Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Kansas has a law on the books that allows the People to call for a grand jury if the state's prosecutors won't. It has rarely been used, though it has been used twice to bring grand juries together in the interest of charging Dr. George Tiller - a doctor who performs late-term abortions. The allegation is that Dr. Tiller performs abortions in violation of the narrow scope authorized by Kansas law.

Last year, there was a Supreme Court case, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, which turned out to create a very difficult burden for Class Action attorneys. In the past, one could allege an injury and then show the harm through discovery. Now, you have to be able to show some harm from the allegations in order to even bring the case to trial - this is a very difficult burden for Plaintiff's Lawyers, who often do not have access to the records and files needed to show the harm except through discovery, and with Whistleblower protection going out the window, the country has become very Big Business friendly in the matter of a very, very short time. But I digress. This type of protection could be useful in grand jury matters such as we see in Kansas with Dr. Tiller. The Doctor has a vested interest in protecting his patient's privacy, but the pro-life crowd seems to think those people are immaterial in their hunt for blood (perhaps literally, Dr. Tiller was once shot in both arms).

At any rate, the Judge in the case did grant the motion to quash until the court considers the issue. Small victories.

I don't quite get the visceral hatred that pro-life organizations get into with this issue (particularly when I have heard eyewitness accounts of picketers going into the clinic to get their own abortions only to return to the picket line afterwards). Rather than attack the individual, attack the law. Support an amendment overruling it. Don't go on fishing expeditions to headhunt and bully people into supporting your cause - that just hurts in the long run.


Jamie said...

I believe you will find my latest LJ entry informing and useful.

red.hot.mamma! said...

I have a story about Dr. Tiller. He spoke at a conference I attended in 1999. His father was a doc in Wichita and he went off to medical school, planning to not live in Wichita and be a dermatologist.

Then his father died in an accident (plane crash, I believe).

He went back home to take care of his father's affairs and didn't plan to stay in Wichita long term. He was going to go off and be a dermatologist. This was prior to 1973. Women who had been his father's patients for years would come to him and when told they were pregnant, they'd ask him for an abortion. He'd say no, shocked that they would ask him to violate the law. And then he knew: his father had been performing abortions for these women.

But he still didn't do them. Until one day when one of these women died, someone his father had taken care of for years. It changed his life.

Dr. Tiller explained why he does late term abortions, which he only does in a very narrow set of circumstances. He recounted the tale of a 11 year-old girl who was an incest victim. By the time it came to light that she was pregnant and they got her to Dr. Tiller, she was well into the 2nd trimester. But what 11 year old deserves to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, after being raped by a family member? That's just cruel.

He also showed us slides of severe fetal anomalies, fatal defects that could never result in a baby that would live more than a few agonizing minutes. When women usually find this out, they are well into a very wanted pregnancy, picking out nursery colors, planning baby showers. Should we be forcing these women to continue in what is essentially a doomed pregnancy, putting their emotional and physical well-being at risk? Dr. Tiller doesn't think so. He says that's it's a crime to give a woman the technology to learn about these problems, yet take away her ability to do anything about it.

Dr. Tiller was once shot in both arms by anti-woman/anti-choice extremists. And he came to work anyway. Why? Because he wanted to perform abortions? No. Because he understands on a level that many of these Bible-thumping wackos never will: that this is about more than religion, more than politics. This is about real, living, breathing, thinking, feeling women's lives, women who deserve the right to not become nothing more than vessels for a doomed fetus or for the the products or rape and incest.

I've spent time talking with members of Dr. Tiller's staff, brave women who risk their lives to help him and the women he serves. They've told me story after story of the women they've turned away, many of whom had traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to get an abortion, because they were just too far along in the pregnancy. They do a healthy referral business to adoption agencies.

Dr. Tiller is one of my heroes. That he does this in Kansas, a state that shuns evolution and spawned Fred Phelps, makes him even more impressive.