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Late-term abortions criticized after death of New York woman

Dr. LeRoy Carhart. / National Organization for Women via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Pro-life advocates are urging an end to third-trimester abortions in response to the death of a 29-year-old woman who underwent the procedure at a Maryland clinic run by Dr. Leroy Carhart.

"It is so tragic that this family had to lose not only their nearly full-term child, but also their wife, daughter, and sister," said Michael Martelli, executive director of the Maryland Coalition for Life. "What is most appalling is that the State of Maryland refused to hear the pleas of this community, and has allowed this man to continue to butcher women and children."

The pro-life group said that on the same day the woman died, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced on its website that it issued an abortion license to Carhart's clinic without inspecting the facility.

It also noted that Carhart was recently portrayed as a "hero" in the documentary "After Tiller," which debuted at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

The documentary featured Carhart as one of only four doctors in America who perform third-trimester abortions. It claimed to show the great care that these doctors exercise with regard to their patients.

However, Martelli said in a Feb. 8 statement that the woman's death was a "senseless tragedy" that resulted from a false sense of health care and "the apathy of the pro-abortion Maryland state government."

On Feb. 7, a woman died at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, Md. after reportedly beginning a multi-day abortion procedure at Carhart's Germantown Reproductive Health Services in Germantown, Md. the previous Sunday.

The Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Montgomery County Police Department are investigating the woman's death, the Washington Post reports.

According to Operation Rescue, pro-life witnesses outside the clinic said the woman had come from New York for a third-trimester abortion. She visited the clinic each day through Wednesday and appeared "pale and weak."

The woman reportedly began suffering chest pain and other discomfort on the morning of Feb. 7. She unsuccessfully tried to reach Carhart, and her family took her from a hotel to the hospital at about 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

Hospital staff members were also unable to contact Carhart or get assistance from his clinic, Operation Rescue said, citing an anonymous source.

The woman suffered massive internal bleeding and died about 9:30 a.m.

"The avoidable death of this young woman dramatically illustrates the dangers of third trimester abortions that are done outside of the safety of obstetrical standards," Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said Feb. 8.

"It is time for medical boards to put an end to these horrifically dangerous and barbaric third trimester abortions. If they do not, we can only expect Carhart and his associates to send more women to the morgue."

He charged that the incident showed "shoddy practices" and "patient abandonment" that rise to the level of criminal conduct. However, Montgomery County Police Department spokesman Capt. Paul Starks told the Washington Post that there is not yet any indication of criminal activity in the case.

Newman urged the immediate passage of a late-term abortion ban "to protect other women and their viable babies from unnecessary injury and death."

Carhart had previously sparked controversy as a defendant in the U.S. Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Carhart, which resulted in the 2007 ruling that some legislative limits on partial-birth abortion are constitutional.

He relocated much of his practice to Maryland from Nebraska after the state tightened restrictions on late-term abortions.

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