Anti-Abortion Groups Use Grand Juries on Foes

New/old weapon springs from 19th-century statute
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2008 3:01 PM CDT
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, center, speaks during a press conference outside George Tiller's clinic in Wichita, Kan., Wednesday, April 18, 2007.    (AP Photo/Larry W. Smith)
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(Newser) – Anti-abortion activists in Kansas are using an obscure 19th-century statute to convene grand juries to hear evidence against abortion-performing doctors, the New York Times reports. In several states, citizens who collect enough signatures can circumvent prosecutors and order their own investigation of an alleged crime. A Kansas doctor, for example, is being investigated to see if he performs illegal late-term abortions.

Critics decry the tactic as political harassment. “This is an abuse of the grand jury system,” said one Republican state senator from Kansas. “It’s being used in a political way to further a political cause.” One anti-abortion advocate disagreed: “This is a measure for the people to get some justice,” he said, “and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”