“Dr. Carhart is a Hero!”
I’ll never forget the day I read these words which had been painted on an unfurled bed sheet being carried by pro-choice activists. On January 23, 2011, over five hundred pro-life demonstrators, including the Northern VA chapter of Lutherans for Life, gathered near Dr. Leroy Carhart’s abortion clinic in Germantown, Maryland, to protest the late-term abortions being performed there. Only twenty defenders of abortion rights showed up in response.
Before it was banned by a federal law, Carhart was famous for being one of the few abortionists in the country who would perform the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure. This procedure, if you will remember, pulls the unborn child out of the womb feet first and then severs the child’s spinal cord at the neck by slicing it in half with a pair of scissors. After the ban, Carhart continued his Nebraska practice using other procedures, but they still included the aborting of children in their second and third trimesters.
All this changed in October of 2010, when the state of Nebraska passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The twenty-week limit was based on scientific studies which demonstrated that an unborn child could feel pain at this point in his/her development. One can only imagine the excruciating agony these children suffered.
Carhart, looking for a more accepting locale to ply his trade, chose, of all places, little Germantown, Maryland. Starting his Maryland practice at Reproductive Health Services, Inc., in December 2010, he was met by concerned Germantown citizens as well as members of Operation Rescue and Maryland Coalition for Life. A website called www.kickoutcarhart.com was created to coordinate pro-life awareness and peaceful action.
What confused me that day is how such a person, an individual guilty of committing some of the most gruesome and inhumane acts, could be considered a hero? At the moment I saw that sign (the unfurled bed sheet), I felt like poor old Winston in George Orwell’s 1984, living in a society where “white is black.” It seemed that these pro-choice protesters were living in a parallel universe, one where the truth had been hijacked and replaced by mindless political slogans. My perceptual dissonance continued the next day upon reading the very few articles which chose to cover the protest. Although I was interviewed by a reporter for the New York Times, they chose not to run the story. Those media sources that did, mostly small local Germantown papers, gave equal time to the twenty pro-abortion activists, even though there were over five hundred others there to defend the sanctity of life.
All appearances would lead us to believe that we have no chance of stopping late-term abortions in Germantown. In Maryland, there is a pro-choice majority in the legislature, a pro-choice governor, a sympathetic press that refuses to publicize the pro-life movement, and a society, which, while maybe not considering Carhart a hero, nevertheless considers his work a necessary evil.
All would be lost except for one fact. We have an ally in our fight. His name? Jesus Christ.
I watched a great documentary on PBS called Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for a Change. It was about the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, an order of Catholic nuns who worked diligently for change during the civil rights marches of the 1960s. The documentary also covered the work of numerous black Christian leaders in the South who made a difference through prayer and non-violent social action.
I see some great parallels between the pro-life and the civil rights movements. Both were driven by the Christian belief that God wants us to fight for justice, and that Christ will always be with us throughout the struggle. Ground zero of the abortion wars has reared its ugly head in my neighborhood. Maybe it is in your neighborhood too. We owe it to the children, and their parents, to defend them from the tragedy of abortion.
Dennis Di Mauro is the LFL Representative to the National Pro-Life Religious Council. He is also the author of “A Love of Life.”