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On Friday afternoon, March 27, it took a Wichita jury just 45 minutes to acquit Dr. George Tiller of 19 misdemeanor charges relating to his prolific late-term abortion business.

Tiller needed help. And for those paying attention, the real help came not in the courtroom but in the proverbial back room where, some three years earlier, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius engineered the deal that would keep Tiller’s practice alive.

Sebelius persuaded Paul Morrison, the popular Republican district attorney of the state’s most affluent county, to switch parties and run against sitting Attorney General Phill Kline.

Kline had proved deadly serious in bringing Tiller to justice, a move that had the potential to throw a major wrench in the Democratic fundraising apparatus.

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With Tiller’s massive financial support behind him, Morrison ousted Kline. Before leaving office, however, Kline had filed 30 counts against Tiller for performing illegal late-term abortions.

In other words, Tiller stood accused of taking the life of 15 fully viable unborn babies whose mothers were equally healthy, in utter disregard of Kansas law.

While Morrison was reviewing these charges, Sebelius honored Tiller and his staff at an elegant but extremely discreet soiree at Cedar Crest, the governor’s mansion.

Among the more revealing of the photos taken at the event is one of Sebelius holding a T-Shirt presented to her by Tiller, which reads, “Trifecta 2006: Sebelius, Parkinson, Morrison.” In the photo, Sebelius points at Tiller as if to acknowledge his contribution to that victory.

To no one’s great surprise, Morrison dropped the felony charges Kline had brought against Tiller. As Morrison interpreted the law, if a doctor said an abortion was necessary to protect the life and health of the mother, that was good enough for the AG.

Given the exposure, Morrison had to charge Tiller with something. He resorted to the avowedly “technical” charge that Tiller used a second confirming doctor who was not financially independent as the law required.

To put this in context, it would be as if the Nuremberg justices charged Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess with violating Germany’s clean air act.

After reluctantly axing Morrison for his role in an impressively seamy sex scandal, Sebelius appointed obscure Democrat Stephen Six the new attorney general.

Six picked up where Morrison left off. He announced he would not conduct any further investigation of Tiller as such was “an invasion of privacy.” Instead, he continued with the watered down case against Tiller that he had inherited from Morrison.

Six apparently was none too keen on conviction. In Wichita last week, critics, with some justification, accused the state of throwing the very case it had brought to trial.

The state put only one witness on the stand, Kristin Neuhaus, a marginal doctor who had no other practice but to rubber stamp Tiller’s abortions.

Although allegedly friendly, Neuhaus proved hostile and answered the state’s questions only grudgingly. The state offered no other witness and no physical records to prove a financial affiliation.

Meanwhile, Tiller’s defense attorney, Dan Monnat, argued that every abortion Tiller performed was a heroic effort to save the mother from severe and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. The jurors were told nothing different.

Monnat continued that “in this one-witness prosecution” the state was simply continuing a persecution initiated by “anti-choice politicians.” The media had been telling the jurors this all along.

Monnat suggested that if the state were serious and Tiller were operating anything but a legitimate medical facility, the state would have charged Dr. Tiller with more serious crimes. The jurors could only nod in assent.

What is more, Monnat insisted, Tiller only requested the services of the good Dr. Neuhaus on the advice of the state, specifically the then executive director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, Larry Buening.

Buening, a Tiller friend and Sebelius appointee who has since resigned in disgrace, denies that he told Tiller that by using Neuhaus “all of your problems would go away.”

It is likely, however, that the state did not call Buening for fear that Buening’s denial would melt under oath.

And finally, Monnat argued, the one witness the state called, Kristin Neuhaus, denied the relationship the state claimed.

The state’s best witness was Tiller himself. In answering a question about Neuhaus, Tiller stumbled, “When she was working for me – correction, when she was providing consultations for the patient …”

On another occasion, Tiller referred to Neuhaus and said, “When someone new is going to join your organization …”

Tiller’s flubs comprised most of state’s closing arguments. One wonders how its attorney would have closed if Tiller had refused to testify in his own defense?

For those who care, here is what really happened at Tiller’s clinic. Neuhaus would sign a form letter claiming the mother would “suffer severe impairment of a major bodily function” – as required by law – if a late term abortion were not performed.

Neuhaus offered no diagnosis. Often she did not even see the patient. All patients were served up by Tiller, and all of Neuhaus’s income came from Tiller except for the limited income she has received as a laser hair technician.

As to Tiller, he performed late-term abortions on viable children for any reason whatsoever. He routinely twisted statements by the mother that she wanted to attend a rock concert, a prom or compete in the rodeo into “severe impairment of a major bodily function.”

For years, Tiller has used the revenue from these abortions – he boasts of having aborted 60,000 plus “fetuses over 24 weeks” – to buy off the state’s “moderate” establishment, including the sitting governor.

The jurors, to be sure, did not learn any of this. A Tiller conviction would not have looked good on the record of our new secretary of health and human services.

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