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State board, doctor battle over abortion case costs

  • Published Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012, at 5:53 p.m.

— A northeast Kansas doctor who lost her license over referrals to the late George Tiller’s abortion clinic is fighting state regulators’ efforts to force her to post a bond of nearly $93,000 as she appeals to the courts.

Attorney Kelly Kauffman said Thursday that physician Kristin Neuhaus can’t afford to pursue a lawsuit against the State Board of Healing Arts if she is required to post the bond, which would cover costs incurred by the board as its staff pursued sanctions against her. Neuhaus filed her lawsuit in August in Shawnee County District Court in hopes of regaining her license.

“It basically closes the courts to her,” Kauffman said. “They have to know that.”

The board filed a request earlier this month for District Judge Franklin Theis to order Neuhaus to post a bond for $92,672 while the doctor pursues her lawsuit. Neuhaus’ attorneys filed their objection last week, saying an “impossible” bond would deprive Neuhaus of her constitutional rights to due legal process.

Kelli Stevens, the board’s general counsel, said it simply wants to protect its ability to recoup costs associated with Neuhaus’ case. Stevens noted the board’s $4.3 million annual budget is financed with fees collected from the health care providers it regulates.

Stevens said Thursday that costs from Neuhaus’ case “shouldn’t be borne by licensees who did nothing wrong.”

In June, the board ratified an administrative judge’s finding that Neuhaus did not perform adequate mental health exams on 11 patients, ages 10 to 18, before referring them in 2003 to Tiller’s clinic in Wichita for late-term abortions. Neuhaus provided second medical opinions required by Kansas law for such procedures.

She strongly disputes the board’s conclusions and contends her exams met accepted standards of care. The board ordered Neuhaus to cover its costs but suspended the requirement until she’s done pursuing her lawsuit.

Neuhaus, who is from Nortonville, a small town about 30 miles north of Lawrence, had an inactive medical license that allowed her to provide limited charity care. She had asked the board to reinstate her to a full, active license. She provided second opinions for Tiller from 1999 to 2006.

Tiller was among a few U.S. physicians known to perform abortions in the final weeks of pregnancy, and he was shot to death in his church in May 2009 by a man professing strong anti-abortion views.

The disciplinary case against Neuhaus examined how she concluded that each of the patients had serious mental health issues and that an abortion was advisable. The law at the time required Tiller to obtain an independent second opinion that a patient faced significant and permanent harm if the pregnancy continued.

Theis initially scheduled a hearing in Neuhaus’ lawsuit for Nov. 2. But the judge rescheduled it for Jan. 11, in line with a schedule proposed by attorneys for both sides for filing their written legal arguments.

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