Text of LeRoy Carhart's 2000 Speech for Republican Majority for Choice
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen….
I am really pleased to be here this morning….in fact my wife of 36 years, Mary, and I, used our frequent flier miles to get here today…
We felt it was important…. especially important because this week as the Republican Party will decide if they really want to call for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or the life of a woman.
First of all, let me tell you, I am a Republican and a member of the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition. Secondly, it was right here…in Philadelphia at Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital --- at Broad and Vine --- where I studied medicine…..so yes, I had a lot of reasons to want to be here today…
I have received a lot of press ---- not of my choosing by the way ---- because of the Supreme Court Case that was just decided over the fictitious issue of partial birth abortion…
I first want to set the record straight…… that Supreme Court decision was never about late term abortion…..or for those that don't understand it…..it was not about performing abortion on a viable fetus..or late term abortion.
I have never, in my 27 years as a physician, performed an abortion on a viable fetus…..never performed a late term abortion… It was about interfering in a doctors judgement on how to provide the best medical services to a woman…..case by case. Forgive me, but many in the press never quite understood that and that's why the public is still confused!!!
Now, please let me backtrack…it was while I was a medical student that I assisted in my first abortion only blocks away from where we stand now. Little did I know, that because of my decision, as a physician, to be well rounded to provide whatever services necessary, that my family and I have been persecuted beyond belief…..
In June 1964 I was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force to defend, even to my death, the constitution of the US. This was during the Viet Nam conflict and was a voluntary commitment --- that means I volunteered . 21 year later, as I retired as a colonel, I thought my duty to the US had ended. However, it became obvious, as a physician , this is not the case, and that, as a defender of that constitution, my life is still on the line….
Let me give you an example…..On Sept 6, 1991, the very day that parental notification became law in Nebraska, my family's home, office, and horse farm were destroyed by fire….killing 17 horses, our dog and our cat… the arsonist was never found. I have been the target of hate mail, hate phone calls and threats to my life almost on a daily basis. I'm often confronted by hostility when my family simply walks off of an airplane.
I have two children - I'm a Dad my children are…32 and 30… Mary and I believe in children…. I also believe that women --for whatever reason --- that cannot handle an unwanted pregnancy should have a choice to end that pregnancy in a safe, legal environment.
Let me tell you more……while working in Pittsburgh, right here in Pennsylvania, I had a patient, accompanied by her mother,….who looked so very familiar…..the staff all reassured me that the mother was one of our regular protesters outside the clinic……….when I examined the teenage girl, it was obvious that she did not want to be pregnant.. Although the girl's mother was a regular protester, the woman supported her daughter's decision to terminate the pregnancy. Following the procedure, the mother escorted the girl out the door, and within weeks "Mom" resumed her post outside the clinic --- with signs to ban all abortion. As she said, her "situation was special". I find a lot of patients with special, different, unique situations.
Let me give you another story…..I saw a 13 year old girl that was brought into the Nebraska clinic by her mother for an abortion …and after speaking with her, it was obvious this girl did not want to have an abortion….Upon examination and my interview, it was clear she had been beaten by her mother with a lamp cord ---like this one - to have an abortion. By the way, that was not the first time I had seen such abuse……. I refused to perform the abortion…….we kept the girl in a room, spoke with her, while my assistants called the child custody protection agency….It was very sad….. again, we did not perform an abortion, the parent was arrested and the girl was placed in foster care and had the child.
Ladies and gentlemen, everybody's situation is different…but now, so is mine…….the Republican Party of Nebraska passed two resolutions at their state party conventions .. The first condemning me and asking all the mayors in the state to refuse to allow me to practice medicine in their communities…..the second demanding the University of Nebraska Medical Center ---- where I serve as research staff --- to discharge me and cease neuro research using donated fetal cells……all because I am upholding the right granted to women in 19713.
My friends, Mary and I could go and just raise horses……….we do not need to be here……..but, I believe in women….I assure you……this is not my income……….I took an oath as a physician…..I believe women deserve respect…..if a woman is not pregnant by choice…and doesn't want to be a mom with that pregnancy…………she should not have to have to carry that pregnancy to term… personally, I believe it's cruel and unusual punishment…..the statistics I hear are that 60 % of the women of child bearing age have had an abortion… most people my age know someone who have died from an illegal, self-induced abortion. I really don't think we want to turn back the clock.
Okay…why am I here….. The Republican Party right now……is calling to outlaw all abortion…..regardless of rape, incest or life of the woman……it was in this city that I learned from my patients the extremes a woman would go to in order to end an unwanted pregnancy….it was in this very city that I witnessed women dying from self attempted, illegal abortion. Is it a coincidence that we return to Philadelphia this week with the desire to keep this fundamental right to abortion ---- that what the Supreme Court Justices said in their very narrow decision --- and, as guaranteed by our constitution?…That was a document penned right here in this city….Yet, we now do battle with another document - the guidelines for my very own Republican Party --- that will be presented before the platform committee this week.
I'm a Republican…… I trust women to make these important decisions for themselves……. And to all of you…..I repeat one more time…. I believe in women and children…….and I want my Party - the Republican Party ---- to do the same. Calling for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortion….is not sensible …..I'm sorry….as a physician………….don't tie our hands on how we doctors …on a case by case basis….decide how to help a woman………..and as a Republican……….it's just too terrifying to imagine those choices being outlawed ….let's work together to help women prevent these unwanted pregnancies….Trust me, Mary and I could just finally enjoy my retirement ……working with horses and children….and watching families grow….but please understand, until I know that these right are safe, we will cannot stop. Doctors must be free to help women the very best way we know how….
Thanks so much for asking me to join you today.