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There was a time when Brian Finkel thought of his life as normal. An ob/gyn, he delivered 250 babies a year, took his family out to restaurants and never looked over his shoulder.

That was before 80 percent of his practice was dedicated to abortion. Before he was stalked, harassed and threatened by anti-abortion protesters. Long before doctors risked getting killed on the job.

Now when Finkel leaves for work in the morning, he sticks a Colt .45 automatic in his pants, a 9 mm on his hip and a wallet-sized .25 Barretta in his back pocket. His black medical bag contains a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver.

He says goodbye to his wife, Diana, unlocks the bullet-proof door, walks past the security cameras, gets the kids settled in the family van and heads off to school and work.

"They underestimated me as an opponent," he says of his antagonists, patting the gun on his side. "I'm not interested in being the next martyr. And they know that I won't go down without a fight."

At his office, he surveys the parking lot. It's Friday -- the sidewalks are empty. Saturday is the usual protest day. Still he is cautious.

Once inside, doors automatically lock behind him. The motion, smoke and fire detectors go on.

He takes the gun out of his pants and puts it away. The one on his hip stays there all day.

"I don't want to live this way, but I really have no choice," he says. "People are trying to hunt me down."

Finkel, 43, is one of the few abortion doctors still willing to debate the other side and return reporters' phone calls.

"I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, but if I don't speak, the only voices that will be heard will be (accused murderer) Paul Hill and (abortion foe) John Burt. I don't want that."

In the waiting room, the mood is somber. Women here have made a heart-wrenching decision. They sit quietly, lost in thought or trying not to think at all.

Soon, their crises will be over. And though many cry, most are relieved.

Some of the stories are tragic: Women who've been raped, little girls impregnated by their fathers, drug addicts and prostitutes, women who've been deserted or beaten by their spouses. Other patients were careless with birth control, or their contraception failed them. Some are single mothers who can't afford more children.

The abortion procedure takes only three to five minutes. Finkel gives patients a shot of Valium, so they remember nothing.

But in those few minutes their lives will be forever changed. They come in pregnant and leave "unpregnant," as Finkel tells them.

If a woman isn't firm in her decision to terminate her pregnancy, Finkel sends her away.

In her green sweatsuit, legs folded under her, 18-year-old T.J. tells Finkel how she got pregnant. She had stopped taking her birth control pills because they were making her sick. She didn't make her boyfriend wear a condom because he doesn't like to.

Her curly blond hair cascades about her shoulders and she looks at the doctor sheepishly when he points out that this is her second abortion.

"If you come in here again we're going to have to give you frequent flyer points," he said.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I know. It's bad. But I'm not going to let it happen again."

He lectures her on birth control and supplies her with condoms and more pills.

"It's just that things are so complicated when you're in love," she said.

"No they're not, really," Finkel said, launching into another lecture about birth control. "Tell him: No rubber, no sex."

Down the hall, Rosa is ready. She speaks no English and is clearly frightened.

Finkel soothes her with Spanish and assistant Karen Duffy holds her hand. Rosa winces as he puts the needle in her arm, but soon she is unconscious, her arm limp.

He inserts the tube and the suctioning begins. Blood and tissue are pumped into a container. Later, when Rosa rouses, he says, "Hola, Rosa. Terminado. All over. No mas embarazada (no more pregnant)."

She smiles faintly.

Finkel performs about 2,000 abortions a year, all during the first three months of pregnancy. No one has ever died from an operation he performed and the three malpractice suits filed against him were dismissed, he said.

"They jump on women when they're leaving, tell them all this information about me that's not true and try to get them to sue me," he said.

Anti-abortion lawyer and protester John Jakubczyk said he's eager to represent women who feel they've been hurt or mistreated by Finkel, but he said he doesn't seek them out.

"Aren't those women just as important as the abortionist?" he said. "You never hear about them."

Zealots follow Finkel to restaurants and picket outside, telling patrons they are eating with a baby killer. They picket his Kiwanis Club, trying to pressure the group to kick him out. They put his name and picture on posters and picket his home. They stalked his wife, approaching her in a grocery store, warning her that Finkel is in danger. And they once assaulted him in his clinic.

When Air Force reservist Finkel was sent on Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, some abortion foes prayed he would be killed in battle.

"I don't know how he puts up with it," says assistant Duffy. "Finkel's been lucky. So far these murders have only happened in Florida, but it could happen anywhere, especially here in Phoenix."

Instead of hiding, Finkel has fought back.

He spent $60,000 in legal fees obtaining an injunction against protesters coming any closer than the public sidewalk _ on one side of the clinic that's about 100 feet away. Where they once formed human chains, blocking the entrance, they must now leave room for the doctor and patients to pass.

When they scream at him, he hollers back. And of course, there are the guns he wears.

"With this, they know I'm packing," he said. "That's pretty intimidating."

Jakubczyk said he's not intimidated by the guns, but other protesters are.

"Most of the people out there carrying their rosaries or picket signs would be more concerned at a clinic where the abortionist is carrying a gun because there seems to be a violent mentality on the part of the abortionist anyway," Jakubczyk said.

Finkel has a clean medical record with the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners, except for one letter of concern "for choosing to arm yourself with a deadly weapon as opposed to other alternatives."

He also arms himself with a deadly sense of humor.

Once, when protesters brought a weeping Lady of Guadelupe painting to his office and plastered the area with baseball-card size images of the Blessed Mother, he brought out his own icon.

He waved his velvet Elvis canvas at them.

"It infuriated them," he says with glee. "I figure if they can wave their icon around, why can't I?" He puts on a pair of fake glasses with a penis-shaped nose attached. "This drives them nuts," he says.

Finkel said he once had to explain his conduct to the examiners board after some protesters complained of sexual harassment.

"During one of their guerrilla theaters outside my office, I said to some of the women there, "I know what you want, you want me to be your sex slave," he said. " "Oh he's terrible. He sexually harassed us,' they said. They harass me so intently, sometimes I get unhappy. Sometimes my witticism gets me in trouble."

Last March in Pensacola at a conference of abortion providers, Finkel confronted Paul Hill, who four months later would be charged with killing Dr. J. Bayard Britton.

"I said, "Boy you sure cut a fine figure of a Southern gentleman, now don't you,' " Finkel said. "I gave him a piece of my mind. When you give it back to them, they're dumbfounded. They're so used to getting away with it, it leaves them speechless when you come back on the attack."

He knew Dr. David Gunn, the first doctor murdered. He was friends with Dr. Wayne Patterson, who was stalked for months before being killed in Mobile, Ala., in what police say was a robbery unrelated to abortion.

Finkel said Patterson, whatever the reason for his death, was not cautious enough.

Three days before Patterson was murdered, Finkel said he told him he had heard about Father David Trosch, a Mobile Catholic priest who advocates killing abortion doctors.

"I told him to be careful," Finkel said. "Three days later, he's being chalked out on the sidewalk."

Finkel visits the gun range regularly. "I'm a good shot," he said.

That doesn't comfort Diana Finkel, who along with their two children, 12 and 16, have to live in the armed camp. At first she was always nervous, then she learned to live with the fear.

"If things happen, they happen," she said. "After Gunn was shot, I told him, "You do not have enough life insurance.' After Britton was shot, I got really scared again.

"It's frightening to think there's someone out there ready to do you in and you don't know who he is or where he'll strike," she said. "To think that a total stranger wants to decide your fate and you have nothing to say about it."

Though Finkel says he enjoys a good war of words with those who taunt him, he grows weary of it.

"I should not have to wear a bullet-proof vest and a helmet," he said. "I've said before, I'm a gynecologist in Phoenix, not a U.S. Ranger in Mogadishu.

"But I know I'm high on their hit parade and I don't want to get caught off guard."

He learned to perform abortions in the military, then volunteered at a hospital in the Philippines, where he saw the result of botched, back-room abortions on prostitutes.

When he began his own practice in Phoenix, however, he did not do abortions. A troubling experience in his personal life changed that, he said.

Ten years ago, Diana Finkel became pregnant and needed an abortion. When he looked for a doctor, no one would help. After threatening to do it himself, someone sent them to Mesa, Ariz.

"She didn't even get anesthesia," he said. "I thought if this is how a doctor's wife is treated, imagine how the rest of the women are treated."

Now, when Finkel lectures a patient on birth control, he offers a hug or a pat on the back.

"How are you feeling?" he asks afterward.

"A little sad," answers T.J. "I want to have a child someday, I really do, but right now I'm not ready and I couldn't give it any kind of a life it should have. ... You made it better than I thought it would be."