BETHESDA — Off Old Georgetown Road, just south of Interstate 270 and not far from where abortion opponents are known to stand in the median and protest, is one of few abortion clinics in the U.S. that offers abortions in the latter stages of pregnancy.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, the clinic’s staff has worked overtime to provide care to the influx of out-of-state patients.
When abortion was a federally protected right, the staff at Clinics for Abortion & Reproductive Excellence, CARE, typically saw 15 to 17 patients a week. In the two months since abortions were left to states’ discretion, the number of patients from other states has surged, officials at the clinic said.
The acting clinic administrator and medical assistant at CARE is Kelsey, identified by only her first name for security reasons. Out-of-state people now account for a large portion of patients, and numerous referrals come from the South, Kelsey said.
Dr. LeRoy Carhart, the medical director, echoed Kelsey’s comments.
“We’re increasing every week,” Carhart said. “We have 24 patients on the schedule right now this week…Almost every week, we have one or two patients from Mississippi or Atlanta.”
Abortion providers in Maryland said they are seeing the impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade as increasing numbers of out-of-state patients and even staff members from closed healthcare facilities make their way to their doors.
Carhart began performing abortions in 1970 as a junior in medical school. He is well-known for practicing abortions in the later stage of pregnancy. He worked with George Tiller, a physician who performed the same procedures in Kansas, and who was gunned down while in church in 2009 in Witchita, Kansas, by an anti-abortion extremist. In 2013, he was featured in a documentary on Tiller’s life and murder,
Carhart was threatened in 1991 when anti-abortionists set numerous fires on his Nebraska property that burned down his home and farm, killing 21 horses, a dog and cat.
Additionally, Carhart was involved in the U.S. Supreme Court case Stenberg v. Carhart, in which Carhart argued that a Nebraska law that prohibits “partial-birth abortion,” violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Carhart’s favor in 2000.
He is also known for Gonzales v. Carhart, in which Congress passed and former President Bush signed into law a bill that banned partial-birth abortions. Carhart sued to stop the act from going into effect. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him in a 5-4 decision in 2007.
Carhart recently treated a patient from another state at CARE who was forced to carry her pregnancy for 30 weeks, because where she lived in the Southeast, an area with restrictive abortion laws, she could not find any clinic that could legally give her an abortion at her stage in the pregnancy, Carhart said.
The woman wanted an abortion because her baby had a brain hemorrhage, had not moved for weeks and did not have a chance at survival, he said.
“It just took her that long to find somebody who would take care of her, and that’s the biggest part right now,” he said. “They’re devastated. They don’t know where to go.”
This article is republished with permission from CNSMaryland.org.