29 March 2009

Acquitted (dateline: Kansas)

A jury in Kansas has acquitted Dr. George Tiller of criminal misdemeanor charges of failing to get an "independent" second opinion in a number of abortions he performed. I don't have a copy of the Kansas statute in front of me, so I don't know exactly what it says, but I can guess the law's consequences. Requiring a doctor to get an "independent" second opinion before performing an abortion is problematic in at least 2 ways. First, it makes the procedure more expensive, obviously: you have to pay 2 doctors instead of just 1. Second, it introduces a delay, possibly over and above the 24- or 48-hour waiting period (again, I don't have the Kansas abortion statute in front of me, but I'm assuming that Kansas has a waiting period. I could be wrong). With any "luck," the patient will be forced into the next trimester of the pregnancy, making the abortion more hazardous, more expensive, and "hopefully" impossible to obtain in the jurisdiction.

An early surgical abortion is a relatively simple and straightforward outpatient procedure. A medical abortion requires little more than an office visit. I'm not even sure what the second opinion is for. "Why, I agree, doctor. According to the color of the test paper you dipped into the patient's urine sample, I am also of the opinion that she is, indeed, pregnant"? Imagine if the law required your doctor to get a second opinion to look at a lab culture to diagnose your strep throat, or look at your test results to diagnose allergies. What a waste of time and money (both the patient's and the doctors'). But I've said it before and I'll say it again: all you have to do to make an abortion restriction stick nowadays is to convince 5 mostly white, mostly Catholic men across the street from the Capitol that the law will help a woman not regret her abortion afterward.

Immediately after Dr. Tiller's verdict was read, the state medical board said it was going to investigate him again for the same type of conduct. If he's found to have violated the rules this time, I guess he wouldn't face jail time, but he still stands to lose his license to practice medicine. Could be worse, I guess -- Dr. Tiller's clinic has been bombed, and he's a gunshot survivor.

Sometimes I wish I'd gone to medical school, just so I could perform abortions and train others to perform them. Then I think about Jane, the clandestine, pre-Roe D.I.Y. network.

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