The Only Way To Stop Me Now Is To Kill Me

State College was a quiet town filled with middle-class houses, manicured lawns, a church on every corner–and no abortion clinics. Eric Harrah came to open one. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.

by Jeff Hooten

Let’s face it, it’s hard for Eric to be inconspicuous. First of all, Eric doesn’t want to be inconspicuous, will never allow himself to be inconspicuous. Second of all, how do you ignore a six-foot-four, 295-pound hulk of a man with permanently tattooed eyeliner and a young Simba from The Lion King emblazoned on his arm? How do you ignore a man who wants your attention, who demands your attention, who demands everyone’s attention–a man who can control a room with his laugh? How do you ignore a man whose power to intimidate is like nothing you’ve seen before, a man who controls but is never controlled, a man who delights in watching his opponents squirm?

How do you stop such a man when he invades your town, vows to open an abortion clinic and, by the way, tells you there is nothing–nothing short of murder–you can do to stop him?

Eric Harrah arrived in State College, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1997. The most outspoken abortion-clinic operator east of the Mississippi–perhaps in the country–arrived quietly, without fanfare, because conservative towns like State College don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for flamboyant homosexuals who help kill babies.

Come to think of it, State College had never seen anything quite like Eric and by all accounts was quite unprepared to.

Let’s just say the feeling was mutual. Let’s just say that Eric didn’t want to come. Let’s just say that he needed a good reason–are you kidding, he needed a great reason–because Eric Harrah fed on deviance, on sex and sin and corruption, and living in State College would be like going on a crash diet.

But Eric loved a good challenge. His friends and associates called him "the Hit Man," because he dropped in on unsuspecting towns and opened clinics where no one else would, where no one else could. He opened clinics where others had tried and failed. Eric didn’t perform the procedures himself, but he leased the office space, he purchased the equipment, he hired the doctors, he worked the media, he battled the opposition, he escorted the patients inside, he helped clean up ... and, when everybody finally went home, he counted the money.

There was definitely money to be made in State College. The town is home to Penn State University and thus thousands of women of childbearing age. Oh yeah, the numbers looked good. But Eric wouldn’t make a dime in State College. He didn’t want to. He didn’t need to. He was working for free. You see, Eric’s lover took good care of him. Eric was a kept man.

Truth is, Eric did it as a favor, a favor for his business partner, his companion, his lover. He struck a deal: Go to State College, get a clinic up and running, then get out–go to a big city, like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, maybe go back to Manhatten. Back to a life of indulgence.

So Eric came, moved into an apartment, and quietly began the work of opening a clinic. But word leaked out, like it always does, and the pro-lifers in town soon discovered who–what–Eric Harrah was. What they learned made their head spin, and they didn’t know the half of it. They called a press conference to expose Eric and his partner. He was suddenly on the front page of the newspaper, on TV, on the Internet. The clinic was now the biggest show in town, and Eric had the starring role. Eric lived to play the starring role.

Just offstage, sitting in his living room, away from the protesters and the TV lights, Steve Stupar was reading the morning newspaper. Stupar–a former Penn State football player-turned-local business owner and church elder–looked at Eric’s picture and read the evil things he said. At that moment, there came a thought.

It wasn’t his own thought, that much Stupar knew. But as he sat there, staring at Eric, the message was unmistakable.

I want to use you to have an impact on this man.

There was no sound, but Stupar knew God was speaking.

I want you to become his friend.

The thought of becoming friends with this infidel didn’t frighten Stupar, it intrigued him. He didn’t know how it would happen, but he couldn’t wait.

Neither did Stupar know that some 200 miles southeast of State College, at Calvary Assembly of God in Dover, there was a card with Eric’s name on it. Every Sunday for the last three years, a church member thought of that card, bowed her head and prayed for Eric’s soul.

He never stood a chance.
Where do men like Eric come from? You can’t create them in a laboratory, at least not yet. No, you begin not with science, but with pain. Eric was born into pain.

Eric Craig Harrah entered the world on April 26, 1968, in Wilmington, Delaware. Mom was white and dad was black, but dad never stuck around to deal with the bigotry, only long enough to father Eric and his older sister.

Eric’s mother did the best she could, and when she got married a couple years later, things were starting to look up. The family moved to a nearby dot on the map named Cheswold, a tiny town consisting of about four streets and a set of railroad tracks. But pain was tracking them. Turned out mom married Dr. Jekyll. Nice guy most of the time, but get some booze in him and he’d start using Eric and his mom as punching bags.

Not that anybody knew. After all, the family prayed before meals and at bedtime, and every Sunday morning the kids were packed off to church. Not just any church, but a United Pentecostal, calling-sin-sin kinda church. Eric’s mom, however stayed home most weeks, and his stepfather showed up even less.

By the time Eric hit puberty, step-daddy didn’t look so fearsome anymore. Eric decided he wasn’t going to stand around and watch his mother get beat up. He fought back, and his stepfather eventually left Eric alone.

Eric wanted a father, but let’s face it, it’s tough to respect a man who batters your mom for kicks. So Eric rejected his stepfather’s life; whatever his stepfather did, Eric did something different. He ignored sports, buried his nose in books and developed his mother’s sensitivity. His stepfather responded with words like "sissy," "queer" and "fag."

It’s not that Eric didn’t like girls. After all, he got his first kiss in the back of the Sunday school bus. But Eric desired affection and attention from a man, and the one living at his house could offer him neither. He started reading about the emerging gay community, about Stonewall and Greenwich Village. Is that what I am? he wondered. Yet Eric was suffocating in Cheswold; he’d never find his answers there.

His search eventually took him four hours north, to the streets of New York City. He worked odd jobs to pay for a bus ticket, planned his escape route at the local library and made up a good story. If all went according to plan, he’d be back in Cheswold before anyone was the wiser.

The man’s name was Chet, and he discovered Eric walking in the Village. Chet was around 40, very manly, and very married. Chet didn’t know it–Eric probably didn’t know it either–but Chet was exactly what Eric was looking for. Chet seemed to be everything that Eric’s father should have been. Chet took Eric back to his house, showed him pictures of his wife and children ... and had sex with him.

Eric hadn’t planned to sleep with a man; in fact, he had little desire to. What he remembered later was not the act itself, but how good it felt to have a man pay attention to him, to spend time with him–to hold him.

But Chet had another life, one that had no role for a teen-age boy from Delaware. No matter. Eric would find other men, men who could fill the role of father, even if only for a few hours. He met Jim, another wealthy New Yorker, another family man, another surrogate father. Jim was 47, Eric was 15, and they stayed together for seven years. You might say that Jim took good care of Eric. Jim wouldn’t sleep with him until he turned 18, but it didn’t matter, because Eric never promised to be faithful.

By the time Eric got a driver’s license, New York was like a second home. He was thinner then and still had most of his hair, and his mixed-race heritage gave him an exotic look. He cruised and was cruised. He hung at gay bars like The Monster, Uncle Charlie’s and The Vault. Sunday school was but a distant memory.

He met a quartet of drag queens who took him under their wing. The group’s leader was Louis, though friends and lovers called him Louisa. Eric, however, called him "mother." They were a diverse bunch–Mike was a cop; Alex a doctor; Chris had a rich lover, so he didn’t work; and Louisa ... let’s just say that Louisa was very good at what he did and was paid very well for it. For the record, let’s also just say that all four are now dead.

But let’s not turn Eric into a victim. He would hate that. Sure, men used Eric, but Eric used them right back. Louisa taught Eric that it’s just as easy to fall for a rich man as a poor one, that you treat a man right and he’ll treat you right back. Needless to say, Eric was an excellent student. He gave his partners what they wanted and he took from them what he needed.

He lived a dual life out of necessity. In the Village, he was a "fem queen," but back home in Delaware he was a bright but disinterested high school student. In the end, there was no cap and gown for Eric, only a GED and a mutual understanding with a school that wasn’t sorry to see him go.

His only academic interest was politics, which he satisfied with a part-time job in the state legislature. There, 17-year-old Eric watched self-serving legislators make backroom deals, cozy up to lobbyists and sleepwalk through floor votes. Yet instead of turning Eric off to politics, his two sessions in Dover taught him how to tell people what they wanted to hear, how to stroke their egos, how to lie.

He decided to enroll at Wesley College in Dover, not because he wanted to, but because that’s what people were supposed to do. His political science professors taught how government was meant to operate, but Eric knew better. He drooped out a year later.

By now he had discovered that the homosexual community wasn’t sequestered in New York. He joined Louisa and the others on road trips to Baltimore, Philly, D.C., and in summer to the Eastern Shore. He even looked for love in his hometown, with married businessmen during their lunch hour in a public park. But there was little joy in it, because it never gave Eric what he really wanted.

It was the summer of 1989, and Eric, Louisa, Mike, Chris and Alex were headed for Rehoboth Beach, Del., a gay summer hot spot. They were driving through Dover when they came upon a protest in progress outside the Delta Women’s Clinic. The five of them only wanted to get to the beach–it was hot enough to melt a drag queen’s makeup and Louisa was already sweating–but the protesters, with their signs and their pamphlets were slowing down traffic.

Exactly why Eric decided to pull into the parking lot is a mystery. Now you have to understand that until that moment–even though he grew up just a few miles away–Eric didn’t even know the abortion clinic existed. His knowledge of abortion was limited; indeed, the subject was never discussed in his house. These protesters, however, were an inconvenience.

A shouting match ensured. Eric spotted a woman nearby, in tears, and offered to escort her inside. He asked the clinic staff how he could help their cause, and they suggested that he join NOW. What’s that? Eric asked, for he had never heard of the National Organization for Women.

They gave him a phone number, and Eric did a little research. He didn’t need much convincing–after all, he was a lifelong Democrat, and he figured Democrats were supposed to support abortion. A couple days later, he called.

Eric would never be the same.
Within six months he was secretary of the county chapter; six months later he was vice president; and then, one year later, Eric Harrah was president of the Delaware state chapter of the National Organization for Women. He became an abortion stormtrooper, often spending his Saturday mornings escorting women into the clinic. He descended on pro-choice rallies, leading chants like "Not the church, not the state, women will decide their fate," and "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries." He rallied opposition against the nomination of conservative Supreme Court justices–against anyone who opposed his new cause.

It wasn’t long before he had a full-time job at the clinic. He started out as director of public relations; working with women’s groups, talking to the media. Then another turning point: Eric’s long-time companion, Jim, asked him to move in with him in New York. When Eric told the clinic’s owners that he was quitting, they countered by offering him a bigger role. Good-bye Jim. Eric was having too much fun to stand by his man.

Indeed, Eric Harrah didn’t just arrive in the abortion industry, he detonated. It was as if he’d taken an aptitude test, and the result came back: "You should be running an abortion clinic!"

But Eric knew nothing about running a clinic and that alone made him all the more dangerous. He was the first to promote free abortions to victims of rape, incest and HIV infection. Next came discounts for minors, out-of-staters and Medicaid recipients. They were all publicity stunts, and they worked to perfection. In four years, he probably gave out less than 25 free abortions, but in return, he got loads of free publicity. He was even siphoning business from neighboring Pennsylvania.

His competitors were outraged. Planned Parenthood labeled him" unethical." The Delaware Women’s Health Center accused him of "bravado" and pseudo-machismo." Eric didn’t care. "I’m not ashamed of what I do," he told the press. Besides, he had no time for shame–he was too busy posing for the front page. He knew his pricing plan made him look like the compassionate one. Did Planned Parenthood ever lower their rates?

Forget the price-fixing, forget the cartel mentality, Eric charged less simply because he felt like it–because he could–and if the competition didn’t like it, well, that’s too bad. They couldn’t match him, because they’ve been in business too long, they’ve got too much staff, they’ve got a doctor they’re paying way too much.

And when the competition goes under, you better believe there’s gonna be a price increase at Eric’s clinic. He’s the man now, the only game in town, and again, if you don’t like it, he doesn’t want your business. But you better not wait too long, because an eight-week abortion costs a few hundred bucks, but get up around 20 weeks and we’re talking a few thousand. The HMO’s, they’re only too happy to play along; they’ll gladly pay up to a thousand dollars for a first-trimester abortion rather than five or 10 times that for labor and delivery.

None of this was lost on clinic owner Melvin Soll. Eric was the perfect henchman, and Soll could stay in the background while Eric took the heat. The pair started working together. Soll was the money man, and Eric did the gruntwork.

Eric and NOW soon parted ways. NOW members said he was too domineering, that he promoted his own views ahead of the organization’s. Eric, meanwhile, was too busy starting up a Louisiana clinic to pay much attention to NOW business.

Eric was the ultimate profiteer–no guilt, no tears, no regrets, none of that I-just-want-to-help-women. Oh, sure, just like the others he started doing it for the movement, for the cause, but, just like the others, reality eventually set in: the pickets, the scorn, the media attention, the landlords who don’t want to rent to you and the doctors who don’t want to work for you–plus the simple fact that you’re not an attorney ...no, you’re the honest-to-goodness town abortionist. Yeah, you can call them "products of conception" all you want, but come on, everyone knows what you really do for a living. There’s no invitation to Career Day waiting on your answering machine.

Of course his clinics offered other services: pregnancy tests, birth-control devices, treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. These services never generated much money, but they were great p.r.. Without them, Eric was nothing but an abortion-clinic operator. With them, he was transformed into manager of a chain of "women’s health care facilities"–facilities with caring names like Delta Women’s Clinic and Brandywine Valley Women’s Clinic.

The clinics themselves were a lesson in marketing. Pictures lined the walls, but only pictures of women, never of families or children. The wood was polished, the floors were waxed–not so much for appearance, but to make it easier to clean up the blood. Flowers and incense helped mask the disinfectant smell. Anything to disguise the hospital aroma. Anything to disguise what really went on inside.

But the one reminder Eric could not disguise, that he could never ignore, was the sound of the vacuum aspirator, the machine that sucked out the product of conception, the fetus ... the baby. For years, hearing that sound made Eric cringe. Eventually, when his heart turned to stone, that sound became like the ring of a cash register. No matter where he was in the building, once he heard that sound, he knew there would be no refund.

As for the pro-lifers, Eric knew how to handle them. He used his size and his sexuality to intimidate, and he was very good at it. He was a self-declared, self-anointed, one-man clinic defense team. Pro-lifers feared him–no, they were terrified. Profanity? Eric knew more words than a dozen longshoremen. Shout at him, and he shouted right back. Get in his face, and he got in yours. Push him around, and ... Well, you get the idea. After a while, Eric didn’t need any provocation. If you disagreed with him or his line of work, his mission was to make your life miserable.

Yet in the midst of it all, there were glimpses of a troubled soul fueled not by anger, but by a lifetime of misadventure. He kept a Bible in his office–right next to a copy of Madonna’s Sex. He once told a reporter, "The only regret I have in being in the (abortion) business is I’m not welcome at any church."

This man without a heart actually talked to his mother almost every day. This man who said he couldn’t be stopped tried instead to escape via drug overdose. This man who made his living off abortion would occasionally give one away–to a woman in trouble or, more frequently, to a woman who was biracial–not because he actually cared about her, but because he didn’t want her child to live as he had.

Right or wrong, Eric believed that if he had never been born, if he had never existed, then maybe his mother wouldn’t have stayed in a relationship with an abuser. And maybe, just maybe, the one parent who always accepted him–who always loved him, who even helped answer the phone at his clinics–could have enjoyed a better life.

Jim wasn’t out of the picture long before Eric found someone else. He fell for a wealthy abortion doctor named Steven Brigham. But Eric couldn’t be harnessed. There was always Louisa and the others, there was New York, and now there was drag.

Yes, Eric became a female impersonator–a drag queen. What started as a Halloween prank soon became just one more escape. He had no desire to be a woman; he was just having fun. He was tall and exotic-looking, and oh, how they loved him! He was fabulous, he was fierce. The red wig, the green, beaded gown and the six inch pumps–he was a human Christmas tree! He sang show tunes, he lip-synched Streisand, he adopted a stage name: Alexis "You Know You Want Me" Horowitz.

But eventually, as with everything he did, Eric got bored. He sparred with reporters–he played a liberal one moment a conservative the next. He defended abortion, then complained that there were too many. He spoke aloud of leaving the industry, maybe opening a cappuccino stand. Few believed him. Why should they?

In 1994, Eric and clinic owner Soll were fined $43,000 for clinic workers flushing fetal tissue down garbage disposals. The pair claimed ignorance of the law and struck a deal with prosecutors.

The next year, the Harrah-Soll partnership disintegrated. Brigham, Eric’s new partner, owned a string of clinics in the Northeast–some profitable, some not so. Some Brigham wasn’t even allowed to work in. The abortionist gave up his Pennsylvania medical license in the heat of an investigation. Other states simply took his license away.

But Brigham didn’t need to perform abortions to make money. He only needed clinics. Enter Eric, Eric gave Brigham the cover he wanted, the cover he needed. If one of his clinics ran into legal trouble–as they sometimes did–Eric was the spokesman, talking to the press, taking the heat. Eric’s name was all over the clinic documents, making it nearly impossible for authorities to trace ownership back to Brigham.

Now Brigham wanted to open a new clinic in Pennsylvania and, oh, the numbers looked good. Very good.

So what brought Eric Harrah to State College in the spring of 1997? Simple–Steven Brigham brought him. Brigham himself had tried before and failed to open a clinic there. In fact, no one was able to open a clinic there. Pro-life sentiment was strong in State College, and Eric’s assignment would not be easy.

First, however, Brigham had to convince Eric. The pair came for a visit in the fall of 1996. They only stayed one night, and Eric decided right then and there he hated State College. It was too small. Too conservative. Too clean. Too wholesome. Besides, there was no Macy’s. No Starbucks.

But Brigham was convinced that a clinic in State College would make money. It was a university town, so there was bound to be plenty of demand. Even better, there was no competition; the nearest clinic was a good 90 miles away.

In the end, Eric agreed to go, but only long enough to get the clinic up and running. On April 9, 1997, Brigham signed a five-year lease for the clinic, to be called State College Medical Services. Brigham set Eric up in an apartment, and Eric began setting up the practice. It was the calm before the storm.

It didn’t last long. Word of the clinic got out, and the town erupted. There were press conferences and denunciations. The pro-life community found out about Eric’s past, about Brigham’s past, and they wanted the world to know. Eric, in return, put on his p.r. hat. The proposed clinic was a "family medical practice," he said. He promised free medical care one day a week, then offered to pay for it out of his own pocket. Eric got the media’s attention because he demanded it. He would call a press conference if for no other reason than to denounce pro-lifers as "terrorists." He even hired a bodyguard.

The building’s owners, perhaps wanting to escape the glare, tried to cancel the clinic’s lease. Eric, who until now couldn’t wait to flee State College, suddenly had a reason to stay. He was in a war, and he loved the smell of napalm in the morning. The fight ended up in court, and Eric’s side won.

"The only way they’re going to get rid of me now is if they kill me," Eric told the local newspaper.

When pro-life marchers took to the street in prayer and protest, Eric mocked his opposition as "small time." He compared them to a flea–annoying but not threatening.

"Them coming here and praying isn’t going to make a difference," he said. "What’s God going to do? Strike me down?"

Well, not exactly.

Eric may have forgotten God, but God hadn’t forgotten Eric. In fact, God seemed to be targeting Eric. His mother and sister had rediscovered the faith of Eric’s childhood. They both went back to church, back to the Bible and back to prayer. One guess who they were praying for. And there was always the card with Eric’s name on it, the card reminding people to pray for him, the card that for three years resided at Calvary Assembly of God in Dover. Don’t put my name there, Eric used to say, but mom wouldn’t listen. She couldn’t–she loved him too much.

In August, during a visit home for his grandfather’s birthday, Eric and his relatives went out to eat. At the restaurant, Eric’s brother-in-law confronted him about his lifestyle, about homosexuality, about abortion. Things got heated. Eric left.

He got in his car and drove back to State College. Sitting in his apartment, Eric did something he hadn’t done in years. He prayed.

"God," he began, "if what I’m doing is so wrong and my life is so terrible, then send somebody to show me the right way."

State College Medical Services began offering abortions on Sept. 18, 1997. The clinic had only been open a few days when Steve Stupar drove by for the first time. There was a protest in progress, and yes, there was Eric, standing on the front steps, in all his glory. Lipstick, rouge, fingernail polish. Taunting, threatening, laughing.

Steve had never seen anyone–anything–like Eric. He went around the back and parked his truck. By the time he had walked around to the front of the building the protesters had left, so he picked up a placard and waited. It didn’t take long.

The clinic receptionist told Eric that the Penn State football team was picketing the clinic. This, Eric thought, I gotta see. He flew down the steps–bodyguard in tow–and out the clinic door.

But there was no team outside, only a clean-cut man wearing a Penn State football sweatshirt and neon blue shorts. Alone or not Eric figured, this man was still standing on his steps and leaning against his railing. He should have known better.

Steve, meet Eric.
"Get the **** off my steps! Eric bellowed. "Get off my railing. I’ll have you arrested!"

Steve didn’t budge. "My back is sore," he explained.

This, Eric decided, was not the correct response. He got in Steve’s face. He screamed, he seethed, he swore, and–when that didn’t work–he flirted. When all else failed, Eric propositioned opponents with graphic gay sex. For several minutes, Eric verbally tortured his visitor and enjoyed every moment of it.

Sure, Steve was embarrassed but–unlike the others who had come before him–he didn’t flee. Maybe it was because, at six-foot-six and 265 pounds, the former defensive tackle wasn’t intimidated by Eric’s size.

Finally, Eric paused. "Why did you come here?" he asked.

"Because you prayed for me to come."

Eric practically fell over. How could he know?

"Don’t ever come back here again!" Eric yelled as he backed into the clinic. "I never want to see you again!"

"Jesus loves you and so do I, Eric, and I’ll see you tomorrow."

Indeed, Steve came back the next day, and the next. Every day Steve would motion to Eric, but Eric wouldn’t come out. He was afraid, though of what he wasn’t sure. Still, just seeing Steve gave him comfort. At least someone cared.

Nearly a week passed before Eric finally stepped outside. That’s when it happened. The abortionist and the pro-lifer, the homosexual and the family man, the sinner and the saint, had a civil conversation. Steve offered to take Eric to lunch, and Eric agreed. They went to McDonald’s. They ate Extra Value Meals, and Steve listened to Eric rave about the clinic’s success. For a half-hour or more, Steve listened–and silently prayed. Finally, he spoke.

"Listen Eric, God has sent me to you as a prison keeper–to open up your cell and let you out of the personal hell that you’ve been bound in for years. I can’t pull you out or drag you out, but I can open the door and give you the opportunity to walk out."

Eric cursed, stood up and left. Steve caught up to him about a half-block from the clinic. They talked, and a friendship was born. They began having lunch together almost every day, sometimes for four or five hours. They talked about life and growing up, about family and the Bible, Eric met Steve’s family. They watched TV together. They played games. They went bowling. Eric bought a Bible.

Can’t you just picture it? The wickedest man in town, cruising the aisles of the local Christian bookstore. The whole place was staring. One guy looked up, spotted Eric, and dropped his coffee mug! Eric picked out a Bible with a green cover–he liked green–but he was so afraid of what the salesman might say that Steve had to buy it for him.

It was a strange time for Eric. The clinic was up and running, but he and Brigham were quarreling. Eric wanted to quit, but there was no one to take his place. He had a new friend, but this guy was telling him that he was on his way to hell. Are you kidding, he was even having dreams about hell! He’s in this dark, black cloud, and people are moaning, people are screaming. Finally he comes to a transparent wall, and there’s a light on the other side. But he can’t pass through, can’t get around can’t reach the light. Then it hits him–he’s not allowed to. Wait, there’s Steve, and he’s in the light. Help me, Steve! I’m scared, and I want to get out of here! But Steve can’t help him. I tried, Steve says. I tried, but you wouldn’t listen.

One night Eric was sitting in his apartment. He was tired, his joints were aching. He went to the medicine cabinet and got his pain pills. The blue ones. The ones with the thin white bands. He looked at the pills, and he decided that it was a good night to die.

A moment later, 100 pills were dancing on a plate. A glass of water in one hand, his life in the other, Roll the credits, ‘cause this was Eric Harrah’s final performance. Just then, Eric’s Chihuahua barked.

Eric looked down at Buddy. It was as if the little fella was asking a question: Who’s going to take care of me?

Eric put the pills away. Death would have to wait.

The clinic had been open less than a month when Steve’s 9-year-old son Nathan invited Eric to church. At first he said no, but eventually he agreed. Of course, Eric hadn’t been to church in forever, and the Stupars don’t attend some laid-back congregation–no, they attend State College Assembly of God, and everybody knows what the Assemblies say about abortion. Ditto for homosexuality.

So Eric decided to have some fun, to give them something to really talk about. He dyed his hair bright red. He picked out his most flamboyant silk shirt. And makeup–can’t forget the makeup. Foundation, powder, eye shadow, mascara. Eric was ready for church, but was the church ready for Eric?

Steve picked him up that morning, took one look at Eric, and said ... nothing. Not a word.

"What do you think of the hair?" Eric asked.

"It’s nice."

When they got to church, people looked–how could they not?–but no one commented. Eric didn’t understand; he’d just spent $75 on his hair, and no one seemed to care. Then a man stepped on to the platform, and Eric couldn’t believe it. The man’s hair was redder than Eric’s.

"Who’s that?" he asked Steve.

"That’s the pastor."

Pastor Paul Grabill knew Eric was coming; Steve had told him. Paul watched Eric shake and sweat his way through the service. Eric was used to being in control, to being on his turf, but now he was in the enemy’s camp. He was afraid. Afraid of what people might say, or do, or maybe what God might do to him. But there was no fire from heaven, and after the service, people actually made him feel welcome. He even met the pastor.

"Nice hair," Paul said.

The next day, Eric wrote a letter to the pastor, thanking him for letting him come to his church. But Eric wasn’t ready to do business with God–he was still running the clinic, he was still taunting the pro-lifers and he was still as gay as ever. Steve would listen to Eric and wonder, Have I been wasting my time? Hasn’t this guy heard anything I’ve said?

So Steve prayed, and prayed, and God gave him three visions–at least, he thought they were from God. One night, at a local steak and seafood restaurant, he decided to find out.

"Eric, what does the name John mean to you?" Steve asked.

Eric blinked hard. John was the name of his grandfather, a man whom he was very close to and at that moment was dying of cancer. But John was a common name–besides, there aren’t many Harrahs in Delaware, and Steve could’ve simply looked in a phone book.

"I saw a girl in a plaid outfit. Does this mean anything to you?"

Eric started to tear up. He knew it was his sister, wearing her old school uniform. His grandfather even kept her school picture in his house. Still, plenty of people knew he had a sister, so he tried to brush it off as another coincidence.

Finally, "I saw a plate full of blue pills with white stripes."

Eric had heard enough. He told Steve it didn’t mean anything, got up and left the restaurant. But he couldn’t deny if for long; he didn’t want to deny it. He called Steve and apologized. He had lied about the pills, he said, and he told Steve about that fateful night in his apartment.

What did it all mean? Eric had always believed that God was real, but this was amazing. For years he had thought he was out of God’s reach–and now this. Not only was God still watching him, but God still cared.

On Friday, Oct. 31–Halloween–State College Assembly of God held an allnight prayer meeting. Two hours w0ere dedicated to Eric Harrah.

The next morning at the clinic, Eric personally escorted every patient inside. But there was personal business to attend to; he was having dinner that night with Steve Stupar, Paul Grabill and their wives, and it was time to tone down the hair.

He was at the salon when the phone rang. It was the clinic.

"Eric, you need to get back here right away."

A problem with a patient. A supposed first-trimester patient who was actually halfway through her second. A frantic doctor–the head was too big, and he couldn’t get it out. A screaming patient–Eric had never heard a woman wail like that. It made his skin crawl. It made him–the invincible, unstoppable Eric Harrah–weep.

When it was all over, the room was a mess. It looked like someone had been killed. And there, laid out on the surgical tray, was a human puzzle. Arms, legs, and a torso with the spine sticking out and a partially crushed skull. Eric took the remains, rinsed them, weighed them and put them in a container. He cried the whole time. Then Eric did something else he’d never done before. He apologized.

To the baby.

For perhaps the first time, Eric felt sorry. He felt guilty. He felt unclean. He washed up, grabbed his coat, and said good-bye to the staff. It was the last time he would see some of them. The patient’s boyfriend stopped Eric in the hallway and asked, "Is it over?"

"Yes," Eric replied.

"Did you get it all, I mean, did everything come out?"

"Yes we took everything out."

"Thanks."

Eric did not reply. He headed for the door and out into the rain. As he stood there outside the building, the woman who had paid good money to lay there inside his clinic, the woman whom he had comforted, whose hand he had held and whose screams and moans he had endured, came up to him and said, "It was worth it."

But it wasn’t worth it, not for Eric, not anymore. That night, after dinner, Eric and Steve and Paul and their wives went back to the church, to the Assembly of God. There, in the pastor’s office, Paul led Eric in a prayer of repentance, a prayer of forgiveness, a prayer of acceptance. And for the first time since he was a child, Eric Harrah felt at peace.

Paul announced Eric’s conversion at church the next morning. Eric just sat there, embarrassed, while the whole congregation stood up and applauded. It didn’t take long before word got around. By Tuesday night, the local TV trucks were parked outside his apartment. Eric and Paul conferred, and on Wednesday Eric issued a statement.

"On Saturday, November 1, 1997, I made a deeply personal choice to commit my life to Jesus Christ and to take a new direction in my life. I have resigned my position as director of State College Medical Services, effective immediately..."

Yeah, Eric knew what he was doing. He knew that becoming a Christian meant no more drag, no more clinics, no more men. Somehow he knew that God wanted him to simply walk away. So he did. He walked away from everything: his career, his partner, his lover, his lifestyle. What he got in return was a second family and the father he always wanted. Paul offered to let Eric stay at his house "as long as he wanted," and Eric accepted. He had no car, no job and few possessions, but he did get his own room, three meals a day and a pastor he calls "pop."

Of course, he still had his family back in Dover; a mother and sister who loved him, who prayed for him, who held out hope that Eric would one day turn his life around. Sure, his mom cried when she heard the news. At first she didn’t believe him–he was kidding, right?–but he assured her it was true, he insisted it was true, and then she believed. The prodigal had come home. When his sister heard the news, she fell to her knees and cried, over and over, "My God is awesome!"

Eric went home for Christmas, back to Dover, and the family could see that it was true. The edginess, the defensiveness–gone, vanished, replaced with a peace they had never seen before.

But it was only a visit, because State College is Eric’s home now. The town he hated, the town he couldn’t wait to escape, is where he wants to stay, maybe for the rest of his life. He still lives with the Grabills, sharing duties with their two teen-age sons. Yes, he’s new to the faith, but he reads his Bible every day, and he’s in church–sitting right up front–every Sunday.

Eric’s pain is fading, replaced by joy. He smiles a lot now, and he loves to laugh–hearty, gut-busting laughs. He cries a lot more, too. Simply gazing at the heavens will get him started. And babies–just seeing them, alive and in one piece, will summon up tears. Yeah, Eric has changed a whole lot.

He’s still Eric, of course. He’s still a bit flamboyant, he still loves attention and he still gets a kick out of teasing people. But you won’t find him outside the clinic on Saturday mornings, and for that alone, the pro-life community is grateful. Sure, there were doubts about his sincerity, and some still remain. You have to remember that a lot of things were said over the years, both by Eric and about him. But there have also been apologies and acceptance, and a church full of people who love and embrace him. As Eric likes to say, "God is good."

Yes, he opposes abortion. To him, the term "pro-life" is too narrow–he’d rather be known as "pro-human." He’s also completely forsaken the gay lifestyle. Still, reminders of his past are everywhere. Every time he looks in the mirror, he sees the eye-liner and eyebrow color that were permanently tattooed on so many years ago. And when he rides through town, there is still the clinic, the clinic that only Eric Harrah could open. He hasn’t stepped foot inside since the day he cleaned out his office, yet the clinic remains one of the most successful he ever started. Turns out the numbers were good.

Eric says the clinics he ran were responsible for thousands–perhaps hundreds of thousands–of abortions, but he’s not going to spend his days wallowing in guilt. He believes he’s been forgiven, if not by all his former enemies, then by God.

Those who hear his story, whether at a church or at a crisis pregnancy center fund-raiser, are often moved to tears. They are reminded that no one is beyond hope, no one beyond forgiveness. After all, if God can forgive Eric Harrah, then maybe there’s hope for Uncle Harry. Loved ones thought too far gone are once again the subject of renewed prayer.

Eric was baptized on April 26, 1998. It was his 30th birthday, nearly six months after his conversion. There was no mention of abortion or homosexuality, of clinics or cross-dressing. But before his new dad lowered him into the water, before he bathed in the symbolic blood of his Savior, Eric paused to thank everyone at the church who loved and supported him, and who made him feel like one of the family.

"I have to say, my worst day as a Christian is still better than my best day when I wasn’t saved by Jesus Christ. And I want everyone to know that God is good."


Citizen Magazine, August, 1998, Vol. 12, No. 8, published by Focus on the Family. Copyright 1998. Focus on the Family. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Used by Permission.