Pro-Life Activists Protest Arrival of Late-Term Abortion Doc

By Kimberly Suiters
|  Monday, Dec 6, 2010  |  Updated 8:42 PM EDT
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A doctor moved his practice to Maryland after late-term abortions were outlawed in Nebraska.

A doctor moved his practice to Maryland after late-term abortions were outlawed in Nebraska.

Before the sun rose, before the first patient even tried to access the Germantown clinic, Montgomery County police cordoned off an entire business park for the sake of "officer security."

Officers set up a command post just steps away from the front door of the Reproductive Health Services Clinic in Germantown in anticipation of the arrival of a prominent abortion doctor and the expected anti-abortion protest to follow.

Area pro-life groups alerted their members and the media that Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of few physicians who acknowledge performing late-term abortions, would be opening the clinic on Monday.

Carhart worked most recently in Nebraska, until the state stiffened its abortion law, making the termination of a pregnancy after 20 weeks illegal.

For 11 years, Carhart was a colleague of Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider who was shot dead last year in Kansas while attending church services.

In Germantown on Monday, anyone trying to enter the dozens of businesses in the office park surrounding Carhart's clinic were required to pass through an officer checkpoint first.

Pro-choice escorts in bright orange vests were on hand to ferry patients to the clinic if they feared harassment, according to one escort. By noon, no one had asked him for help.

"We've not escorted anyone in today," said Paul Volette, of the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force. "Police have kept the protesters off the clinic property."
 

"We were here to make sure the rights of everybody are protected, on both sides of this issue, and so far, it's been a very peaceful and organized demonstration," Montgomery County police Capt. Paul Starks said.

A handful of pro-choice supporters, some from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, carried signs and vocalized support for Carhart's effort to expand a woman's access to abortion procedures.

"I have been in the clinic," Marjorie Singer said. "There are women there, young women who are very grateful that Dr. Carhart is there providing abortions. They need him. They have thought about this. They are not trivial, not casual. They have made a considered decision."

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their counterparts, pro-life activists held oversized posters of dead and mutilated fetuses.

One camera crew from an anti-abortion web outlet tried to engage a pro-choice minister in a debate about when life begins and whether his support for Carhart was tantamount to defending a murderer. But the Rev. Carlton Veazey leaned on decisions by the Supreme Court that guard a woman's right to make personal determinations about reproductive issues.

By 11:30 a.m., 100 or so pro-life supporters, many of whom pushed strollers carrying children bundled up against a biting wind, gathered for a prayer and press conference, led by the Rev. Patrick Mahoney.

Mahoney said he's not bringing unwanted attention to Germantown and all of Maryland, instead pointing the finger at Carhart. Mahoney claimed that Carhart is driven by profit, not human rights. He also prayed aloud that Carhart would "not have an hour of rest" as he continues "crimes against [God's] creation." While he conceded that Carhart's practice violates no human law, as the state of Maryland currently allows late-term abortions, he argued that the law does not reflect the personal views of a majority of Marylanders and should be changed.

"So we have come here to say this: Leroy Carhart, please leave," Mahoney said. "Please stop this barbarism that you are doing."

One of the pro-life speakers was a woman who at the age of 14 traveled to Kansas to have a late term abortion from Tiller.

"To this day, I regret that decision," Kelly Stauffer said in tears. "Dr. Tiller was a friend and colleague of Dr. Carhart. Fifteen years ago, I went to Kansas, but now this issue has followed me to Maryland."

Another pro-life advocate, the president of Faith and Action, told NBC Washington, his group plans a peaceful picket as long as Carhart practices late-term abortions in the state.

Neither Carhart nor the clinic made a public statement as of Monday afternoon.

It remains to be seen how soon officers will feel confident enough about everyone's security -- the protesters, the priests, the patients, the physicians, the unaffiliated patrons, and the police themselves -- to roll up their tape, dismantle their checkpoint, and offer safe passage elsewhere.

Montgomery County police said they will be present at the demonstrations only if they are needed.


Chris Gordon contributed to this report.

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