Dr. LeRoy Carhart is something of a rockstar among the "reproductive rights" community. The two Supreme Court decisions on partial-birth abortion bear his name: Stenberg v. Carhart, which overturned the state of Nebraska's ban in 2000, and Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal ban in 2007. The subject of a film screened at Sundance and a Newsweek puff piece, Carhart has been portrayed in the media as a heroic man willing to face threats of violence in order to help women procure abortions in the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
Carhart has claimed that he will only perform late-term abortions when there is a complication with the pregnancy, such as when the health of the mother is at stake or when the baby suffers from a disability. "Carhart has a few firm lines; he won't, for example, do elective abortions past 24 weeks, because the fetus is likely viable," Sarah Kliff reported for Newsweek in 2009. "It just makes sense to me," Carhart told Newsweek. "After a certain point in time, the fetus is viable and we have to look at it differently than if it were not viable."
Carhart's deadline for performing an elective abortion on a healthy, viable baby is apparently a month or so later than he claimed. A new undercover video from the group Live Action shows Carhart telling a woman 26 weeks pregnant that he can and will perform a "purely elective" abortion on the baby in Maryland up to 28 weeks (7 months) gestation.
Dr. Carhart: So, um, they’ve got this down as a fetal indication. There’s nothing wrong with the baby that you know of, is there?
Woman: Not that I know of.
Dr. Carhart: OK, I don’t know where that came from or how that got in here...
Woman: Does that mean, fetal indication?
Dr. Carhart: Means there’s something wrong with the baby and that’s why you’re terminating.
Woman: Yeah. No.
Dr. Carhart: This is just purely elective.
Woman: Purely, this is what I wanna do.
Dr. Carhart: And here (coughs) [in Nebraska] we cannot do it, but in Maryland we can do it...
Woman: So, a baby at this age, what am I, 26 weeks?
Dr. Carhart: 26.
Woman: Could not survive? If it was delivered?
Dr. Carhart: If it came out, oh yeah, it probably–probably could, probably. It would be a 50/50 thing, probably.
Woman: Oh, oh, OK.
Dr. Carhart: But we’re OK, we can do by law in Maryland, we can go to 28 weeks.
Some infants born as early as 20 weeks can survive long-term, but Carhart says that seeking an abortion 26 weeks isn't unusual. He says that he has performed more than 20,000 abortions after 24 weeks during his career.
It's also worth pointing out that the restriction on very late abortions in Maryland (and other states) is easily bypassed by invoking an expansive "health" exception. A separate investigation of abortion doctor James Pendergraft in 2012 showed Pendergraft saying that he would perform a late-term abortion under Maryland's health exception if a mother was experiencing "anxiety and stress."
Keep in mind that there is never a medical reason to perform the late-term lethal injection abortions offered on demand by the likes of Carhart and Pendergraft. In this procedure, the doctor kills the baby in utero by injecting poison into her heart and then induces labor to deliver the dead baby. There is no medical reason not to simply induce labor and deliver a live baby.
But advocates of abortion-on-demand continue to claim that all late-term abortions are necessary. “No woman carries their child to six, seven, eight months and then one day decides they don’t want to become a parent,” Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, told Trip Gabriel of the New York Times last week. “These are terrible, tragic situations where families have to make difficult choices with their doctors. I think most Americans believe that’s where they belong.”
The trial of Kermit Gosnell and the statements of LeRoy Carhart indicate that that isn't true.