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Kansas appeals court won't decide abortion case; board must reconsider sanctions for doctor

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TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas Court of Appeals is forcing the state's medical board to reconsider the revocation of a doctor's license over mental health exams she performed on young patients before referring them to the late Dr. George Tiller for late-term abortions.

Executive Director Kathleen Selzler Lippert said Tuesday that the State Board of Healing Arts will review the case of Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus again this summer or fall. The board must consider how to punish Neuhaus based on its finding in 2012 that she kept inadequate records of exams in 2003 for 11 patients, ages 10 to 18.

The board also found in 2012 that Neuhaus' exams did not meet accepted standards of care and revoked her license to provide charity care. But a Shawnee County judge overturned the finding in March — saying it was based only on "an inference" from problems with her records — and ordered the board to rethink its sanctions. The board went to the Court of Appeals, but it dismissed the board's request for a review last week.

Neuhaus, from the small town of Nortonville about 30 miles north of Lawrence, provided second opinions Tiller needed under Kansas law to terminate the young patients' pregnancies based on the potential harm to their mental health. Tiller's clinic in Wichita was among a few in the U.S. known to perform abortions in the final weeks of pregnancy, and he was shot to death in May 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.

"It's back in the board's lap," said Bob Eye, an attorney for Neuhaus. "She's caught in a legal limbo here while the case proceeds through the process."

The Court of Appeals said it couldn't consider the case because the lower-court judge wasn't finished with it, intending to review whatever punishment the board imposed over record-keeping issues. The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life called the two-page decision from appeals court Chief Judge Thomas Malone a "technical legal dodge."

PHOTO: FILE - In this June 22, 2013 file photo Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, left, sits with attorney Bob Eye in Topeka, Kan., as the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts revokes her license over referrals of patients for late-term abortions. The Kansas Court of Appeals on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 forced the board to reconsider its decision to revoke Neuhaus' license for referring young patients to the late Dr. George Tiller. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)
FILE - In this June 22, 2013 file photo Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, left, sits with attorney Bob Eye in Topeka, Kan., as the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts revokes her license over referrals of patients for late-term abortions. The Kansas Court of Appeals on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 forced the board to reconsider its decision to revoke Neuhaus' license for referring young patients to the late Dr. George Tiller. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

The board argued in a legal filing last week that an immediate Court of Appeals review was the only way for the board to save its decision revoking Neuhaus' license. If the board imposes lesser sanctions over record-keeping problems, Neuhaus could end her case by accepting them, the board argued, because it can't challenge its own decisions in court.

The board's guidelines suggest that poor or negligent record-keeping warrants at most a license suspension of less than 90 days, but the guidelines allow for revocation if a doctor deceptively alters records or intentionally fails to keep them.

"I would settle for an indefinite suspension," said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, whose complaint in 2006 prompted the board's case against Neuhaus.

Eye said Neuhaus has become "a convenient object of anger" toward abortion rights from an "anti-choice clique."

"They want to make an example of Kris and deter others from offering like services," Eye said.


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