Controversial Kansas doctor acquitted in abortion case

George Tiller, a famous abortion provider and frequent target of opposition activists, was found not guilty of misdemeanor charges Friday.

Published March 27, 2009 8:45PM (EDT)

The trial of George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who's one of the most famous abortion providers in the country, ended with an acquittal Friday afternoon. Tiller was charged with 19 counts of violating a state law requiring doctors to consult with an independent physician before performing an abortion after the 22nd week of pregnancy. Prosecutors said the doctor Tiller had gone to was only technically independent and was really an employee of his.

Tiller has long been a prominent target of anti-abortion activists, some of them violent. His clinic was bombed in the 1980's, and in 1993 he was shot in both arms. He's previously faced two separate grand jury investigations, both of which ended without charges.

This trial began with an investigation by former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who's also famous for his stance on abortion -- among other things, he's known for having subpoenaed the medical records of women who'd received abortions. Charges filed by Kline were dismissed, however. This trial was initiated by Kline's successor, Paul Morrison, a pro-choice Democrat, using the records Kline had obtained. Then, after Morrison resigned over a sex scandal it was continued by his successor, another pro-choice Democrat.

Abortion opponents were worried about this outcome. In a post on The Corner, one of the National Review's blogs, before the verdict came out today, Denis Boyle said the fact that Tiller was brought to trial at all, albeit on lesser charges than he would have faced were Kline still attorney general, was "either a miracle or a black-chopper plot."

"One person described has described it as a 'show trial.' The person meant it literally, that it was just for show, so that Tiller's supporters can say he got his day in court and won. That's the conspiracy theory," Boyle wrote. "One insider said that Tiller's acquittal, if it comes later today, 'would devastate the effort to enforce abortion laws in Kansas for years, decades. Those illegal abortions will go on forever, and the whole thing will be blown up in the press as a ''witch hunt' launched by Phill Kline.' The whole thing, another insider said, 'was a lay-down. The Attorney General is hoping he doesn't win this case.'"

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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