SILVER SPRING – As the push to outlaw abortions mounts throughout the country, an abortion clinic in Bethesda is looking for ways to better handle an expected influx of patients from throughout the country.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, during the first half of this year, state legislatures around the United States have enacted 58 abortion restrictions, 26 of which would ban all, most or some abortions.
According to Lily Bolourian, director of development and political engagement at AbortionClinics.org on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, “We have seen a little uptick” in the number of pregnant women coming to the clinic from outside Maryland.
“We have patients from all across the country and all across the world,” she said.
The clinic staff is preparing to be able to assist even more women, because of the “very serious possibility” that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that protects a woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions, could be overturned, Bolourian said.
The staff is seeking more volunteers willing to escort pregnant women into the facility as well as increased funding, she said.
“We are working to expand,” Bolourian noted.
While other facilities perform abortions and some ob-gyn doctors do as well, AbortionClinics.org is rare in that it performs advanced-gestation abortions, which take place after the first trimester.
“To my knowledge, there are only about four or five in the whole country” that specialize in second- and third- trimester abortions, Bolourian said.
When asked why AbortionClinics.org settled here, she said, “Maryland has really great laws that are really respectful” of patients.
Bolourian said concerns from recent court cases and state laws may confuse some women into believing they can no longer obtain a legal abortion.
“We are concerned due to the rhetoric,” she said. “Some think it’s already illegal. We want to make sure all women know it’s still legal, and it is not a crime” to have an abortion.
“It’s still the law of the land,” she emphasized.
If unable to obtain a legal abortion, women may resort to ending their unwanted pregnancies in ways that could damage their health.
“If people want to get an abortion, they are going to have an abortion,” Bolourian said.
Protesters at the clinic, located close to Walter Johnson High School, “are not as emboldened here in Maryland” as they are in other parts of the country, Bolourian said.
“I think it is because they are not as welcome here,” she said. “People in Montgomery County don’t want to see photos blown up with alleged aborted fetuses,” she said.
The few protesters they do have usually come by the clinic on Sundays and holidays like Mother’s or Father’s Day, she said.
The number of protesters “varies from week to week,” as does the number of women seeking abortions, she said.
Because the clinic also performs pap tests and annual physical exams, protesters are not able to know who is coming to the clinic for an abortion.
The clinic warns all its patients to be wary of protesters, however. In large letters on its website, it states, “Beware! Please Note: Anyone Standing on our Sidewalks are ANTI-abortion Protesters.”
The clinic strives to keep its female patients as safe as possible. Its double door entrance contains a metal detector, and anyone entering must show photo identification.
In May 1992 by Dr. LeRoy and Mary Lou Carhart founded AbortionClinics.org. Dr. LeRoy Carhart is still the medical director. He has been performing abortions since 1970.
He retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and currently works full time providing abortions, teaching other providers, and as a consultant to abortion and family clinics throughout the country.