Voice of Choice



A short while ago, I got the word that there would be a “big protest” in front of Germantown Reproductive Health Services, an abortion clinic in Maryland.  It’s the clinic where Doctor Lee Carhart works a few days a week.  It had become a “famous” gathering site because Doctor Carhart performs later abortions.  It had been years since I actually saw a protest and a while since I had talked to Lee, so I decided to drive up to the event.



When I make the left hand turn off the main road that morning, I was immediately confronted by the usual “Big Dead Fetus Truck,” as we used to call them.  I am, of course, used to the pictures but I couldn’t help thinking about a mother and her child innocently turning that same corner and seeing this ugliness.

It was a big crowd, maybe four hundred anti-abortion protestors.  They were standing on the sidewalk in front of a large office complex and the clinic itself was in the back, not visible to the protestors.  What struck me right away was the silence.  I have been so used to loud, blaring bullhorns, people screaming at the patients, escorts and staff at the top of their lungs.  This event, however, was different and it seemed like anti-abortion activists may be exploring different ways of making their point.  Except for the truck, there were no other gross signs.  People weren’t screaming.  Instead they were singing and praying quietly in groups.  Some were carrying signs, but they were mostly signs about “regretting” ones abortion and other low-key messages.

There were several county police cars patrolling the area and I do have to say that I was disturbed to see them just watching a woman near the car entry way practically stopping card by holding out brochures for them to take.  I felt it was obstructing vehicular traffic, but the police let it go.

I wanted to visit Doctor Carhart, so I walked up to a police car.  They were understandably suspicious of who I was so I told them I would call Lee from my mobile phone.  I got him right away and he said of course I could come in.  So, I just told the police and they waived me in.  Later, I got chills thinking that I could have been a clever assassin who really wasn’t talking to Lee Carhart.  Yes, I still might have had a tough time actually entering the clinic because they had a buzzer system, but I also could have just waited right outside the clinic door where there were absolutely no cops.

I had a pleasant meeting with Lee and his wife.  While he was certainly aware of the scene outside, Lee is used to the attention and it doesn’t phase him at all.  We talked about his work, how the clinic was doing, conventions he would be going to and speaking engagements.  He was, as always, very laid back, almost like the “country doctor.”

When I left the clinic, I hung around, not talking to anyone except a few pro-choicers across the street, including Todd Stave, the founder of Voice of Choice, a group that organizes hundreds of phone calls to particularly aggressive anti-abortion protestors.  Then, I dove back into the crowd and, to be perfectly honest, was totally bored.

And I guess “boring” is okay in a situation like this.  They are exercising their right to free speech, they are not threatening anyone.  The cops are there to keep the peace if necessarily (although a little loosely) and every woman got to the clinic with no incidents.

Sometimes boring is good.