There isn't an address on the paint-chipped farmhouse in Nortonville, about 30 miles north of Lawrence. Across from it on this country road, the mailbox hangs limp. A muddy driveway leads past a beat-up pickup truck to a garage. An approaching car sends cats scattering.
It's the only place that Ann Kristin Neuhaus and Mike Caddell have ever owned. She describes the place as something out of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road. Caddell calls it "a money pit."
"Do we look rich?" Neuhaus asks. "We're very broke all of the time. Our house is falling down."
She turns on the water each time she wants to flush the toilet, but this is home for Neuhaus and Caddell. They've been married 26 years, and they have a 14-year-old son, Tristan. Six chickens, five cats, four dogs, three horses, two roosters and a goat roam the family's 10 acres.
Neuhaus and Caddell bought the place 15 years ago, when she was making a little money. Now they're struggling to survive. About a year ago, the house nearly faced foreclosure. During an interview with The Pitch in September, Neuhaus was on her way to apply for a payday loan. Then in October, the utilities were almost shut off.
"It's just literally month by month that we're holding onto the place," says Caddell, host of the Radio Free Kansas online radio show. "We've been living on $30,000 a year for about two and a half years now." That money came from a research stipend that has since expired. Neuhaus is now working as a research instructor at the University of Kansas Medical Center's Department of Family Medicine.
Out here, they say, the neighbors are protective. One, fearing for Neuhaus' safety, offered to loan her an AK-47. That's life on the front line of Kansas' abortion war.
Neuhaus is one of the last links to Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, who was murdered in May 2009 while attending a Sunday church service. From 1999 to 2006, Neuhaus provided second-opinion mental-health exams to determine whether the late-term abortions that some women sought at Tiller's clinic were medically necessary. That step was required by Kansas law.
Three Kansas attorneys general tried to prosecute Tiller for his arrangement with Neuhaus. Tiller eventually was charged with having an improper financial relationship with Neuhaus. He was acquitted of the misdemeanor in March 2009. The doctor was assassinated two months later by Scott Roeder, who had attended Tiller's trial and was seen sitting next to Operation Rescue president Troy Newman.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts is now considering whether to sanction Neuhaus and possibly revoke her medical license. Neuhaus' license has been inactive since 2009, when she enrolled at KU Med to pursue a master's degree in public health. (She says she will graduate later this month.) The board contends that Neuhaus didn't keep detailed records on 11 patients, between the ages of 10 and 18, who received late-term abortions at Tiller's clinic in 2003. Neuhaus diagnosed each of the patients as having acute anxiety, acute stress or single episodes of major depression. She says the girls showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder; some expressed suicidal thoughts.
Abortions in Kansas must be performed before the 22nd week of pregnancy. In order for a woman to have a late-term abortion, her life must be at risk or the pregnancy's continuation would cause "substantial and irreversible" harm to "a major bodily function." When Neuhaus worked with Tiller, an exception also existed for mental health; Kansas lawmakers have since removed that exception.
One afternoon in early November, Neuhaus sips a homemade espresso in her dining room. She speaks softly, sometimes burying her face in her arms on the table. She doubts that the state will let her keep her medical license.
"Am I paranoid?" she asks. "No, I'm not. I just know too much to have real faith in it working equitably, because it doesn't — it's not an equitable system."
If the board takes her license, Neuhaus will likely appeal. While she waits, she may go on welfare.
"Eventually I'll be living out in the Occupy Kansas City in the park," she says. "Or maybe I'll go to D.C."
"Tristan and I won't be doing that," Caddell says with a chuckle. He's standing in the kitchen doorway, smoking a cigarette. He looks like a lost Mario brother with his handlebar mustache, horseshoe of long curly hair and denim overalls. He's a stay-at-home dad, taking care of Tristan, who has Type 1 diabetes and receives about a half-dozen insulin shots a day.
If the board allows her to keep her license, Neuhaus says she'll go back to providing low-income health care, as she has done since 1986, but not abortions.
"I'm done with this whole women's-right issue," she says. "It's definitely an underserved population, but I'm done. Not even in the wildest imaginable situation would I do it again. I would even sign a statement that I wouldn't do it again. I'm certainly not going to be working for Dr. Tiller again, am I? And we're not going to have a clinic like that ever again."
The case against Neuhaus started with Phill Kline, former Kansas attorney general and Johnson County district attorney. The fallout from his investigation is still being felt on both sides of the abortion debate. While the Kansas Board of Healing Arts decides whether Neuhaus can practice medicine again, a Kansas disciplinary panel is recommending that the Sunflower State's Supreme Court indefinitely suspend Kline's law license for the "dishonest and selfish" way in which he investigated abortion clinics. Neuhaus' livelihood hangs in the balance, but Kline's doesn't. His law license has lapsed, and he moved to Virginia in 2009 to teach law at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University.
Neuhaus remembers the night she was served with a subpoena. It was December 2006, and a blizzard was blowing in. When there was a knock at her door, around 7 p.m., she expected another uninvited visitor spouting religious overtures. But she says it was Kline's lead investigator, Tom Williams, with a subpoena, summoning her to testify in Kline's inquisition.
Neuhaus says she and her attorney met with Kansas Assistant Attorney General Stephen Maxwell, one of Kline's lead prosecutors. Williams was also in the room. Neuhaus talked with them for about seven hours, and at some point, Maxwell asked her to bring her records to a follow-up meeting. She says Maxwell assured her that he wouldn't keep the records.
"I've spent four years trying to get Tiller's, and I'm not going to try to get yours," she says Maxwell told her. "It just takes too long. You just bring them so you can refresh your memory.
"I took him at his word, and the next week I showed up with these charts," she says. "He immediately seized them and had them copied. I think he gave them back to me then."
Neuhaus wishes that she'd skipped the hearing.
"Maxwell lied to me," she says. "That's how he got the records. And that's how the charges were filed. And that's how the trial happened. And that's how Dr. Tiller got killed. That whole sequence of events was predicated on criminal behavior on the part of the [AG's] office. Perjury is criminal. A lawyer is not allowed to lie at any time. He said to me, 'I'm not going to take your records.' When I walk in the door, he says, 'I'm taking your records.' And what choice do I have? I can take my box and try to run. Or I can go to jail. And if I go to jail, they still have my records. They literally cornered me and they avoided due process, and nobody's done a fucking thing about it."
The complaint filed against Neuhaus with the Board of Healing Arts didn't come from one of the 11 patients. It came from Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue's "senior policy advisor."
Sullenger is a convicted felon. In 1988, she conspired to blow up an abortion clinic in San Diego. The plot, which included Sullenger's husband, Randall, and six other members of the fundamentalist Bible Missionary Fellowship, failed when wind blew out the fuse attached to a gasoline bomb. The Los Angeles Times reported that Cheryl Sullenger had obtained gunpowder and other material for the bomb.
At the time, Sullenger was 32 years old and had two children, ages 6 and 4. At her sentencing, she told the judge that she knew what she had done was wrong, but her religious beliefs "put a lot of emotional pressure on us to do this." She went on: "I believe it says in the Bible that abortion is murder, and when you see that, you are compelled to do something about that."
She was sentenced to three years in federal prison and has since claimed that she has renounced violence. On the day Tiller was shot, police found Sullenger's name and phone number on a piece of paper inside Roeder's car. She told The Kansas City Star at the time that she was in contact with Roeder prior to the murder. It was she who gave Roeder the dates of Tiller's court appearances.
Neuhaus has been a frequent target for derision on Operation Rescue's website. In October, Neuhaus sent a cease-and-desist letter to Newman and Sullenger, threatening to sue them in civil court and file a criminal complaint against them if they continued to publish "untrue and defamatory" stories and statements. She cites accusations on the site that she's "unfit to practice medicine" and "a danger to the public." She also writes that Operation Rescue claims that she "sedated and forcefully performed an abortion on a patient, in spite of [the patient's] later testimony under oath that she had not withdrawn consent, and had in fact, filed the complaint in hope of financial gain."
"They're obviously going around saying things that are inflammatory and untrue, and they've gotten away with it for years," Neuhaus says. "And they've kept the fire burning and gotten people like Bill O'Reilly to keep propagating it, and it's gotten people like Scott Roeder to kill people ... . They're operating on the border of what's legal, and they get away with it, and nobody cares."
O'Reilly mentioned Neuhaus on his Fox News talk show in September. The pundit had frequently referred to Tiller as "Tiller the baby killer" prior to the doctor's murder. On this occasion, he said he believed that the state would revoke Neuhaus' medical license.
"This is what I said all along about Tiller's practice," O'Reilly said. "If you walked in there with the $5,000 needed to abort the late-term baby, he was going to find a way to do the abortion."
Neuhaus says O'Reilly invited her on his show. She says she accepted but hasn't been contacted yet for scheduling.
"I want to see that fucker eye to eye," Neuhaus says. "I'm going to ask him how he got my records. That's all I'm going to say: How did you get my records, motherfucker?"
On a chilly November Friday, the last day of hearings gets under way in the basement of a Topeka office building. At the door to the hearing room, a bored-looking cop sips from a can of Monster Energy, and a who's who of anti-abortion activists takes up a back corner. Operation Rescue's Newman and Sullenger are here, tweeting the proceedings. Kansans for Life's Kathy Ostrowski, obviously sick with cold or flu, types on her laptop.
Neuhaus sits with her pro bono attorneys, Kelly Kauffman and Robert Eye, in the sterile hearing room. Edward Gaschler, the hearing's presiding officer, takes notes for the board members, who don't attend.
Testimony resumes with Dr. Allen Greiner, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, who has already testified in September that Neuhaus' mental-health exams went "above and beyond the standard of care."
His testimony answers the state's primary expert, Liza Gold, a clinical psychiatry professor at Georgetown University Medical Center. Gold testified that Neuhaus' reports didn't meet the standard of care and lacked detail.
"I don't think she was qualified to testify," Eye later tells The Pitch. "She doesn't have the requisite experience with doing evaluations of the mental health of a person who wanted to end an unwanted pregnancy to give her the basis to render an expert opinion. That doesn't even take into account what I believe was her inherent bias against abortions."
At one point during her testimony, Gold said she couldn't conceive of a situation to which abortion would be a solution.
"What does that tell you?" Neuhaus says. "It's pretty blatant. That's a pretty radical statement."
Eye agrees. "Her view was that if an unwanted pregnancy caused a mental-health problem, the patient should be either medicated or hospitalized, or go through some sort of psychotherapy," he says of Gold's statements. "What we really confronted was a witness who did not accept that these patients had a choice guaranteed under the law to proceed with the termination of pregnancy, and the medical aspect of it had to be weighed against the choice that these patients had to terminate a pregnancy."
The Board of Healing Arts' attorney, Reese Hays, has built a case that resembles a malpractice suit. He has argued that Neuhaus' patient charts lack detail, but he also has focused on whether the abortions should have been performed at all.
Hays proceeds to question Greiner as though Neuhaus were the primary physician for the 11 girls and women. She wasn't. Tiller was.
"The care and treatment of the patient was the responsibility of the primary treater, and that was Dr. Tiller," Eye explains. "Dr. Neuhaus' function was to do these very narrow-based evaluations. And once that was done, then she was obligated to report those findings to Dr. Tiller for the purpose of either going through with the abortion or not."
Neuhaus doesn't dispute that her records lack detail. She says she purposely left out information, fearing anti-abortion groups and political forces would acquire the information and make it public, violating her patients' privacy rights.
"My duty is to maintain patient privacy," Neuhaus tells The Pitch. "I spent four years of undergrad, four years of med school, a year of residency and 15 years of practice to be able to manage patients like that. There's no way Bill O'Reilly or my neighbor down the road or the minister of the Lutheran church is going to be able to make those decisions."
"I think she probably had the perfect personality to be the person talking to these girls about these issues," Greiner tells The Pitch. "You don't necessarily want someone who comes off as overly professional and aloof and academic. You want someone who can talk to the person as a real human being so that you can get the kind of information that you need to decide if there's really substantial or irreversible harm."
The circumstances of some of the 11 patients' cases were reported in a September 17 Associated Press story. In each case, Neuhaus had written a letter to Tiller saying the patient would face "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major physical or mental function."
A 15-year-old Missouri girl feared that she'd be kicked out of school if her pregnancy was discovered. Neuhaus diagnosed her with a single episode of depression. Tiller's staff noted on a separate, suicide-risk-specific form that the girl had attempted to harm herself with an extension cord.
Neuhaus diagnosed an 18-year-old woman with severe acute stress disorder. Tiller's staff wrote that the woman wouldn't consider adoption because she didn't want "someone looking for me the rest of my life."
"I did the best I could," Neuhaus says. "Dr. Tiller did the best he could. It says 'substantial and irreversible.' Irreversible, there's no question about what that means. It's not ambiguous. But substantial? What's that mean? You're presented with a patient with a need, and your duty as a physician is to help. I tried to apply the law as I understood it. It had to be 'a substantial and irreversible impairment of her mental function,' and becoming a mom at 15 can become a substantial problem. Not for every 15-year-old, no. But especially when you add in the other circumstances."
One of the patients was a 10-year-old California girl who was a victim of rape and incest. Neuhaus took issue with Gold's claim that an abortion wasn't medically necessary for the girl.
"To even claim that isn't medically necessary qualifies as gross incompetence," Neuhaus tells The Pitch. "Someone's 10 years old, and they were raped by their uncle and they understand that they've got a baby growing in their stomach and they don't want that. You're going to send this girl for a brain scan and some blood work and put her in a hospital?"
The hearing ends, and the anti-abortion claque disperses. Newman takes a parting shot at Neuhaus. "She's a putz," he says as he leaves the building. "She's incompetent. She's a bumbling idiot. She's Mrs. Jack the Ripper." When the board takes Neuhaus' medical license, he says, it'll be a repudiation of Tiller, too.
The Board of Healing Arts could make a ruling as early as February. If Neuhaus has any allies on the 15-member board, they likely don't include Rick Macias, whom Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback appointed in July. Macias, an adoption lawyer, has also done legal work for Operation Rescue, Kansans for Life and other anti-abortion groups. Macias' brother, Archie, serves as the treasurer for the Kansans for Life Political Action Committee, and Macias has supported anti-abortion political candidates through the PAC.
Rick Macias didn't return calls from The Pitch.
The old coal furnace in Neuhaus' basement was converted to run on diesel fuel, but Neuhaus and Caddell burn wood and coal in it. Diesel is too expensive. And when there's a fire going, Neuhaus burns paper, too: old medical records.
Neuhaus performed an abortion for the first time in 1986. She estimates that she has performed 10,000 abortions.
She ran a clinic in Lawrence from 1997 to 2002. When she closed her clinic, she took its records home with her. Kansas law dictates that a health-care provider keep a patient's records for 10 years. "At the end of the 10 years," Neuhaus says, "I get rid of them."
Neuhaus and Caddell treat each purge as a celebration, and they do it month after month. Neuhaus calls the ritual "cathartic," not an act of destruction but one of protection. She explains: "Everything was there. Their whole history — their name, their phone number, their address, their life circumstance — was all in those charts."
Caddell, who worked security at abortion clinics throughout Kansas, calls the burning his last security job for Neuhaus. "I don't look at 'em. I just throw 'em in the fire. And Phill Kline can't lay his slimy, panty-sniffing hands on it."
"It was, like, the greatest thing ever," Neuhaus says, recalling the first batch of records that she incinerated and the patients she was protecting. "It was like closing the door for them. It was like exorcising that ghost from their lives. It was the one link that could come back to haunt them."