After that, his clinic is too small to accommodate the additional personnel needed should problems arise, so he refers patients to a Colorado colleague, Warren Hern, one of the few others who specialize in late-in-pregnancy abortions.
All the late abortions Carhart has done in Germantown have involved fetuses with anomalies, he said. One patient last week was just under 21 weeks pregnant; the fetus had spina bifida and would have been paralyzed from the navel down, he said.
About 50 percent of his patients are local, with most of them from Maryland and the rest coming from Virginia and the District.
In Maryland and Virginia, abortions are not allowed beyond a certain point in the pregnancy. In Maryland, the threshold is when the fetus becomes viable, or the earliest point at which it could survive outside the womb. In Virginia, it is the third trimester. There are exceptions if the woman’s “life and health” are threatened. Maryland also allows exceptions for serious genetic defects. In both states, the doctor performing the abortion makes those determinations. In Virginia, a second doctor must approve the procedure.
The District has the fewest restrictions, with no specific rules for late-in-pregnancy abortions.
Protesters holding graphic signs are a constant presence outside privately owned Reproductive Health Services clinic, which is tucked in a small office park in Germantown.
Carhart has installed two security cameras outside the clinic. (Last week, a Montgomery County circuit judge allowed him to keep the cameras after the office condo association asked for their removal.) Visitors to his Nebraska clinic have to walk through a metal detector, similar to those in airports; he would like to install one in Germantown.
Operation Rescue and the Maryland Coalition for Life opened a crisis center in April across the parking lot from the Germantown clinic to offer pregnancy counseling. Operation Rescue’s Newman said activists have persuaded at least four women not to have abortions.
Operation Rescue also filed a complaint with the Maryland Board of Physicians alleging that Carhart did not disclose that he would be providing late-in-pregnancy abortions when he applied for his Maryland license. The board is investigating. A board spokeswoman said she could not comment. Carhart said he answered all questions appropriately, and an attorney is handling the complaint.
Protesters say they are riding a national wave of success, with states enacting 80 abortion restrictions this year, more than double the previous record of 34 restrictions enacted in 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group.
On Saturday, antiabortion groups — including Operation Rescue — plan to begin nine days of street rallies and prayer vigils at the clinic, the Maryland State House, and outside the Washington office of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
Organizers are calling it “Summer of Mercy 2.0,” a reprise of demonstrations 20 years ago, when thousands took part and hundreds were arrested at Tiller’s Kansas clinic, which was then the focal point of the antiabortion movement.
Carhart and groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice plan to hold their own walk outside the clinic Sunday to begin a week-long “Summer Celebration of Choice.”