Profile of an abortion clinic

The L.A. Times visits an Arkansas clinic and talks to doctors, nurses and patients about the reality -- not the ideology -- of abortion.

Published November 29, 2005 7:14PM (EST)

The Los Angeles Times published an extraordinarily nuanced portrait today of an abortion clinic run by Dr. William F. Harrison in Arkansas, a state where the constitution sets out "to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth."

"Harrison warns every patient he sees that abortion may be illegal one day. He wants to stir them to activism, but most women respond mildly.

"'I can't imagine the country coming to that,' says Kim, 35, in for her second abortion in two years.

"A high school senior says the issue won't weigh heavily when she evaluates candidates. 'There's other issues I see as more important,' she says, 'like whether they'll raise taxes.'"

Harrison is unabashed about the fact that he destroys life, but also feels he is giving his patients their life back.

This seemingly contradictory sentiment is exemplified by one of his 18-year-old patients. "'There's things wrong with abortion,' the patient says. 'But I want to have a good life. And provide a good life for my child.' To keep this baby now, she says, when she's single, broke and about to start college, 'would be unfair.'"

To weed out women who are unsure about getting an abortion, Harrison's nurse has posted statistics -- one out of every four pregnant women in the U.S. chooses an abortion, and a third of all women in the U.S. will have at least one abortion by the time they're 45 -- in the exam room.

"'You think there's room in hell for all those women?' the nurse will ask.

"If the woman remains troubled, the nurse tells her to go home and think it over."

The piece goes on to quote several other young women, including a 20-year-old administrative assistant, who says she is totally unashamed about ending her pregnancy. "'It's an everyday occurrence,' she says as she waits for her 2:30 p.m. abortion. 'It's not like this is a rare thing ... I've been praying a lot and that's been a real source of strength for me. I really believe God has a plan for us all. I have a choice, and that's part of my plan.'"

Harrison, who is 70 and suffered a head injury last winter, refuses to retire because there is "no one to take my place." Before giving up obstetrics in 1991, he delivered 6,000 babies. He has terminated 20,000 pregnancies.

Read this piece.

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

MORE FROM Lori Leibovich

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