by Steven Ertelt
August 6, 2007
Wichita, KS (LifeNews.com) — Infamous late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller was supposed to be arraigned this week on 19 criminal misdemeanor changes of allegedly illegal late-term abortions. However, in a surprise and hushed move, Tiller pleaded not guilty on Friday to the charges in an effort to avoid the media and pro-life protests.
Tiller appeared in the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office for processing and was released on his own recognizance, which is common for misdemeanor cases.
His attorney, Lee Thompson, would not tell the Associated Press why Tiller secretly went in five days early to enter his plea.
“The law permits first appearance in misdemeanor cases to be made by counsel, and that has been done. A plea of not guilty has been entered,” a statement from Thompson said.
The abortion practitioner will not be in court on Thursday but will attend a previously scheduled hearing on Friday. That will focus on a defense motion to dismiss all charges in the case.
Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Attorney General Paul Morrison, told AP that the court agreed to the early plea and that it is common in misdemeanor cases.
Tiller has been charged by Morrison with violating a law requiring the signature of a doctor vouching that the abortion is medically necessary.
He could face 19 years in jail if convicted and sentenced to the maximum prison time.
Mary Kay Culp, the director of Kansans for Life, said she didn’t know if Tiller’s attorneys were trying to lessen the media coverage in the case but said, “I think that is logical conclusion.”
“He doesn’t want to be seen, you know, as the criminal that we suspect that he is," she said.
As a result of the legal proceedings, Tiller is temporarily closing his Women’s Health Care Services abortion business and referring women to abortion centers in Kansas City and Oklahoma.
As the first response to the new charges, attorneys for Tiller have filed a lawsuit claiming the Kansas law is unconstitutional. Tiller’s attorneys argue that the provision of the law that requires two or more doctors to sign off on late-term abortions is invalid.
In their July 5 motion, they also sought to dismiss the 19 misdemeanor charges Attorney General Dan Morrison filed that would have Tiller in jail as long as 19 years if convicted. He could also be fined $2500 per violation and lose his medical license.
Morrison filed charges alleging that before performing 19 late-term abortions in 2003, Tiller received a second opinion from abortion practitioner Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who Morrison said had financial ties with Tiller.
A 1998 Kansas law says that before an abortion of a baby 21 weeks or older, two physicians must determine if continuation of a pregnancy will lead to death or "substantial and irreversible" harm to a "major bodily function."
The consulting doctor can have no financial or legal ties to the abortion practitioner.