In a wide-ranging interview last week — his first extensive comments since he began traveling to Maryland in December — Carhart, 69, discussed his work, his plans to broaden health-care and social services to include adoption counseling, and security measures that he and his staff members take.
Carhart, a grandfather and retired Air Force general surgeon, has an understated manner, speaking so softly that he can barely be heard. His voice was weary at the end of a recent workday as he went over logistics with his wife, Mary, a straight-talking former schoolteacher who helps manage the clinic. During a takeout dinner in the hotel lobby, and later in his room, he became visibly angered, his eyes hardening, while describing what he called “ridiculous” abortion restrictions nationwide. Kansas regulates the size of janitorial supply closets. South Carolina regulates how grass is cut outside clinics.
The obstacles only make him more committed, he said. The women who have turned to him for abortions have had severe fetal abnormalities, he said. “We have helped them. . . . They’d rather die than have these pregnancies,” he said.
Carhart began working in Germantown after Nebraska made it illegal last year to perform most abortions beyond 20 weeks of gestation. He chose Maryland because it has some of the least-restrictive abortion laws in the nation, is centrally located on the East Coast and because Germantown is accessible from three airports. Protesters plan to hold street rallies and prayer vigils starting next weekend in a continuing attempt to stop him.
Abortion opponents condemn the procedure regardless of the circumstances.
“There is no moral distinction,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, which has targeted Carhart for years. “Ninety-eight percent are simply elective procedures for mothers who want to have dead children.”
Most doctors will not perform abortions beyond 22 or 24 weeks for various reasons, including legal concerns, social stigma, inadequate training or inexperience.
Carhart performs about 60 abortions a month in Germantown. Many of the women have been referred by other doctors. Six to 10 per month are late-in-pregnancy abortions; he declines to specify how late.
The Germantown clinic is small. He is the only doctor working there. But four other doctors — including one from the Washington area — have asked to train with him.