WaPo Profiles Abortionist in 40-Paragraph Front-page Story

Today's Washington Post provided a sympathetic profile for Nebraska abortionist LeRoy Carhart, who in December of last year expanded his practice to include abortions in a Maryland clinic about 30 miles from the District of Columbia.

"From abortion provider to activist," read the below-the-fold headline on page A1 of today's Post. " Physician is committed to doing late-in-pregnancy procedures despite threats."

Yet for someone who allegedly is the subject of numerous threats against his life, the Post only cited one credible threat from 20 years ago.

Under the sub-heading "From ashes, a mission," reporter Lena Sun noted that:

On Sept. 6, 1991, the day Nebraska passed its parental-notification law, his farm burned down. No family members were hurt, but the fire destroyed his house and other buildings, and killed his dog, cat and 17 horses. The next day, Carhart received a letter informing him that the fire was in retaliation for the abortions. Local officials were unable to determine the fire’s cause.

“That was when I decided I would not be part time,” he said. “It’s where my tenacity comes from.” He resigned his hospital privileges. He began training other doctors. He opened his own abortion clinic the next year.

“I decided I wasn’t going to just be a provider, I was going to be an activist.”

"Local officials were unable to determine the fire's cause," but that didn't stop Post editors from asserting with the jump page headline on page A8 that the "Doctor's activism grew after opponents destroyed farm."

The farm fire may have been an arson. You may say it most likely was. But no one has been caught and proven guilty in a court of law for the farm blaze.

Sun failed to produce evidence of other substantial threats against Carhart or to cite any law enforcement personnel who fear for his safety. The Post reporter, however, did note that Carhart must suffer the inconvenience of passing by protesters on his way to work:

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.

A significant portion of Sun's profile is devoted to relaying to readers Carhart's complaints about a political and legislative environment in many states that is leading to greater regulation of abortion clinics. But Sun also painted Carhart as a doctor who mercifully is sparing unborn  babies from the fate of being born with "anomalies":


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.

In other words, that baby would be born a paraplegic. He or she wouldn't be completely healthy and his or her health problems and the road ahead would be painful both for the child and his or her parents, but does that morally warrant the taking of the child's life?

To her credit, Sun did include a pro-life activist's viewpoint earlier in the story, although she unadvisedly used the term "targeted" to refer to how Operation Rescue has focused on Carhart over the years:

"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.”

Sun did note for readers that Carhart hopes to expanding his practice to include, among other things, adoption counseling. It's a shame she failed to press him on whether that unborn child with spina bifida might have benefited from his or her mother having been counseled about adoption alternatives.

# # #

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters