Dr. Leroy Carhart, a physician who provides abortions for women in need and who for many years provided later term abortions in his home state of Nebraska, will temporarily take over Dr. Tiller’s medical practice in Kansas.
Dr. Carhart, still a practicing provider, is most well known for his involvement in two Supreme Court cases, Stenberg v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Carhart, which challenged and then upheld the ban on the politically termed "Partial Birth Abortion."
As no doubt readers of Rewire know, Dr. Tiller was slain inside his church yesterday. Reports the Omaha World-Herald,
After Sunday’s fatal shooting, Tiller’s chief nurse called Carhart. Carhart made arrangements to keep his Bellevue clinic open while he is gone. When contacted Sunday, he said he was en route to Wichita to run Tiller’s clinic for at least the next week.
Dr. Carhart calls the murderer of his beloved colleague a "terrorist" saying his friend’s death is "a declaration of war" on the part of radical anti-abortion activists whom he calls "fundamentalist terrorists . . . no different from al-Qaida, the Taliban or any of them."
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It is not hard to understand why Dr. Carhart is as enraged as he is. Carhart has been the target of anti-choice/"pro-life" forces for years. His clinic in Nebraska was the site of many violent and more peaceful pro-life protests over the years. In 1991, his home and farm were burned to the ground, causing the death of numerous animals. Though no one was ever prosecuted for the crime, an anonoymous note claimed that the murder of his animals was just like the murdering of children.
I remember meeting Dr. Carhart at a fundraiser for the non-profit health center for which I worked. What struck me first, as a newly initiated reproductive health advocate, was a large button on the lapel of his suit. It simply said, "Trust Women." The simplicity of the statement almost brought me to tears. Dr. Carhart wasn’t advocating for a particular procedure, he wasn’t stating his opposition to anything. His message was uplifting, positive and based in respect for women as human beings.
Now, Dr. Carhart’s message of trusting women has transformed, at least for awhile. He considers Dr. Tiller’s murder "deeply personal," according to the Omaha newspaper, and he is "filled with rage
at the level of violence directed toward abortion providers." But he will continue to ensure that women receive the medical care they need:
Carhart said that neither Tiller’s clinic nor his own would close because of the killing, saying he would do everything he could to assist women who needed his services: "We have to do everything we can to help women not get pregnant when they aren’t able to care for the child. And when that’s not possible, we have to continue providing the option for abortion services that are safe and healthy for women."
It’s a circle of care and compassion that continues. Dr. George Tiller, I’m sure, could not be more proud of his friend and colleague, Leroy Carhart. And though access is one of the greatest challenges for women in need of a late term abortion, at least for now this option will remain.