Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kansas health board pursues Tiller colleague

Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered by a pro-life zealot in 2009. Tiller was often demonized because he was one of  the very few late-term abortion providers in the US. These abortions were not provided for frivolous reasons, however. A typical client might have discovered that the fetus suffered such a serious abnormality that it could not survive outside the mother's body.

Now, as Kate Sheppard reports for Mother Jones, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts is considering whether to yank the medical license of Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, who certified the medical need for abortions performed at Tiller's clinic. This board has been stacked with anti-choice activists appointed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Sheppard writes:
One time, Neuhaus evaluated a 10-year-old girl who had been raped by her uncle, which is one of the files the medical board is investigating. This girl was tiny, maybe 4'8", Neuhaus recalls. There had already been a police investigation, and the uncle was in jail, but it took until the third trimester for the girl to make it to the clinic. "For them to belittle it, to say that its okay for a 10-year-old have a kid by her uncle, and no harm is going to come from it, that's just beyond the realm of decency," she says.

Not all of those details were in the paperwork, however, because Neuhaus says she knew that records weren't truly confidential given the anti-abortion leanings of Kansas law enforcement officials. "I chose to sacrifice details," Neuhaus says. "I risked nothing but my license. I didn't compromise their health care."

At the clinic, Neuhaus' decisions were made in a place that was constantly under threat. Tiller was shot in both arms outside the facility in 1993. To enter, patients had to go through a metal detector. For a while, Neuhaus says, she wore a bulletproof vest to work. She even carried a .40 caliber pistol in her scrubs for a short period and took up target practice. "I was a reasonably decent shot," she says. "I would not have had too much trouble shooting one of those people if I had to." There were also bomb threats. But as time went by, she got more comfortable with the situation: "I think at some point, you get used to it, and you don't have anxiety."

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