Lawmakers in 3 states gird against abortionist

Late-term practitioner expands

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Pro-life advocates in Maryland, Iowa and Indiana are pushing back with rallies and talk of more restrictive legislation as one of the nation’s most prominent late-term abortion doctors works to expand his practice in all three states.

Don Dwyer Jr., a Republican member of Maryland’s House of Delegates from Anne Arundel County, said this week that he was talking with other pro-life lawmakers about more restrictive legislation in the wake of Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s decision to establish an office this week in the Germantown Reproductive Health Services clinic in suburban Montgomery County.

Mr. Dwyer told Southern Maryland Online that the purpose of the talks was to produce a bill “to regulate abortion clinics as they do in many other states.” The next session of the Maryland General Assembly begins Jan. 11.

Separately, the Archdiocese of Washington said it is expecting hundreds of Catholics to participate in a Mass and processional walk Saturday to oppose Dr. Carhart’s new practice.

“Obviously, what Carhart brings to Maryland is not what women in a crisis pregnancy need,” said Kathy Dempsey, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Catholic Conference. The rally will begin at Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, a half-mile from the clinic.

Mr. Dwyer’s efforts are being matched this week in Iowa and Indiana, where pro-life legislators signaled their intent to draft bills to ban late-term abortions in their states.

They said they will be looking closely at Nebraska’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which forbids abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation because a fetus of that age can feel pain.

The pro-life National Right to Life held a strategy conference this week in Arlington, Va., to offer its state affiliates guidance for the 2011 legislative session. Along with Maryland, Indiana and Iowa, state lawmakers are drafting bills along the lines of the Nebraska statute in Kentucky, Kansas and Oklahoma.

“What Nebraska did was fantastic,” Margie Montgomery, the executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, told the Associated Press. “That makes us more excited about it. Now we can point to it — it’s already a law in Nebraska.”

This “fetal pain” law is viewed as the main reason Dr. Carhart, who has performed late-term abortions in Omaha for years, decided to seek other locations for his services.

“We need a place where we can [treat] our patients without the harassment of the courts,” Dr. Carhart told KETV in Nebraska in November, when he announced his expansion plans.

Dr. Carhart has not been a stranger to media coverage — his lawsuits over late-term abortion have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court — but his news presence has soared since his good friend, Dr. George Tiller of Kansas, was fatally gunned down while in church in May 2009.

Tiller also performed late-term abortions. After his death, Tiller’s family closed his Wichita clinic.

Dr. Carhart pledged to carry on such services, and pro-choice groups have rallied to make sure he is able to train doctors as well as offer the services himself.

At a pro-life rally Monday in Germantown, members of the pro-choice Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice quietly protested the pro-life messages. Also, National Abortion Federation leaders have been offering security training to staff members at the Germantown clinic.

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