Old Georgetown Road “Pro-Lifers” need to stop


Courtesy of Maggie Canniff

A pro-lifer stands on Old Georgetown Road holding a sign in defense of the cause. Protesters like this individual arrive outside the clinic daily and are fairly adamant about making a stand.

I was driving with my dad today, on the way to grab dinner for our family, when I passed the Old Georgetown Road abortion clinic. When I turned my head to look out the window, I was greeted by a parade of sixty-year-old white men holding signs of dead fetuses and rosaries. I was appalled. As a feminist, a woman and frankly just a human being, I couldn’t have been angrier. For someone who has never had to experience the hardships of womanhood to be standing in front of a clinic that assists women with incredibly personal matters, holding nothing less than the most triggering images imaginable. I just sat in a state of anger, wondering how these people could get away with such a thing.

All WJ students are familiar with these so-called “pro-lifers.” The regular harassment and very up-close interactions that many students have had with these individuals have been far from pleasant. Many wonder who they are or where they come from. While it seems as though anyone is “welcome” to join in on the protests, the people that we are so frequently greeted with are mostly part of a “Pro-Life Ministry” at St. Jane de Chantal Parish on Old Georgetown Road. They participate in frequent prayers over the clinic as well as what they call, “prayerful” protests.

The clinic itself is run by Doctor LeRoy Carhart, a doctor who has come under much scrutiny by the anti-choice community as “evil” for facilitating late-term abortions. Some have said that Carhart is “bad for business”, implying that he exists only to “kill babies.”

Only, Carhart is nothing of the sort. He is a highly qualified medical professional. Many anti-choicers will argue that he was responsible for a woman’s death. While admittedly, there was one instance in which a procedure did not go to plan, it was not because of Carhart and his actions, but because of issues that the patient had outside of Carhart’s control. Carhart has been responsible for saving the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of women and has been performing abortions lawfully for over thirty years.

While the area of land that the protestors stand on is public property, they often stop pedestrians from safely navigating the sidewalk. As they frequently stand outside in protest during lunch hour, Walter Johnson students have to engage in very troublesome interactions with the protestors. If these individuals were simply standing on public property, holding rosaries, and praying, then I suppose the protesting wouldn’t be as troubling. But the gruesome images, parading, and intimidation tactics used by the protesters are what makes such an act of free speech so unbelievably wrong.

In the past, the police have allegedly been contacted and the pro-lifers have been told to stop displaying their triggering images. While they listened for some time, they soon returned to their old ways. Due to the persistence of these protests, it is almost as though the police have just given up on any attempts at stopping them.

Even beyond just the mere protesting, nurses at the clinic have reported that some protestors frequently attempt to enter the building. In 2017, Dr. Carhart was forced out of his Germantown clinic because of anti-choice opposition. Issues of security are at stake here.

While completely banning the protestors from standing in front of the white picket fence would be an impossibility as this is public land, there must be more stringent rules set regarding the display of disturbing images and the blocking of the sidewalk that often ensues, enforced by the Montgomery County Police. This matter has gone beyond an expression of free speech. Random churchgoers shouldn’t be allowed to make women feel guilty for something that doesn’t even concern them.