Tiller Defends Himself in Late-Term Abortion Case

Late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller testified Wednesday against charges of an illegal financial relationship with a physician who provided the required second opinion for the procedures.

Tiller told jurors he never paid Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus for her services. She was paid by her patients and not by his clinic, he said.

Tiller went on trial this week on 19 misdemeanor charges of violating abortion laws in Kansas which require a second independent physician to sign off on the validity of late-term abortions.

Prosecutors say Neuhaus was not an independent physician and was essentially a Tiller employee whose only income came from patients she saw at his clinic in Wichita.

During trial, Tiller said he began looking in the late 1990s for doctors in the state who would be willing to consult with his patients for late-term abortions after the state changed the interpretation of the abortion law to require a second opinion from a Kansas doctor.

He said he called around 100 physicians with no luck.

He then spoke with Larry Buening, then-director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, and explained the difficulty he had finding another doctor willing to sign off on late-term procedures. Buening, a long time friend of Tiller's, suggested that Tiller make an "arrangement" with Neuhaus to provide his late-term referrals.

Neuhaus was called as the prosecution's only witness. When questioned by prosecutor Barry Disney she seemed somewhat hostile and did not remember many important points Disney tried to make, according to Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization.

Disney brought up on Monday a discussion Neuhaus had with Tiller about her consultation fees when she was being recruited. Neuhaus, however, insisted she could not remember the actual discussions that resulted in a financial arrangement.

She later acknowledged she had "an agreement" with Tiller in which she would charge patients an agreed amount and he would start referring his abortion patients to her, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

She also said she did not consider herself a full-time worker for Tiller, citing that she only provided consultation half a day per week at his clinic.

Disney pointed out, however, that she told a state official in 2006 that she worked full time for Tiller. During the trial, Neuhaus said she misspoke.

Newman of Operation Rescue, which is holding prayers with other pro-life groups at the courthouse until the trial ends, said the relationship between Tiller and Neuhaus is clear.

"Tiller's attorneys prepared the referral letter that Neuhaus signed to rubberstamp the late-term abortions," he said. "Neuhaus had no private practice in 2003, the time frame from which the charges arose. She saw patients that were scheduled for post-viability abortions by Tiller and his staff. She was paid in cash."

Defense attorneys are trying to make the case that Tiller tried to comply with the state laws by getting advice from the state's medical licensing board and a private attorney.

Under current Kansas abortion law, late term abortions are only permitted if the life of the mother is in danger or if continuation of the pregnancy would result in a "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" of the pregnant woman.

Tiller has used the exception of mental health risks to the mother for nearly every post-viability abortion done at his Wichita clinic.

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