On Sunday, for the eighth day running, anti-abortion groups and abortion rights supporters lined up and down Wisteria Drive singing and soliciting honks for their causes.
It's been more than a year since Dr. Leroy Carhart relocated from Nebraska to Germantown, and his office still draws protesters on either side of the abortion debate.
Sunday was supposed to mark the end of a week’s worth of concurrent protests in front of Carhart’s practice — The Summer of Mercy 2.0 for anti-abortion advocates and The Summer of Choice among abortion rights supporters.
At the intersection of Germantown Road and Wisteria Drive, anti-abortion groups in red shirts alternated between hymns like “Amazing Grace,” while others shouted to drivers “We love Babies. Yes we do. We love babies. How about you?”
Down the opposite end of Wisteria Drive at the intersection of Father Hurley Boulevard, there were signs proclaiming love for Carhart, birthday balloons with “choice” printed on them. A protester held up a sign with depiction of a cantankerous baby, apparently double-fisting beers, and telling the world that “for the umpteenth time” he “is a baby not a fetus.” There was also a man dressed like Jesus, complete with stigmata, waving to traffic, eliciting honks and thumbs up signs.
This is what happens when you have two groups passionate about their beliefs.
“This is not a legitimate business and we are asking the community to come out here. We need to shut this guy down,” said the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo, the parochial vicar at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg.
Guarnizo said his group was protesting an injustice. He said women had alternatives.
Protestor Tamara Mendoza was also not in favor of abortion.
“I pray that his heart will be changed, that he realizes what he is doing is wrong,” Mendoza said, referring to Carhart. “I do not hate the man. I am praying for his conversion.”
Volunteers distributed red fliers urging people to pray for the protection of human life.
Meanwhile down the street, abortion rights supporter Michelle Kinsey-Bruns stood behind a green cloth billboard with black letters propped up with shopping carts in support of Carhart.
“Most people think that abortion are things that are done by irresponsible women,” Kinsey-Bruns said. “But the truth of the matter is one in three American women has had an abortion. These are your family members. It is women you love, it is women who you never think would have an abortion. Women of all faiths have abortions.”
National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill said abortion services and abortion research were necessary.
“Do you know what happens in areas where here are no abortion providers?” O’Neill asked. “That is when women try to self abort and predatory butchers set up shop in the back alleys for women to terminate their pregnancies in unhygienic ways. So what we need is good health care including excellent abortion care.”
Weaving back and forth between the “Keep your rosaries off her ovaries” and “Ask me about abortion alternatives” in the two camps are two women; a girl wearing a necklace made of condoms and paper clips and a woman carrying a big sign to let drivers know that she is praying for abortion.
Standing near the sea of red shirts, Janice “Cookie” Pemberton carries a rosary with big orange beads. She said she did not want outsiders thinking all religious people were anti-abortion.
“I refuse to allow them to be the only ones talking about prayer and faith and religion,” Pemberton said. “We just have a difference of opinion. We want as few abortions as possible, but we acknowledge that women are people too and sometimes abortions are necessary.”
Pemberton said she was concerned for all human life not just fetal or maternal. She said that abortion crossed borders beyond being a secular issue to a personal one.
“I will never say that I know better than another human being what should happen in their bodes,” Pemberton said. “I don’t. So maybe I wouldn’t do what they are doing, but I have to believe that person is making the best decision they can make.”