USA Today falsely suggested Tiller indiscriminately aborted viable fetuses

››› ››› HANNAH DREIER

A USA Today article about George Tiller's murder reported that Tiller's clinic "performs abortions after the point when a fetus is considered viable" -- without noting that Kansas law permits such abortions in certain cases.

In a June 1 article about the murder of abortion provider George Tiller, USA Today reported that Tiller was a "controversial figure" whose clinic "performs abortions after the point when a fetus is considered viable." But USA Today did not report that Kansas law permits the abortion of viable fetuses when the doctor performing the abortion and another doctor agree that the "abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman" or that the pregnant woman would be irreparably harmed -- physically or mentally -- by giving birth.

By contrast, in its account of the Tiller slaying, CNN.com reported that Kansas law permits a doctor to abort a viable fetus only "if that physician and another determine the procedure is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman":

Kansas law generally allows abortions even into the third trimester so long as the physician determines the fetus isn't viable. A doctor who makes such a determination after 21 weeks gestation must report the reasons why the determination was made.

"Third trimester abortion is simply a part of abortion," Tiller told Wichita TV station KAKE in 1999. "We have constructed our clinic and our philosophy along the lines that until you have natural survivalhood [of the fetus], the woman is the patient, not the fetus.

"When does natural survivalhood come on? ... Sometime after the end of the second trimester."

But even if a fetus is determined to be viable after 21 weeks, Kansas law still permits a doctor to perform an abortion if that physician and another determine the procedure is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.

Tiller was the only Kansas doctor still performing late-term abortions in Kansas, the Wichita Eagle reported.

Nor did USA Today report that Tiller was recently acquitted of charges that he had performed 19 illegal late-term abortions. Whereas prosecutors charged that Tiller had aborted viable fetuses without having a documented referral from another physician not legally or financially affiliated with him, jurors found Tiller not guilty on all counts.

From Kansas' prohibition against partial birth abortion on viable fetus (statute 65-6721):

(a) No person shall perform or induce a partial birth abortion on a viable fetus unless such person is a physician and has a documented referral from another physician not legally or financially affiliated with the physician performing or inducing the abortion and both physicians determine: (1) The abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman; or (2) a continuation of the pregnancy will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major physical or mental function of the pregnant woman.

(b) As used in this section:

(1) "Partial birth abortion" means an abortion procedure which includes the deliberate and intentional evacuation of all or a part of the intracranial contents of a viable fetus prior to removal of such otherwise intact fetus from the body of the pregnant woman.

(2) "Partial birth abortion" shall not include the: (A) Suction curettage abortion procedure; (B) suction aspiration abortion procedure; or (C) dilation and evacuation abortion procedure involving dismemberment of the fetus prior to removal from the body of the pregnant woman.

(c) If a physician determines in accordance with the provisions of subsection (a) that a partial birth abortion is necessary and performs a partial birth abortion on the woman, the physician shall report such determination and the reasons for such determination in writing to the medical care facility in which the abortion is performed for inclusion in the report of the medical care facility to the secretary of health and environment under K.S.A. 65-445 and amendments thereto or if the abortion is not performed in a medical care facility, the physician shall report the reasons for such determination in writing to the secretary of health and environment as part of the written report made by the physician to the secretary of health and environment under K.S.A. 65-445 and amendments thereto. The physician shall retain a copy of the written reports required under this subsection for not less than five years.

(d) A woman upon whom an abortion is performed shall not be prosecuted under this section for a conspiracy to violate this section pursuant to K.S.A. 21-3302, and amendments thereto.

(e) Nothing in this section shall be construed to create a right to an abortion. Notwithstanding any provision of this section, a person shall not perform an abortion that is prohibited by law.

(f) Upon conviction of a violation of this section, a person shall be guilty of a severity level 10 person felony.

From the June 1 USA Today article:

Police have a suspect in custody, a 51-year-old man from Merriam, Kan. Johnson County sheriff's spokesman Tom Erickson identified the man as Scott Roeder, the Associated Press reported. Murder charges are expected to be filed against him today, Wichita Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said.

Tiller, who has been providing abortions since 1973, was a controversial figure in the debate over abortion rights -- a catalyst for opponents who galvanized against him and a role model for supporters who praised his work. His clinic performs abortions after the point when a fetus is considered viable.

Abortion rights opponents denounced the killing Sunday, saying they support peaceful, legal avenues to stop doctors who perform abortions. Troy Newman, director of Operation Rescue, said his organization had been working through the Kansas board that licenses physicians to have Tiller's medical license revoked.

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
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USA Today
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