We've always thought of Dr. William F. Harrison as the Gary Cooper of Northwest Arkansas, but unlike Cooper, whose townspeople wouldn't come to his aid in "High Noon," Harrison had friends and patients standing with him against the villains. He didn't have to furnish all the courage himself, though he furnished plenty. Obviously, there's a better class of people in Fayetteville than whatever that town was where Cooper was marshal. Probably someplace in Arizona.
Surely somebody will produce an uplifting made-for-TV movie of the Harrison story. A small-town physician, beloved for delivering half the babies in town, begins caring for his patients in still another way after the Roe v. Wade decision. He performs abortions for women desperate to obtain them, and he continues doing so even after other physicians have been frightened from the field, or murdered. Terrorists threaten him and his family; they picket his office daily; they make inflammatory comments to the news media, in case there are any idle assassins in the neighborhood. But Harrison won't back down, and neither will his supporters. They stand up to the anti-abortion mob; they push back. Eventually, it's the anti-abortionists who give up and go home, and Harrison continues to tend to his patients and to champion abortion rights. Fayetteville remains a safe haven for women who seek dominion over their own bodies.
But nothing lasts forever, and nobody. Now 74, Harrison closed his practice last week. Suffering from leukemia, he's no longer able to see patients. It's a great loss to Fayetteville, and to freedom.
Some people seem to derive a twisted pleasure from denying medical care to others, such as the pregnant, the elderly, and the poor. Nine Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate have been identified as either voting to end Medicare as we know it, or saying that it should be ended, or both. U.S. Rep. John Boozman of Rogers is one of them. In April 2009, he voted for a Republican plan to replace Medicare with a private program that would further enrich the insurance companies at the expense of 527,000 Arkansans.
Just to the north of us, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri voted for the same plan that Boozman did and said the government should never have begun providing the health care on which millions of Americans rely. Just to the south of us, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana has endorsed a conservative think tank's plan to privatize Medicare. The other members of this ignoble nonet are Sharron Angle of Nevada, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Dan Coats of Indiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Jane Norton and Ken Buck of Colorado.