Effort against Dr. Tiller fails
Legislator says move to have abortionist criminally charged appears dead
By James Carlson
Published Thursday, March 29, 2007
The legislative push for the attorney general to charge the state's most prominent abortion doctor appears dead, Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, said Wednesday.
"To my knowledge you will not see it on the floor this year," he said.
The pronouncement came after a bizarre series of events, including a rarely used law, a rally in the Statehouse and a committee hearing many said broke House rules.
House leaders last week sent a letter to Attorney General Paul Morrison urging him to press charges against Dr. George Tiller, who runs an abortion clinic in Wichita. Tiller is one of a handful of doctors in the nation who performs late-term abortions.
On Monday, social conservatives announced they would invoke a statute allowing the House to direct the attorney general to proceed with a prosecution.
At this point, some Democrats said Siegfreid ran afoul of procedure.
A resolution on Monday was drafted ordering Morrison to charge Tiller. The House Federal and State Affairs Committee, of which Siegfreid is the chairman, then met and voted to send the resolution to the full House, said Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka.
"You just can't do that," she said. "You have to introduce it in the House first."
According to House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, a bill has to be introduced in the committee, then read in to the House, where the speaker of the House then refers it to a committee.
"It's so important that we keep following the rules because that's what makes the process work," McKinney said.
Siegfreid, however, said nothing was done wrong.
"It was read in the same day we took action on it," he said.
According to the legislative journal, the bill was read in Monday, but after the committee had already taken a vote to send it to the House. Siegfreid said the problem arose because a reviser of statutes wasn't at the hearing, and as a result no committee report could initially be read in to the House.
About whether the sequence of events matter, Siegfreid said: "Oh, baloney. That's how it's always done."
At that point, the measure was sent back to the committee and another hearing was held Tuesday, but no action was taken.
Also on Tuesday, Kansans for Life led a group of 100 advocates in a rally calling for Morrison to charge Tiller.
The Tiller case has been in the middle of a bitter debate for years. Most recently, it played a part in the attorney general campaign.
Former Attorney General Phill Kline filed 30 criminal charges against Tiller in December, a month before he left office. Kline alleged in his criminal complaint that Tiller failed to report the details of 15 illegal late-term abortions he performed in 2003 on patients ages 10 to 22.
Those charges were later thrown out by a Sedgwick County District Court judge.
Abortion opponents have since called for Morrison to resurrect those charges.
The statute Republicans hoped to use states that any branch of the Legislature can direct the attorney general to bring charges in state court. The Legislature used the same law in 2002 to direct the attorney general to sue the governor over Medicaid money used on abortions, and it was Kline who acted on that resolution in 2005.
On Wednesday, Democrats on the House Federal and State Affairs Committee said Monday's hearing was only meant to bring attention to the abortion debate.
"I think they just wanted to have something for the rally folks," Mah said. "I think they got all the press they needed and they're done with it."
Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, said Siegfreid wanted to have "a moment of glory" for the abortion opponents.
"Instead what he got was a big embarrassment," he said.