To get into the abortion clinic in Little Rock, Ark., a woman must first pass an armed security guard as well as a metal detector.

The first obligation is payment up front to the cashier.

The charges range from $525 to $1,800. No checks accepted. Cash or credit card only.

Then the women will add to the almost 46 million children who have been killed since the Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

The New York Times published an essay on an abortion clinic. It ran Sept. 18, 2005. It was called “Beyond the Slogans: Inside an Abortion Clinic.” It began prominently on the first page and then continued on the whole of page 28. The tale was told in several thousand words.

We owe the author John Leland gratitude. While many of us have picketed abortion clinics, few of us have ever been inside one.

The Arkansas clinic was studied over a weekend. In that time frame, 26 women had abortions. They are among the one million women expected to secure abortions in 2005. There has been a drop in abortions in the past 15 years among teens and educated, affluent women. This is owed to their easier access to increasingly sophisticated forms of contraception.

But abortion remains one of the most prevalent surgeries for women in the United States. The author estimates that more than one in five pregnancies terminate in abortion.

Some of the would-be patients had to travel a good distance. There are but two abortion clinics in the entire state of Arkansas. Two drove in from Oklahoma and Mississippi. There are only three doctors in Arkansas who regularly assist in abortions. The youngest is 59 years. It is not a young doctor's medicine of choice. Presumably abortion is likewise unpopular among doctors in Oklahoma and Mississippi.

While the doctors had no reluctance in giving their surname, their staff and patients did. The head doctor calls himself a “provider.” The families of some staff do not know they work in an abortion clinic. Others have been shunned by kin.

One of the clients was a teacher. Another a sales clerk. A third was a high school student. One was a soldier. The soldier's boyfriend was jailed for beating her up after learning she was pregnant.

One 17-year-old brought her mother for encouragement. A 39-year-old was accompanied by her daughter.

A college student was having her third abortion. Another woman at age 26 was also having her third.

An 18-year old college student was aborting twins. No doubt she had to pay for two procedures.

The women were principally in their 20s. They were generally more poor and black than the families surrounding the clinic. The large majority already had children. Some were single mothers.

Leah was five weeks pregnant. The surgical procedure took but a few minutes. Presumably her charge was the minimum of $525.

Karen, at 29 and the mother of a child, had a 20-week-old pregnancy. Her abortion was performed over two days. She paid $1,375. At 20 weeks, doctors in Arkansas are required to tell women that their unborn child will feel pain. The author notes that the pain question is disputed among doctors.

One 17-year-old's pregnancy was later than Karen's. Her charge was $1,700. The money was provided by her angry parents. They did not accompany her.

Arkansas has surrounded abortion with a number of legal restrictions. Said one clinic doctor, “But every time a restriction is placed on us, it increases our costs, and that cost is passed on to the consumer.”

One woman, pregnant 12 weeks, studied the ultrasound of the child she was carrying. She began to have second thoughts. She concluded, “This changes my feelings, but I'm sticking by it. Damn it, $650, I'm sticking by it.”

Abortion is a big American business. The poor and the young continue to put “providers” on Easy Street.

Father James Gilhooley is the author of Reflections on the Sunday Gospels at 1-800-566-6150 or http://www.wlpmusic.com