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Jury selection begins in Kansas abortion provider's case

George Tiller and his clinic have been a target of abortion opponents for decades. George Tiller and his clinic have been a target of abortion opponents for decades.
Associated Press / March 17, 2009
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WICHITA, Kan. - Potential jurors in the trial of one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers were told yesterday to set aside their personal views about abortion, and at least one was dismissed after she said she couldn't.

"This trial is not a debate about abortion," Assistant Attorney General Barry Disney told prospective jurors as jury selection began. "It is not about whether abortion is right or wrong."

Dr. George Tiller is charged with 19 misdemeanors alleging he failed to obtain a second opinion for late-term abortions from an independent physician, as required by Kansas law. If convicted, the Wichita doctor could face a year in county jail or a fine of $2,500 for each misdemeanor charge.

Tiller and his clinic have been a target of abortion opponents for decades. His clinic was bombed in 1985, and an abortion opponent shot him in both arms in 1993.

Wichita also was the site of the 45-day "Summer of Mercy" event staged by Operation Rescue in 1991. Those mass demonstrations and clinic blockades led to more than 2,600 arrests. One of those arrested, the Rev. Pat Mahoney, was back in Wichita yesterday for Tiller's trial.

"This case not only impacts Wichita, but it impacts the nation," Mahoney said.

Abortion opponents plan prayer vigils during the trial, and abortion-rights supporters also plan demonstrations.

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