Michael Slate Interview with Dr. LeRoy Carhart

“Abortion Is a Human Right”

December 11, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The following are excerpts from a December 1, 2017 interview on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK radio, with Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who has been providing abortion care for over 45 years. And to further assist women, in 2000 Dr. Carhart and his wife Mary Carhart established a non-profit organization, The Abortion Access Fund, Inc., which helps patients pay for abortion care through generous donations from across the U.S. It assists clinic owners in keeping their doors open and supports the opening of new clinics. Dr. Carhart’s mission is to train future providers in advanced gestation abortion care, to insure abortion not only stays legal but accessible in the decades to come.

The Michael Slate Show airs every week at 10 am Pacific Time on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, a Pacifica Network station. The show can also be streamed live and people can listen to or download archived shows.

Revolution/revcom.us features interviews from The Michael Slate Show to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports, and politics. The views expressed by those interviewed are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere by Revolution/revcom.us.


Michael Slate: Dr. Carhart, you recently wrote an op-ed piece for Truth Out, where you pointed to a new escalation in the attacks on a woman’s right to abortion, and you say that anti-abortion politicians are more brazen than ever under the Trump regime.

LeRoy Carhart: This year alone, Michael, in the current legislatures in the United States, there are 424 anti-choice legislative pieces that have been introduced. In the federal government there have been 25 and this is not new this year. The number is new this year. Last year it was like in the 300s, I believe. So, only a few of them get through, but first of all, if you count the countless hours that the politicians spend debating these issues, you know, it makes it understandable why nothing that’s really important in this country gets done, because of the people who can control the congresses or the houses and the senates of the states or the unicameral in my state. They prevent important legislation from ever getting to the floor by tying it up days in committee work. It’s just a total waste of time, not even to look into the fact that everything that they’re proposing is really an assault on women’s health care.

Abortion is health care and health care is a human right and abortion is a human right. You have to draw that line. And the Antis say, “Well, we just want to eliminate the late term abortion, because nobody likes late term abortion.” But, if you ask any of the leaders of the anti-choice what they consider “late term”—that’s the day after conception. So, that’s what they’re trying to eliminate.

Michael Slate: Now, there are people like yourself who say, “The hell with that,” and you’re actually going to stand up against it and you have never stopped providing abortions for women when you’ve been able to do that. They’re talking about a “20-week ban,” which is not only an attack on women but it’s also for people like yourself—that if you continue to stay true to your principles and provide abortions for women, it could actually mean a jail sentence for you.

LeRoy Carhart: Oh, absolutely it could. You know, that’s been their goal. In Nebraska we had a clinic and you know, hindsight is 20/20 and maybe we didn’t handle it right. Maybe we should have challenged the 20-week ban in Nebraska, but now it’s in I think, 26 states or something like that. And of course, the federal government is toying with the issue. If it passes, it’ll get tied up in the courts for two to three years; hopefully, long enough to get someone in Washington who has a little bit of empathy for women’s issues and we can avert disaster. I think it all comes down to one thing and until women get out and demand what’s their choice, it’s not gonna happen. Doctors can’t cause it to happen. Politicians can’t cause it to happen unless the women of this country put them there and they’ve been putting them there. It’s time the women wake up and say, “Enough’s, enough! We have to have people who believe in choice and then we’ll worry about what their other issues are.”

Michael Slate: And there’s got to be a lot more people like you; not just abortion providers but also men who stand up and say this is a woman’s basic, fundamental human right to have an abortion and it should not be toyed with. It should not be turned into a crime.... The last time we spoke, you were talking about the clinic you had established in Germantown, Maryland. Then, I read that this clinic no longer exists, that it was forced to close as a result of the kind of stepped-up assaults by anti-abortionists.

LeRoy Carhart: The issue in Germantown came from a small, I think a relatively small, one-parish church and an organization called, “Kick Carhart Out of Maryland,” They were able to raise in six months over $1.6 million to buy the clinic from the present landlords and pay them a significant bonus over what the value of the clinic was. They had to sign that they would never participate in abortion clinic practice again, that was all part of this deal. But, they sold it to the Maryland Coalition for Life who, on the date of the purchase order being signed or the contract, evicted us. That was also part of the negotiations.

So, we had zero notice. In fact, I worked Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, that week. Flew home to Nebraska. When I landed in Nebraska in the morning on Thursday, there was an email to call. When I called the clinic manager, she said, “We’ve been evicted. I’m locked out and we can’t get the records.” We ended up even having to go into court to get the medical records out of the hands of the anti-choice people. I mean, the old owners had them but they wouldn’t release them to us because they didn’t feel that that was what they were going to do. Our biggest worry was that they were going to be compromised and the patients compromised.

We now have the records. We were able to win that court suit. But this is a small parish. This is one church and one small organization able to raise $1.6 million in six months to close one clinic. The owners had two clinics that they owned, but they bought one and the other one they just had to step away from. It’s crazy! You know, everything comes down—this issue is like every other issue in life. It’s time and money and that’s what we don’t have. I mean, the women don’t have time because their issues are critical. It may be two to three months from the time they find out they’re pregnant till they can’t have anything else done....

I just know what I think we need to do and that’s to train more doctors. I’d love to see first trimester abortions go back to OB-GYN offices and be done by their primary care doctors. And I think there’s need for specialty abortion clinics after that, because unless you do a lot of something in medicine, you probably shouldn’t do any of it. So, to keep abortions safe and legal, we’re going to need clinics to take care of the women after the first trimester. That’s where we are and that’s what I’m trying to do is to train the doctors to take care or to even give them a chance to realize what the patients need.

In medical schools in this country the doctors are not exposed to patients who are in need of terminations, so they never have any idea what the patients are going through. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been working closely with some of the medical programs to have their docs just come in, sit and talk to the patients; understand why they’re here and understand that this is not a black and white issue. This is really, well, I guess it kind of is a black and white issue. It’s the mother’s decision of what this child is going to bring into her life—either a lifetime of joy or a lifetime of disaster. She’s the only one who knows the answer to that issue.

Michael Slate: There was kind of a special significance to this forced shutdown in that it was one of the few clinics in the country that provided abortion no matter what. No matter if it was at the very beginning of a pregnancy or if it was a late term. If a woman needed it, you would give it to her. Let’s talk about the importance of that.

LeRoy Carhart: Right now, there are three clinics that are willing to admit that we’re doing the later abortions. There are three docs in Albuquerque, New Mexico and there’s one doctor in Boulder [Colorado] and there’s myself on the East Coast. Just the fact that you’re willing to tell people that you’re out there for them, it takes a serious amount of deciding to give up your own personal safety and personal life. I mean, we know that we’re going to be harassed if we tell the people that this is what we’re doing. But, the women also need to know that our services are available, because we had a patient a couple weeks ago, right after we opened here, 28 or 29 weeks pregnant with a baby that could not survive, she had been told at 24 weeks there was nothing she could do. And it wasn’t until the word about the closing of this clinic and the unavailability hit the media, that she went to her doctors and said, “You can’t tell me that there’s nothing I can do. I need to find them.” She eventually found us on the internet and at 29 weeks was able to take care of her problem. It should have been taken care of at 24 or 25 weeks.

And so we can’t blame women for choosing late abortions or late term abortions. I hate that definition because as I said before, “late term” is the day after conception in some people’s mind. Later gestation, advanced gestation abortions, they happen because of a myriad of problems. I don’t think one ever happens because, [a woman says] “Well, I’ve been pregnant for 28 weeks so, I think I don’t want it anymore.” That’s just not there.

Michael Slate: That’s a very important point and this gets into the importance of independent abortion clinics and providers—something that you’ve always fought for. It’s extremely important that women are able to find clinics like what you’re operating, because it comes down to basically, not just an assault on the rights of women but an assault on, as you have said, the actual humanity of women and their ability to actually control their own bodies; to do what they need and feel they have to or want to do. And people should know that your clinic was not shut down in Maryland. You did rise up and start a whole new clinic. Tell people about that.

LeRoy Carhart: We were able to find a building. Actually, it has about a third more space than the last clinic did. It was close enough so we could keep the same staff, so we lost nobody as far as the trained staff. In any business, a good staff is the key to your success. It’s not what you bring to it, it’s what you select and help find other people to train them to do to make it really a good issue. We have better hours. We’re going to be able to provide service longer. I’ve had requests from doctors to come and be trained to start doing abortions with us and then look to the point of maybe branching out and opening another practice somewhere else in the country.



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