In the wake of a newly passed 20-week, late-term abortion ban, a Nebraska abortionist is heading east to start up clinics in three other states.
Bellevue abortionist LeRoy Carhart announced Tuesday that he is expanding his operations to Iowa, Indiana and Maryland. Carhart, one of 12 doctors nationwide who perform late-term abortions, is taking over an existing clinic in Iowa and opening two new clinics in the east.
"We need a place where we can help our patients, without the harassment of the courts," Carhart told Omaha television station KETV Tuesday.
The Nebraska legislature passed a bill in April stating that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks and banning their abortion after the 20-week gestation mark.
The Nebraska chapter of Right to Life worked closely with state House Speaker Mike Flood to sponsor the bill and ensure its passage. The group is hoping that other states will try to pass similar laws.
"We had a number of contacts after [the fetal pain ban] was passed," reported NRL Executive Director Julie Schmit-Albin. "I would hope that those states where he is going to take his late term business would be interested in passing the law."
Jessica Rogers of the National Right to Life campaign also "encourages our affiliates to make this legislation the priority for 2011."
National Right to Life will be holding a December conference to discuss how other groups can work to pass fetal pain ban legislation in their states.
Meanwhile, Carhart plans to name the clinics the Carhart Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health. The centers will feature late-term abortions as well as vasectomies and screenings for men, supportive services for homosexuals, and adoption help.
Iowans for L.I.F.E. Executive Director Maggie DeWitte says the offer of additional services has not changed its opinion of Carhart's agenda.
"We know what Dr. Cahart is about. We know that he is not welcome in Iowa. We will fight and pull out all the stops to make sure that he is not able to practice in the state of Iowa," said Dewitte.
She says the state has a pro-life governor and new legislature that will likely consider a fetal pain ban. No gestation legislation has been sponsored as of yet.
In the meantime, she says state pro-life groups are gathering this week to discuss strategy. "The groups are well aware of what's happening here and now we looking towards what we're going to do about it," said DeWitte.
Carhart has raised $1.5 million in private funds to open the centers. The first of his clinics will open in Maryland on Dec. 6. The Iowa clinic will reopen in January 2011. There is no word yet when the Indiana clinic will open.
Despite the openings, he does plan on abandoning his Nebraska clinic. Carhart, who has previously disputed abortion laws in the U.S. Supreme Court, says he plans to challenge the Nebraska law so he can continue his practice in the state.