.

The panel said they found "questionable late-term abortions" performed at Women's Health Care Services, the clinic Tiller runs. They added, however, that Kansas legislators needed to "provide clearer and more definitive guidelines regarding 'substantial and irreversible impairment,' before an investigation would yield an indictment against Tiller or the clinic.

For many years, Kansas citizens have tried to charge Tiller with performing illegal late-term abortions. The recent probe of Tiller was prompted by a public petition.

Cases involving the Wichita doctor have often attracted national attention because he is among a handful of late-term abortion providers in the nation. Pro-life groups frequently hold vigils and protest at his clinics.

Troy Newman, president of the Operation Rescue, a Kansas-based pro-life group, issued his own statement expressing extreme disappointment in the panel's decision. In 2006, Newman had initiated a petition drive to probe Tiller's handling of a woman with Down syndrome, who died after having an abortion.

Newman contended that illegal abortions are being performed "under the misuse of a mental health exception that was not written into the law, but forced upon it by a pro-abortion former attorney general."

"Once again, we are suspicious that corrupt influences in the government, which have been influenced by Tiller's large financial involvement in Kansas politics, may have thwarted justice once again," he said.

Despite no charges being found by the grand jury on Wednesday, Tiller still faces 19 misdemeanor charges filed by the Kansas attorney general's office. According to the allegations, Tiller failed to get the opinion of a second doctor who was financially or legally independent of him before carrying out late-term abortion procedures. A trial for that case is scheduled for July 28.