Abortion doctor embraces 'emotionally satisfying career'

WASHINGTON (BP)--America has gained a peek into the closely guarded world of the abortion clinic recently and, as would be expected, it has not been a pleasant sight.

An estimated 47 million abortions have taken place since the procedure was legalized Jan. 22, 1973, by the Supreme Court. In the last 33 years, the practices of abortion doctors and the reasoning of the women who have received abortions have largely remained hidden from the American public. Shame certainly is a factor. The curtain around the abortion clinic normally has been pulled back during this time only when a clinic operator, doctor, nurse or post-abortive woman has turned from past beliefs and practices -- sometimes as a result of being converted to Christ.

One abortionist -- a term William Harrison uses for himself -- has allowed the American public in the last two months, however, to look more closely into his world without having any intention of leaving it. He opened himself, and his clinic in Fayetteville, Ark., up to The Los Angeles Times and ABC News.

Harrison, 70, has performed at least 20,000 abortions, according to the Times. Four days a week, he usually does six abortions a day.

For Harrison, such a use of his medical skills and training does not appear to be something he is ashamed of.

"I've had one of the most emotionally satisfying careers that I can imagine anyone having," Harrison said Jan. 11 on the ABC News program "Nightline." "I can't tell you how satisfying it is when two weeks after a young woman has come in distraught and thinking that her life is ruined, and she comes back two weeks after the abortion and she is a new woman. She's been given her life back."

To both the Times and Nightline, Harrison described as "born again" the women whose children he has aborted.

Nightline co-anchor Martin Bashir said to the doctor, "And for her to be born again, you've had to kill the fetus."

Harrison replied, "That's right."

"And that's a fair exchange?" Bashir asked.

"That's a fair exchange," Harrison said.

"My conscience tells me to do abortions because I consider the mother's life much, much more important than that tiny, little blob of tissue," Harrison told Nightline.

Bashir cited to Harrison as facts these stages in the unborn child's development: The heart is pumping blood after 21 days; brain waves are recorded after 42 days.

"And you are, every day, relentlessly terminating that life," Bashir said to the doctor. "And you are happy with that?"

"Am I happy with it? No, but I'm not distressed about it," Harrison said. "I would be a lot more distressed if I could not terminate that life for the patient that that life is going to be a disaster for."

Bashir also asked him, "When does life begin?"

"When fertilization occurs, that is a new life. And that's why I say that I kill life," Harrison said, while denying the unborn baby is a person, "that I kill something that's potentially a person. It's not a person."

When Harrison mentioned a patient who has had nine abortions, Bashir asked, "Is that really appropriate?"

"If she needs nine abortions, yes," the doctor said.

"Basically, abortion is a method of birth control," Harrison told Nightline. "You know, it's not the best method of birth control, but all it does is stop the birth of the baby that a woman doesn't want at a time she doesn't want it."

According to the Times and Nightline, Harrison said he witnessed the effects of botched abortions on women before the Supreme Court's 1973 action. He opened an obstetrics and gynecology clinic but later started doing abortions.

In the reports, the young women who were interviewed gave reasons for having abortions that focused, as might be expected, on their needs. Harrison clearly did as well.

"[M]y patients who have given up babies for adoption and then had abortions tell me the most difficult thing that they've ever done is to give up a baby for adoption," said Harrison, who does not talk about adoption unless a woman asks about it. "It's not like giving away a puppy."

When asked if she considered adoption, an unidentified 18-year-old woman at Harrison's clinic told Bashir, "I thought about it, but I really thought that ... might be even harder; going through the whole pregnancy stage and seeing the child and then having to give it away I just think would ... really, really tear me up inside."

Sarah, 23, told the Times she was planning her wedding when she became pregnant. "I don't think my dress would have fit with a baby in there," she said.

An unidentified high school volleyball player said she didn't want her body to go through what a pregnancy entails. "I realize just from the first three months how it changes everything," she told the Times.

Amanda, 20, told the Times, "It's not like it's illegal. It's not like I'm doing anything wrong. 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."