The Washington Post

Maryland officials probe possible abortion link in woman’s death

The Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Montgomery County Police Department are investigating the death of a woman who died at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital on Thursday — days after she was believed to have started an abortion procedure at a controversial clinic in Germantown.

The facility has become a touchstone for the abortion debate nationwide. Those who oppose abortion have launched regular demonstrations near the facility, saying its leader, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, regularly performs late-term and dangerous abortions. Abortion-rights advocates say that Carhart courageously performs procedures that other physicians have backed away from.

In this case, the 29-year-old woman, who has not been identified, died Thursday after being taken to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, according to local and state officials.

The circumstances that led to her death are unclear. Carhart and clinic officials could not be reached. A woman who answered a phone number connected with him said he wasn’t available to comment.

It is common for both the state medical examiner’s office and the Montgomery police to investigate death cases. Investigators and doctors at the medical examiner’s office review about 10,000 cases a year, including many of people who died in hospitals or at medical facilities.

“At this point, there is no indication of any criminal activity in this case,” said Capt. Paul Starks, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department.

Anti-abortion advocates have planned a Monday demonstration near the clinic, according to organizers, who allege that the woman arrived at the clinic Sunday night to begin a multiple-day procedure. Protesters say she stayed at a hotel at night.

On Thursday morning, they allege, she experienced shortness of breath and intense pain and went to the Shady Grove emergency room, where she died a short time later.

Michael Martelli, the executive director of the Maryland Coalition for Life, called on the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to close the clinic until it can investigate the matter. He also called on the Maryland Board of Physicians to suspend or revoke Carhart’s medical license, pending a similar investigation.

Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.

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