On Friday, the Kansas Board of Healing Arts refused to reinstate the medical license of Dr. Ann Neuhaus, who provided second opinions to abortion provider Dr. George Tiller between 1999 and 2006. Kansas law requires a second opinion to perform some late-term abortions. Neuhaus’ license was revoked by an administrative court in February following a 2006 complaint from the anti-choice group Operation Rescue alleging she did not take the safety of teenage patients seriously in 2003 because of the short length of patient record files for her cases.
But the sparseness of her patient notes was an attempt to protect their privacy from the anti-choice crusade of a state official. Around the time Neuhaus performed the abortions, the Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline was investigating abortion providers — going so far as to subpoena medical records and discuss those cases on right-wing television shows. Indeed, Neuhaus specifically cites Kline’s “investigation” while arguing her exams met accepted care standards:
She…testified that she didn’t put more details in her records to protect patients’ privacy. After the hearing, she said she was “unapologetic” for that, noting the Kansas attorney general’s office began investigating abortion providers, including Tiller, starting early in 2003, and in 2006, Fox television’s Bill O’Reilly strongly criticized Tiller and discussed a few of his patients’ cases on his program.
Kline faces an ongoing ethics complaint case alleging he “lied to the Kansas Supreme Court, misled a Johnson County grand jury investigating an abortion provider and discussed an ongoing case on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’” that throw weight behind Neuhau’s fears, but whether or not she could get a fair hearing was doubtful. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) recently appointed former Operation Rescue attorney Richard Macias to the board, and one expert witnesses called by the Board testified there were no cases in which providing an abortion could be beneficial to a patient’s mental health.
While Neuhaus plans to appeal, the entire saga paints a stark portrait of how pervasive anti-choice influence is at some state levels — and the untenable position that influence means for health care providers. Then again, perhaps it’s no surprise a state that seriously debated legislation that would force doctors to misinform their patients about health risks would put an anti-choice agenda before the well-being and medical privacy of it’s citizens.