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Late-term abortion doctor to practice in Md. facility

One of the country's most prominent late-term abortion doctors will begin offering the procedure in Maryland beginning next week, a professional association announced Tuesday.

Dr. Leroy Carhart will begin performing both early and late-term abortions at Germantown Reproductive Health Services next week, said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortion providers, of which the Germantown facility is a member.

Carhart, who is based in Nebraska but is licensed to practice medicine in Maryland, announced earlier in November that he intended to set up shop in the Washington area and in Iowa because of a Nebraska law banning most abortions after 20 weeks into pregnancy.

Saporta said Carhart will provide abortions through the second trimester of a pregnancy at the Germantown facility, which now provides earlier abortions.

"We think that it's important that women are able to access safe, high-quality abortion care, and do so without having to travel great distances," Saporta said. "Expanding care in Germantown will expand women's access to needed abortion care."

Carhart was a colleague of the Kansas doctor George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider who was fatally shot at his church in 2009, and has himself been the target of threats and violence.

Carhart could not be immediately reached for comment. In a 2009 interview with Newsweek, he said that he does not perform elective abortions past 24 weeks into a pregnancy, when a fetus has a good chance of survival.

John Nugent, the president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said the group's clinics are certified to perform second-trimester abortions up to 19 weeks into a pregnancy. Another Maryland provider, Integrated OB-GYN Services, advertises abortions available up to 26 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period.

Carhart's move to Maryland comes amid an investigation into the practices of a New Jersey doctor, Steven C. Brigham, whom authorities ordered in August to stop practicing medicine in the state after it was revealed he was having patients drive from New Jersey to perform late-term abortions on them in Maryland, where Brigham had no medical license.

One of those patients suffered a ruptured bowel and uterus during a botched abortion by Brigham and his Maryland colleague Nicola I. Riley in August, and had to be transported by helicopter to Johns Hopkins Hospital for emergency surgery.

Riley's license was suspended in August, and the Maryland Board of Physicians last week revoked the license of another of Brigham's colleagues, George Shepard, Jr., for practicing medicine with Brigham in the state.

Local opponents of abortion said the Brigham case and Carhart's move here indicate that Maryland's less restrictive regulations have made it a hub for doctors wanting to perform late-term abortions in a more lax environment.

"Maryland does not want to be a safe haven for these late-term abortionists," said Nancy Paltell, the associate director of the Respect For Life program at the Maryland Catholic Conference. "I'm very upset that he's coming here. It's not fair to Maryland women."

But Nugent said Carhart and Brigham are not comparable.

"One's a very respected physician in the field, and the second one has a cease-and-desist order from the Board of Physicians," Nugent said. "I just don't think that there's any comparison."

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