Harrison Explaining Why He "Provides Abortions"
Part Three of Three
By Dave Andrusko
I read that Arkansas abortionist William Harrison had died
Friday at the age of 75, I thought of his family, for whom his
death must be a grievous blow, the enthusiasm with which he
lambasted pro-lifers as "right-wing crazies," and two very
telling quotes that appeared in a very sympathetic 2005 Los
Angeles Times profile.
A 17-year-old in for a
consultation "assures the nurse that she doesn't consider the
embryo inside her to be a baby. 'Not until it's developed,' she
says. 'That would be about three months?'
"'It's completely formed
about nine weeks,' the nurse tells her. 'Yours is more like a
In the story, Harrison
told Stephanie Simon of the Times that he had performed "at
least" 20,000 abortions. Subscribing to the same philosophy as
his nurse, "We try to make sure she doesn't ever feel guilty,"
he says of choosing an abortion, "for what she feels she has to
Simon wrote that "Harrison
draws his own moral line at the end of the second trimester or
26 weeks since the first day of the woman's last menstrual
Until that point, he will
abort for any reason. 'It's not a baby to me until the mother
tells me it's a baby,' he says.
"But Harrison refuses to
end third-trimester pregnancies, even if the fetus is severely
disabled," Simon wrote. "Some premature infants born at that
stage (or even a few weeks earlier) can survive. Harrison thinks
that they might be developed enough to feel pain in utero."
Flash-forward to the
obituaries. Harrison "readily admitted that he destroyed life,
but denied that he killed babies," according to the New York
Times. "His view was that an embryo was far from being a human
being with a brain."
My guess is that reporter
Douglas Martin might be referring to a piece Harrison wrote for
the Daily Kos in 2007 entitled, "Why I provide abortions." In
that long entry Harrison offered an elaborate and detailed
rationale for his actions.
In the final paragraphs,
Harrison tells the reader that "my mother always said to me,
'the Lord has a special purpose for your life.'" He writes that
he loved delivering babies (some 6,000 altogether) but by 1983
he had to make a "Sophie's choice" between bringing babies into
the world and making sure that they did not arrive.
He chose the latter.
Twenty-two years later he also choose to offer free abortions to
survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
Harrison ended his Daily
Kos essay by offering a "short answer" to the rhetorical
question of why he provides abortion. In remembering the request
of a woman for an abortion long ago, "I eventually heard… a
still, small voice asking, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go
for us?' to which I was at last compelled to reply, 'here am I,
For the few for whom this
is unfamiliar, the latter is an allusion to the prophet Samuel,
responding to God's call.
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