The troubled past of embattled abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart
Late term abortionist LeRoy Carhart has been in the news ever since he botched an abortion on 29-year-old schoolteacher Jennifer Morbelli. Morbelli was 33 weeks pregnant with her daughter, who had been diagnosed as having a disability. She died on February 7, 2013 at Germantown Reproductive Health Services, one of the abortion clinics where Carhart works. Morbelli apparently bled to death after amniotic fluid entered her bloodstream and affected her blood’s ability to clot.
Jennifer Morbelli is not the first women that Carhart has killed. In 2005, a mentally handicapped rape victim named Christin Gilbert died after another third-trimester abortion performed by Carhart. This abortion was done in Kansas at the same late-term abortion clinic where Dr. George Tiller practiced. Gilbert went through the first stages of the abortion procedure: a poisonous injection of digoxin into the heart of the baby, and dilation of her cervix. Then she was sent to a nearby hotel. Gilbert expelled her dead baby on the way back to the abortion clinic.
When she arrived, Dr. Carhart discovered that there was a tear in her uterus. However, despite this clear risk factor, he gave her the dangerous drug RU-486. RU-486 is generally used to terminate pregnancies in the first 7 to 9 weeks. Some late-term abortionists use it to cause the uterus to expel any remaining blood or tissue after the dead baby is delivered. Dr. Carhart gave Gilbert this drug, which has never been approved for use under these conditions, despite the tear in her uterus.
Gilbert was then sent back to the hotel – but not for long. After unsuccessfully trying to contact LeRoy Carhart when Gilbert began bleeding heavily, Gilbert’s parents took her back to the clinic. By now, she was semiconscious and rapidly losing blood. At the clinic, Gilbert collapsed. According to the autopsy report, she became “unresponsive.” However, the clinic delayed calling 911 for 40 to 45 minutes. When an employee finally called 911, the transcript shows that she insisted that the ambulance arrive without lights and sirens, so as to avoid drawing attention. She also put 911 on hold for 48 seconds – crucial seconds – during the time that Gilbert was in cardiac arrest, while she allegedly spoke to Carhart about how to deal with the situation. According to the 911 operator, the clinic worker was “evasive” about Gilbert’s condition. She did not indicate that it was a dire emergency. The ambulance took nine minutes to get to the clinic, and took Gilbert away. Gilbert died at Wesley Medical Center.
Both Gilbert and her baby had been physically healthy prior to the abortion.
Complaints against Carhart go all the way back to 1991. In 1991, a clinic employee filed a complaint against Carhart, saying that he:
- Altered a patient chart on February 14, 1991
- Engaged in telephone conversations during procedures
- Refused to follow proper infection control procedures dealing with a patient with active tuberculosis June 14, 1991
- Fell asleep injecting a patient June 14, 1991
The same whistle-blower also said that Carhart left a patient on the operating table while he went outside to throw rocks “at the procedure room window” (1).
The Germantown reproductive services clinic, where Morbelli died, was also the target of an investigation into the illegal dumping of medical waste. Between August 2011 and May 2012, Operation Rescue documented Carhart and his employees dumping the following in the clinic trash:
- Documents containing private patient information, including photocopies of patient driver’s licenses, information about birth control prescriptions, and detailed information about a 15-week abortion for which the patient was charged $2,200.
- Bloody refuse, including bloody sanitary napkins and blue pads, some of which contained blood clots and possible human fetal remains.
- Also dumped were partially full bottles of IV drugs that are classified as controlled substances and other drugs.
This obvious health hazard and breach of patient confidentiality was reported to the Board of Health.
Dr. Carhart also got in trouble for animal neglect and cruelty. In July of 1992, four horses and two dogs were removed from Carhart’s property by the Humane Society. The situation was so severe that the animal control officers felt that the animals were in imminent danger of death and therefore took them immediately without obtaining a warrant. According to an article in a local paper:
The horses, two brown and two white, appeared to be in various states of neglect. … The two white horses both appeared thin, with their rib cages visible. Johnson [an animal control officer] said they were older horses and pointed to bite marks on their backs that she said were caused by younger horses forcing them away from what food was available.
The fourth horse, estimated to be 25 to 30-year-old Arabian female, was clearly in bad shape, with rib cages protruding and bones stark against her skin[.] …
The barn was about a foot deep in what appeared to be mud and excrement[.]
Dr. Carhart was also very involved in defending partial-birth abortion from attempts to ban the procedure. Partial-birth abortions, now illegal, were performed by delivering the baby feet-first up until the head, then using surgical scissors to stab the back of the skull and a catheter to suck out the brains. Carhart was the plaintiff in several abortion cases and testified under oath in defense of the procedure. In the following transcript, he discusses his method of destroying unborn babies.
First he describes a D&E – a dismemberment abortion:
Carhart: My normal course would be to dismember [the] extremity and then go back and try to take the fetus out either foot or skull first, whatever end I can get to first.
How do you go about dismembering that extremity?
Carhart: Just traction and rotation, grasping the portion that you can get a hold of which would be usually somewhere up the shaft of the exposed portion of the fetus, pulling down on it through the os, using the internal os as your counter traction and rotating to dismember the shoulder or the hip or whatever it would be. Sometimes you will get one leg and you can’t get the other leg out.
In that situation… Are you… When you pull on the arm and remove it, is the fetus still alive?
Do you consider an arm, for example, to be substantial portion of the fetus?
Carhart: In the way I read it, I think if I lost my arm, that would be a substantial loss to me. I think I would have to interpret it that way
And then what happens if you remove the arm? You then try to remove the rest of the fetus?
Carhart: Then I would go back and attempt to either bring the feet down or bring the skull down, or even sometimes you bring the other arm down and remove that also and then get the feet down.
At what point is the fetus… Does the fetus died during that process?
Carhart: I don’t really know. I know that the fetus is alive during the process most of the time because I can see the fetal heartbeat on the ultrasound.
Next he describes a partial-birth abortion:
Carhart: We remove the feet and continue with traction on the feet until the abdomen and the thorax come through the cavity. At that point, I would try… You have to bring the shoulders down, but you can get enough of them outside, you can do this with your finger outside the uterus, and then at that point the fetal… The base of the fetal skull is usually in the cervical canal.
What do you do next?
Carhart: And you can reach that, and that’s where you would rupture the fetal skull to some extent and aspirate the contents out.
At what point in that process does fetal demise occur between initial remove… Removal of the feet or legs and the crushing of the skull or – I’m sorry – the decompressing of the skull?
Carhart: Well, you know, again, this is where I’m not sure what fetal demise is. I mean, I honestly have to share your concern, your honor. You can remove the cranial contents and the fetus will still have a heartbeat for several seconds or several minutes; so is the fetus alive? I would have to say probably, although I don’t think it has any brain function, so it’s brain-dead at that point.
So the brain death might occur when you begin suctioning out of the cranium?
Carhart: I think brain death would occur because the suctioning to remove contents is only two or 3 seconds, so somewhere in that period of time, obviously not when you penetrate the skull, because people get shot in the head and they don’t die immediately from that, if they’re going to die at all, so that probably is not sufficient to kill the fetus, but I think removing the brain contents eventually will. (2)
When Carhart made a speech to a pro-choice organization The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, he summed up his position on partial-birth abortion succinctly:
We’re not asking for the right to suck the brains out of every child that walks down the street, we need to continue to offer safe abortions to women who need them to be done. (3)
- Chronicle/Examiner 9-19-93; Detroit News 9-5-93; 846 – Omaha World-Herald 7-26-91, 8-11-92, 4-13-93, 5-17-93, 6-3-93; Herald-Times 7-9-92; Letter to health department 6-21-94, Douglas County District Court Doc. 899, Petition for Disciplinary Action
- Testimony of LeRoy Carhart, M.D. Quoted in Randy Alcorn “Pro-life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments” (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2000) page 207-208
- Dr. LeRoy Carhart, addressing the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Omaha World-Herald, 1/2001