Doctor opening new late-term abortion clinics in D.C. area, Iowa

By Rob Stein and Lena H. Sun
Wednesday, November 10, 2010; 1:38 PM

A Nebraska doctor who is one of the few in the nation to perform abortions late in a pregnancy said Wednesday that he will open clinics in the Washington area and in Iowa.

LeRoy Carhart said he decided to open the facilities, and expand a clinic in Indiana, because Nebraska had implemented a new law that makes it illegal to perform abortions beyond the 20th week of a pregnancy and he needed other sites to care for patients he had served in Wichita.

The Kansas clinic was closed after George Tiller was fatally shot by an antiabortion demonstrator while attending church in 2009. Carhart had worked with Tiller for 11 years and had hoped to reopen his clinic in Kansas but decided to look for another location when Tiller's family decided against that.

"I need a place where we could take care of patients we used to take care of in Kansas," Carhart said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. Carhart's plans were first reported by Omaha television station KETV and the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, according to the Associated Press.

"The laws are more favorable in these other jurisdictions, and we're going to do the maximum the law allows," Carhart said.

Before Tiller's death, "we used to have patients come to us all the time from Washington, Virginia and Baltimore. So it's clear patients who need the services are there," Carhart said.

The Iowa clinic will be in or near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Citing concerns about abortion protests, Carhart would not disclose the location of the Washington area facility, which will open Dec. 6.

"The patients, when they call, will be told where to go. The 'antis' will find out soon enough, but I don't want to help them," Carhart said. "We will be subject to protests, but I'm not going to give them a head start."

The location was selected based on a combination of factors, including which jurisdiction has the most favorable laws.

In the Washington area, the District has the fewest restrictions, with no specific rules governing late abortions. In Virginia and Maryland, abortions are not allowed beyond when the fetus becomes viable, except in situations where the woman's "life and health" are threatened. The doctor performing the abortion makes those determinations. In Virginia, a second doctor must approve the procedure.

"That's not the only consideration," Carhart said. "We also considered things like being near the Metro and good transportation and access to airports."

Carhart said he would initially work at the Washington area clinic with a nurse and that he hopes to add two more doctors. The clinic would also provide other services, including contraceptives for women and vasectomies, he said.

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