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Dedicated Abortion Provider Dr. William Harrison Dies

Dr. William Harrison, 75, an Arkansas abortion provider for over 30 years, passed away on Friday. Harrison was diagnosed with leukemia in May and closed his clinic over the summer, according to the Arkansas Times. The New York Times reports that the obstetrician provided 20,000 abortions during his career, despite being frequently targeted by anti-abortion protesters, who firebombed, blockaded, and vandalized his facility, the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic. In spite of death threats, Harrison continued to provide abortions and high quality care for women in his area, attracting attention in 2005 for providing survivors of Hurricane Katrina with free abortions. In a piece he wrote for the Daily Kos, Harrison cited a particular incident which occurred during his third year of medical school as the impetus for his career choice. While he worked in an Ob-Gyn Service clinic, he examined a middle-aged, poor patient with an abdominal mass. When he told the woman she was pregnant, she replied, “Oh God, doctor. I was hoping it was cancer.” The experience affected Harrison throughout his life and solidified his passion for helping women in need. In 1972, Harrison, a graduate of the University of Arkansas Medical School, and a colleague established the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic. The doctor began providing abortions in 1974, one year after abortion was legalized. According to the New York Times, Harrison delivered over 6,000 babies at the clinic, but then decided to focus his efforts on abortion in order to improve the quality of care he was able to provide for his patients. By 1984, Harrison was the only doctor who performed abortions in his region of northwest Arkansas. Though he personally did not perform third trimester abortions, he would often provide gas money for patients who were seeking them and direct the women to Dr. George Tiller in Kansas, a personal friend who was assassinated by an anti-abortion extremist in June of 2009. Harrison was a fervent defender of abortion rights and published a number of essays and articles detailing his views. He took pride in the opportunity his work provided him to help improve the futures of disadvantaged women and girls.

Sources:

Arkansas Times 9/24/10; New York Times 9/25/10; Daily Kos 5/31/07