Statement of LeRoy Carhart, M.D.
Three years ago, in a case in which I was the plaintiff, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down my home state of Nebraska’s law banning so-called “partial-birth abortion.” That decision reaffirmed our Constitution’s protection for women’s basic right to safeguard their health and reproductive choices. It was an important victory for my patients, for every woman in the United States and for the practice of medicine in this country.
Today President Bush signed a federal law that attempts to do what Nebraska has already tried and failed to do. This statute prohibits doctors from using the safest medical procedures to terminate pregnancies starting very early in the second trimester. By signing this law, President Bush has put my patients’ health, their reproductive abilities and their very lives at risk.
I am challenging this new federal law for the same reasons I challenged the Nebraska abortion ban: it is an attack on women’s right to obtain safe abortions and it is unconstitutional.
I have just been informed that Judge Koph has issued a temporary restraining order based on a failure of the law to contain a health exception. This will prevent the Attorney General and his staff from using this act against me, my patients, all physicians that I refer to and all physicians that refer to me.
As an abortion provider, it is my duty to use the safest procedures I have available once a patient decides to terminate her pregnancy. In America, abortion is one of the safest of all surgical procedures performed by doctors. Part of the reason is that, since Roe, doctors have been able to develop new techniques – or variations of older procedures – to deal with the unique aspects of each pregnancy and each woman patient they see. I have spent over 1000 hours in post-graduate medical training in the specialty of abortion practices. I have trained with, studied with, and taught doctors throughout the United States, Europe, South America and Australia to improve abortion practice. My goal is, at all times, to use the techniques that are best suited to protecting the health of the women who seek my care. This law would, however, force me put aside that goal in order to meet the demands of politicians and federal prosecutors.
As a doctor, it is my duty to ensure that my patients receive the best medical care available to them. Doctors, not politicians, are trained to determine the best course of care for their patients. In their zeal to press forward their political agenda, however, supporters of this law have ignored the medical groups that oppose these bans, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG, which represents 90% of the board-certified OB-GYNs in this country, wrote a strongly supportive amicus brief in my suit against the Nebraska ban. Yet, rather than leaving medicine in the hands of doctors, politicians have again chosen to enact a broadly written law that bans far more than they will admit in public. Like the Nebraska law, this criminal ban will frighten doctors away from offering the medical services that are best for their patients.
As an American, and as one who volunteered to serve his country for over twenty years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, I feel it is my duty to fight attempts to undermine our Constitution and the ideals we hold dear. These include the right to life, liberty and to be free from government intrusion into such intensely personal decisions as whether to have a child. And certainly from being forced to accept less safe medical options because it makes a politician feel good. The Supreme Court has ruled again and again that American women have the constitutionally protected right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, and that the government cannot impose restrictions that will endanger their health. However, supporters of this law have also chosen to ignore the Supreme Court and to again enact a law that that will harm women’s health.
I have been a doctor for thirty years. I have seen first hand the terrible human toll taken by laws that bar women from obtaining safe, legal abortions. I assure you we do not want to return to that terrible time. I cannot stand by and allow American women to die for no reason. I will therefore do everything in my power to prevent this harmful law from taking effect. That is why I am joining legal advocates, fellow providers and patients in a fight to protect women’s health, and doctors’ right to provide the best medical care available.
As a doctor, a father, a husband, and, most important, as an American who believes in a woman’s right to choose, I am challenging this dangerous, deceptive, unconstitutional law, just as I did in Stenberg v. Carhart.
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