Judge Throws Out Charges Against Abortion Provider in Kansas Less Than a Day After They Were Filed

Kansas' attorney general, a vocal abortion opponent, charged a well-known abortion provider with illegally performing late-term abortions, but a judge on Friday threw out the charges after less than a day.

Judge Paul W. Clark dismissed the charges against Dr. George Tiller after Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said her office had not been consulted by Attorney General Phill Kline.

Clark signed his one-page order only hours after Kline's complaint against Tiller was unsealed.

Kline's office did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Kline lost his re-election bid in November and leaves office in three weeks.

Most of the 30 misdemeanor counts Kline filed against Tiller involve abortions performed on patients 17 or younger, including a 10-year-old, according to the criminal complaint unsealed Friday in Sedgwick County District Court.

Tiller's clinic, known for being one of the few in the United States to perform late-term abortions, has been a high-profile target of anti-abortion protesters for decades. The clinic was bombed in 1985, and Tiller was shot in both arms by a protester in 1993.

Kline has been investigating whether Tiller and other abortion providers performed illegal late-term abortions in Kansas or failed to report suspected child abuse as required by law.

He waged a two-year legal battle before finally this year obtaining the records of 90 patients from Tiller's Wichita clinic and a clinic operated in Overland Park by the pro-choice organization Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Since the election, abortion rights activists have expected him to move against Tiller and perhaps Planned Parenthood, as well.

Under Kansas law, if a woman wants to obtain an abortion after the 22nd week of her pregnancy, a doctor must first determine whether the fetus can survive outside the womb. If the fetus is viable, the procedure can only be used to preserve her physical or mental health.

Tiller and Planned Parenthood have repeatedly said they have committed no wrongdoing and that the patient records Kline obtained contained no evidence of crimes by either the clinics or their doctors.

"We also intend to explore any and all means of holding Kline personally responsible for his malicious actions," Monnat said. "Rather than executing his duty as a prosecutor to see that justice is done, he has chosen to engage in a malicious and spiteful prosecution on the eve of Christmas."

The incoming attorney general, Democrat Paul Morrison, has criticized Kline for seeking the records, describing it as an invasion of the patients' privacy, but he would not say if he would drop any investigation Kline started against the clinics.