After more than 30 years in business, the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic in Arkansas closed its doors on July 30. The clinic had more than 500 patients and was “one of only two places in the state where women could have a surgical abortion.” While it focused mainly on obstetrics and gynecology, it also performed 700-800 abortions each year. The Fayetteville Women’s Clinic was also frequently targeted by protesters. Over the years, the office had been firebombed and the doctor kept a gun as a result of all the death threats he received.
40 Days for Life is one of the groups that frequently protested the clinic, run by Dr. William Harrison. It says it practices “a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families.” When the news came that Harrison’s clinic was shutting down, 40 Days for Life staffers praised and took credit for the news:
“This will be the sixth abortion center at a location where 40 Days for Life’s peaceful prayer vigils have been conducted to go out of business,” said Shawn Carney, 40 Days for Life campaign director. “It is truly an answer to prayer that abortions will no longer be carried out at this facility. All the glory belongs to God.” [...]
“How humbling will it be,” asked Carney, “to see God use the simplicity of prayer, fasting, outreach, and vigil to bring an end to abortion in many more areas, just like Fayetteville?”
“We rejoice over the babies that will be saved and the parents who will be spared from a lifetime of regret,” said Juliet Cassell, Fayetteville coordinator for 40 Days for Life, upon learning of the facility’s closure.
The actual reason that Harrison shut down his clinic is that he has leukemia — a fact not mentioned in the 40 Days for Life press release. According to the Fayetteville Flyer, these “health reasons” are why Harrison closed shop, although the doctor said “he plans to make a full recovery and hopefully reopen.”
ThinkProgress contacted David Bereit, 40 Days for Life’s national director, and asked him about this issue. Bereit reiterated that the clinic’s closure was “an answer to prayers,” but still said that he is praying for Harrison:
We have no doubt that the hundreds of volunteers who faithfully prayed outside that facility, as well as the dozens of pro-life counselors who lovingly offered alternatives to potential abortion customers, had an impact on the business of the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic — and this facility’s announced closure is certainly an answer to prayers.
Dr. Harrison and I have communicated on many occasions by e-mail over the last several years, and he knows that the local Fayetteville 40 Days for Life volunteers regularly pray for him and wish him no harm.