Antiabortion protesters target clinic’s landlord outside child’s Md. school

Correction: Earlier print versions of this article misidentified abortion rights activists who took part in a July walk ouside a Montgomery County middle school. This version has been updated.


Pro-life activists listen to speakers talk during an abortion protest of abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart on December 6 in Germantown. (Ricky Carioti/WASHINGTON POST)
September 12, 2011

Antiabortion activists who have sought for months to shut down a Germantown clinic picketed its landlord outside a Montgomery County middle school where his daughter is a student, school and police officials said Monday.

A small group of protesters stood outside Robert Frost Middle School in Rockville on Thursday, holding signs and a banner, during back-to-school night, officials said.

The student’s father, who did not want to be named to protect the safety of his daughter, a sixth-grader at the school, said he saw the five protesters when he went to the school event.

Some held a large banner that showed his photo, his full name, his phone number and the words “Please STOP the Child Killing.” Others held posters showing aborted fetuses.

The man owns the property in the Germantown office park where LeRoy Carhart has been performing abortions late in a pregnancy at the privately owned Reproductive Health Services clinic. Antiabortion protesters have repeatedly demonstrated outside the clinic since Carhart arrived in Maryland in December. Carhart is one of the few doctors in the country who openly acknowledges performing the procedure.

Police said no one violated the law outside the school. No arrests were made at the protest or at one on Aug. 29, the first day of school, when two protesters holding antiabortion posters stood for about an hour at the school’s entrance.

The clinic’s landlord said he explained the situation to his daughter and his son, a freshman at nearby Thomas S. Wootton High School, and reassured them that they were safe. Neither child was named in the posters or the banner.

But he said he is furious that the protests targeted his daughter’s school. Both children use their father’s last name.

“It’s horribly outrageous that they’re going out in front of a middle school,” he said. “It is way crossing the line. I very much respect the right of the protesters to do so in front of the clinic, or the steps of Capitol Hill, or the courthouse. But in front of a middle school is really not an appropriate place to do anything except protest for better teacher wages or the school budget.”

The protesters were never on school property, and school security officials are working with county police to “keep those folks away from the school,” Montgomery County schools spokeswoman Lesli Maxwell said. During Back-to-School Night, Frost’s principal made an announcement, telling parents the protests had nothing to do with the school, she said.

“The idea that a group of protesters would target a school because the child of someone they are targeting attends the school . . . is fairly despicable.” Maxwell added.

Jack Ames, director of a regional antiabortion group called Defend Life, said his group organized the protest at the school because it was a “very good public venue.” Previous demonstrations at the Germantown clinic have been hampered because the clinic is on private property inside an office park.

Ames said the landlord, whose father operated a College Park abortion clinic that was firebombed in the 1980s, was a part-owner of the clinic and should not be allowed to “hide under this cloak of anonymity.”

Michael Martelli, executive director of Maryland Coalition for Life, which last week launched a campaign focusing on the landlord and cancellation of the clinic’s lease, said his group was not involved in the school protests.

“We did not support this,” Martelli said. He said he did not know which group was involved. A letter-writing campaign aimed on the clinic is promoted on a general Web site that lists Martelli’s cellphone as the contact for media inquiries. The Web site address was also listed on a banner held by protesters last week.

The clinic’s landlord said he has received about 100 e-mails and 25 phone calls. In response, he has asked volunteers to help him in a counter-campaign to call and e-mail thanks to each person who has contacted him.

Staff researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.

Lena H. Sun is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on health.
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