State investigating possible link between woman’s death and Germantown abortion clinic -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 12.

The state medical examiner is investigating the death of a New York woman who sought a late-term abortion from a controversial Germantown clinic.

Jennifer McKenna Morbelli, 29, was pronounced dead at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital on Feb. 7, according to Bruce Goldfarb, spokesperson for the chief medical examiner.

The Maryland Coalition for Life pinned her death on Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a Nebraska-based physician who began performing abortions at the Germantown Reproductive Health Services clinic in 2010.

The clinic, on Executive Park Terrace, was granted a state license on Feb. 6 to perform surgical abortions. The Maryland Coalition for Life held a rally on the clinic’s steps later that week to register its outrage over Morbelli’s death.

“The community here calls upon the state of Maryland to do something immediately,” Maryland Coalition for Life Executive Director Michael Martelli said at the rally on Feb. 8. Martelli called for Carhart’s medical license to be revoked.

Carhart did not respond to multiple calls for comment on Monday or Tuesday.

According to the coalition, Morbelli was 33 weeks pregnant when she came to the Germantown clinic for an abortion. After Carhart performed the procedure, her health deteriorated, the coalition claims. She was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead on the morning of Feb. 7.

Morbelli was a teacher at Church Street Elementary School in White Plains, N.Y., according to an obituary published in The Journal News. The obituary states Morbelli “passed away suddenly” with her daughter, who was to be named Madison Leigh. Her funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks said their investigation of Morbelli’s death is currently on hold until they receive the chief medical investigator’s report. Starks verified that Morbelli had an abortion procedure done at the Germantown clinic, but he could not definitively say if the doctor performing the procedure was Carhart.

Maryland law permits abortions before the fetus is viable, or if the procedure is necessary to protect the life and health of the mother. An abortion is also permitted if the fetus has genetic defects, serious deformities or abnormalities.

Although an anti-abortion website claimed the Maryland Attorney General’s office is investigating Carhart’s clinics on unrelated charges, spokesman Alan Brody said the office would have no comment.

Carhart was featured in a documentary, “After Tiller,” about four doctors who perform late-term abortions in the U.S. The documentary was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

scarignan@gazette.net