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Offering Abortion, Rebirth

THE NATION | COLUMN ONE

Yes, an Arkansas doctor says, he destroys life. But he believes the thousands of women who have relied on him have been 'born again.'

November 29, 2005|Stephanie Simon | Times Staff Writer

Amanda hasn't told her ex-boyfriend that she's 15 weeks pregnant with his child. She hasn't told her parents, either, though she lives with them.

"I figured it was my responsibility," she says.

She regrets having to pay $750 for the abortion, but Amanda says she does not doubt her decision. "It's not like it's illegal. It's not like I'm doing anything wrong," she says.

"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."

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Before, after and even during an abortion, Harrison lectures his patients on birth control. He urges them to get on the pill and to insist their partners use condoms.

They promise. But Harrison knows many will be back.

His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23, says it never occurred to her to use birth control, though she has been sexually active for six years. When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. "I don't think my dress would have fit with a baby in there," she says.

The last patient of the day, a 32-year-old college student named Stephanie, has had four abortions in the last 12 years. She keeps forgetting to take her birth control pills. Abortion "is a bummer," she says, "but no big stress."

Harrison does not get frustrated with such patients.

He has learned to focus on the facts he considers most important: This woman does not want to be pregnant. He can give her back control of her life and keep a child from coming into the world unwanted. He believes in this so strongly, he waives his fees for women who can't come up with the money.

Last February, Harrison injured his head in a fall. He underwent three surgeries and spent months in rehabilitation. His wife urged him to retire.

"There's no one to take my place," he told her.

As soon as he felt strong enough, Harrison was back in surgery.

He'll keep at it as long as his stamina holds, or as long as it is legal.

Three abortions before lunch and three more after: The appointment book is always full.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Abortion in the U.S.

The U.S. abortion rate has been dropping since 1990, but abortion remains one of the most common surgical procedures for women. A quarter of all pregnancies end in abortion. A third of all American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

Who has abortions

By age:

Under 15: 1%

15-19: 19%

20-24: 33%

25-29: 23%

30-34: 13%

35-39: 8%

40-44: 3%

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Abortions by gestational age

(Weeks of gestation at time of abortion)

*--* BTRLess than 9 59.1% BTR9-10 19.0% BTR11-12 10.0% BTR13-15 6.2% BTR16-20 4.3% BTR21-plus 1.4%

*--*

The normal gestation period is about 40 weeks

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guttmacher Institute

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