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FIRST-PERSON: The abortion reporter

DALLAS (BP)–Newsweek profiled someone they call “The Abortion Evangelist” in late August. Leroy Carhart of Omaha, Neb., was a colleague and also a friend of notorious and recently murdered late-term abortionist George Tiller. The two were confidants. They’d call each other to discuss tough patients. Carhart says, “We became each other’s therapists.” In their line of work, you’d need therapy.

The Newsweek piece points out that every third Sunday for five years Dr. Carhart would perform abortions in the morning at his Omaha clinic and then drive five hours to Wichita, Kan., so he could spend Monday assisting Dr. Tiller. Carhart didn’t do late-term abortions at his own clinic, only at Tiller’s. These two are the most famous of the very few, probably less than 10, abortionists willing to perform the procedure in a woman’s third trimester. But Carhart has vowed to mentor others so as not to let the process die with him. In fact he’s already got two trainees.

Two cases bearing Carhart’s name have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court. He challenged Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion ban and, in 2000, the high court sided with him, overturning the ban. The procedure involved partially delivering a baby, suctioning its brains, then completing the delivery. Infanticide, in effect. Congress passed a national ban in 2003. Carhart challenged it. This time the Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Carhart now performs an equally gruesome but still legal type of late-term abortion.

What’s unusual about Newsweek’s story is not its pro-abortion bias. That’s normal for the magazine. It’s that the writer, Sarah Kliff, has become a story herself. She’s covered abortion for Newsweek for two years. She describes herself as “well-versed in abortion policy,” the arguments, the legislation, even the passion.

In a separate, more personal Web column, Kliff writes that “both sides feel abortion is an issue worth waging war over.” She describes her first experience actually observing abortions, during her visit to Carhart’s clinic. Each was a first trimester abortion, a 10- to 15-minute procedure — over before she knew it. She saw “a pinkish fluid” flowing through a suction tube, the “contents” of the uterus. To Kliff, there wasn’t the gross-out factor she’d kind of been expecting. It was something different: an emotional reaction to the patients and their families. She’d learned their stories and she realized no one wanted to be there. Some were convinced they were “where they needed to be.” Others weren’t quite so sure.

What a contrast: Leroy Carhart, so certain, so committed to abortion, he won’t take a long vacation because, he says, “you can’t leave women waiting.” He has medical licenses in seven states in case another abortionist is hurt, retires or is, like Tiller, killed, so he can do what he believes needs to be done.

Then there’s his profiler, Sarah Kliff, likely still pro-choice, but now much less comfortably so.
Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the “Point of View” syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody Radio Networks.

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  • Penna Dexter