Sunday, May 18, 2008

Even abortionists get queasy

A British Abortionist Argues for a 16 Week Time Limit

Some will rely on religious convictions to guide their decisions. But, although I was brought up a Roman Catholic, any religious beliefs I ever had have left me.

Instead, in urging MPs to reduce dramatically the time limit, I look to more than 30 years’ experience in abortion services for the NHS and private clinics, to my time as medical director of one of Britain’s largest abortion services....


So this isn't some nutcase right-to-lifer speaking. It's somebody who thinks highly enough of abortion as a practice to have devoted 30 years of his life to actually bloodying his hands with it.

[…]When it comes to abortion, a lot of the debate is somewhat euphemistic; the pro-lobby prefer to talk about “terminations” of “foetuses”.


Even that is too straightforward for the United States, where it's all about "terminating" or even "interrupting" "pregnancies". ("Interrupting". As if you just hit the "Pause" button and can resume it at any time.)

But if an IVF clinic shows you the first scan of your baby in the womb, you won’t find them using the word foetus to describe it. We are killing babies far older than that, and if we are going to have an honest debate then we have got to be straight about that.


This isn't the first time an abortion has referred to abortion as killing a baby. Anybody want to contribute some quotes on that?

The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries is campaigning to reduce the limit to 20 weeks. In the full knowledge of what is involved in late abortions, and the widespread distaste for them among the medical profession, I would go further, and support an amendment proposing 16 weeks.

I am not alone. Within the NHS, the majority of doctors are refusing to carry out late abortions. Three quarters of late procedures are now carried out by private clinics. At Eastbourne Hospital, where I worked for 19 years, the medical staff eventually decided we would perform no abortions on social grounds after 14 weeks.


There are a lot of developmental milestones where it would make some sort of sense to draw the line. The beating heart at 18 days. Brain waves at 42 days. All organ systems in place at 8 weeks. All structures in place at 12 weeks. But there are really no developmental milestones between 12 weeks and whenever the lungs become mature enough to support the baby outside the womb, somewhere after about 20 weeks. There is no logical reason to draw the line anywhere between 12 and 20 weeks. The only real difference is size.

Size does matter, it seems, to the point where if you're a few grams heavier suddenly it's no longer an inalienable right for your mom to kill you.

Most people do not realise just how distressing late abortions can be.


Distressing to whom? The mother? The doctor? The nurses?

The procedure remains the last taboo. While heart and brain surgery are regularly shown on television, the reality of a late abortion has never been seen on British screens.


But they've come close:


There are two main types of procedure; the medical type, which kills the baby via medication, meaning that the woman miscarries a stillborn.


She delivers it. She doesn't miscarry it. A miscarriage is when the baby dies of natural causes or accidental injury. This is an abortion, the deliberate killing -- something that even this seasoned abortionist can't quite bring himself to say.

Alternatively the surgical procedure uses instruments to remove parts of the dismembered body from the uterus, limb by limb. It is hard to describe how it feels to pull out parts of a baby, to see arms, and bits of leg, and finally the head.


Warren Hern said "the sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current."

Given the nature of this experience, it greatly concerns me how lightly some of these decisions are made.

For every woman who comes late to the clinic because she did not realise she was pregnant, there will be another who feels it is simply their right to have an abortion whenever they like, and feels no need to explain herself at all.


I've heard this before -- abortion staff getting sometimes downright angry that some women act as if the world owes it to them to dismantle their babies on request. Again, does anybody have some quotes they'd like to contribute?

Recently, one woman came to me at the age of 42. After years of IVF treatment, she had finally conceived for the first time. Yet, when she found out she was carrying twins she wanted to have one aborted.

For me, that is the ultimate illustration of a throwaway society.


Yeah, she wouldn't want to be seen buying mayonnaise at Costco, would she?

When even the abortionists are getting queasy about it, ought we not as a society to be questioning abortion?

Late Addition:

What all MPs should read before voting on the time limit

This a prochoice columnist's commentary on a letter she got from a queasy abortion nurse:

EVERY so often a letter arrives in a columnist's mailbag that throws a hand grenade right into the middle of a long-held view. That happened to me last week following my article in which I urged caution before lowering the time limit on abortion from 24 to 20 weeks. The letter came from a Registered General Nurse who works on a gynaecological ward that regularly deals with late terminations.


So this time it's a nurse who supports abortion enough to actually participate. We're not getting this from wiggy right-to-lifers.

She apologised for the "unpleasant and upsetting aspects" of her letter but felt her points needed to be said. I agree, and felt it also warranted a wider audience. Apparently, at 20 weeks, tablets can be given to kill the foetus prior to expulsion. But at 24 weeks it is sufficiently strong to survive the treatment and many are born with signs of life. "It is all too easy for people to picture a clump of cells or mush. People don't want to picture perfectly-formed miniature babies and I don't blame them, I was once the same," says Kay. "But having cut the umbilical cord on one who survived, then had to watch him gasp for breath for ten minutes on the side of a sink before he died, that sight will haunt me for ever."


Ah, but surely this abortion was performed for some dramatic, compelling reason, right? Life of the mother? Oh, that's not likely, is it, since this nurse was working at a hospital, a place where a mother whose life is in danger would be quickly taken to the OR for a c-section and the baby would be whisked off to the NICU. So, something horrible must have been wrong with the baby, right? He must have had anencephaly, right? Or no kidneys, maybe? Or at least something, well, icky, like Down Syndrome or at least a cleft palate or extra fingers or something, something wrong with him, right?

The reason given for that particular termination was that the mother's current boyfriend had a toddler son who might get jealous of a new baby. It took them 21 weeks to come to that conclusion.


Note to my US readers: Doe vs Bolton, the companion decision to Roe vs Wade, would classify this as a compelling "health" justification for a late abortion. Yes, "family" concerns are also "health" reasons, according to SCOTUS.

Kay adds: "I know of two nurses who went off work with stress as a result of their experience with late terminations. I suffered horrendous nightmares and guilt for months. The guilt comes from the fact that you as a nurse cut the umbilical cord and, as dramatic as it sounds, we felt like murderers."


I'd certainly hope that standing around watching a baby die when he could have been brought to the NICU would make you feel like a murderer. It means you still have a heart, a conscience, some semblance of humanity still clinging to you, that you haven't entirely sold out to Moloch.

Kay doesn't believe in hounding or criminalising women who have to make this extremely tough decision owing to severe disability. Her misgivings are reserved solely for those who use termination as a form of contraception. Women who, up until last week, I hoped were few and far between. But, according to Kay, these terminations far outstrip those carried out because of fetal abnormality or genuine emotional distress. She says: "There are girls who come back five or six times demanding terminations and they get them. How can someone coming for their fifth termination be allowed to keep saying it is due to emotional distress? I should imagine in ten years' time the emotional distress of being allowed to have five terminations is going to take its toll. What is going on?"


Indeed.

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12 comments:

Fredi said...

More Quotations

GrannyGrump said...

Thanx, Fredi. I'll share a few:

"After an abortion, the doctor must inspect these remains to make sure that all the fetal parts and placenta have been removed. Any tissue left inside the uterus can start an infection." Dr. Bours squeezed the contents of the sock into a shallow dish and poked around with his finger. 'You can see a teeny tiny hand' he said."

~Abortion clinic worker quoted in Is the Fetus Human? "The Abortion Conflict: What it Does to One Doctor," by Dudley Clendinen, New York Times Magazine Aug 11 1985, p. 26

GrannyGrump said...

Sue Hertz, author of Caught in the Crossfire: A Year on Abortion's Front Line, documents what she saw in and at one busy abortion clinic:"It was easy to shrug off an aborted pregnancy as nothing more than a sack of blood and globs of tissue-as many pro-choice activists did- if one never saw fetal remains, or products of conception (POC) as they were known in medical circles. But the nurses, medical assistants, and doctors who worked inside procedure rooms...knew that an eleven week old POC harbored tiny arms and legs and feet with toes. At twelve weeks, those tiny hands had tiny nails. Although the fetal head was too small at this stage to withstand the evacuation machine's suction, pieces of face-a nose and mouth, or a black eye...were sometimes found in the aftermath...Later abortions spawned even more gruesome fetal remains...the head did not come out whole during the evacuation, but the legs and arms and rib cage made it through intact. The hand of a second trimester fetus, as a Pre-term doctor described it, seemed big enough to shake."

"The counselor/medical assistants (CMAs) met regularly to discuss their feelings about their work...Inside a procedure room, facing the contents of the uterus, there was no denying what abortion was."

GrannyGrump said...

"During the procedure, Doris [Merrill] would offer her hand for the patient to squeeze, or if the abortion were particularly painful, a notepad for the patient to bite...Doris knew what [Dr. Waldo Fielding] was doing at the end of the examination table as he poured over the legs and ribs and hands, but she chose not to look. .... Waldo removed from the glass jar cheesecloth sack which caught the fetal parts, dumping the parts into a basin at the end of the table, between [the patient's] feet. Two legs, two arms, two fists, a skull, a backbone, a placenta. 'We've got it' he announced."

~ Caught in the Crossfire: A Year on Abortion's Front Line by Sue Hertz, New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991

GrannyGrump said...

"Remember, there is a human being at the other end of the table taking that kid apart. We've had a couple of guys drinking too much, taking drugs, even a suicide or two."

~ Dr. Julius Butler, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, as quoted in The Crime of Being Alive: Abortion, Euthanasia, Infanticide, by Melody Green and Sharon Bennett

GrannyGrump said...

"If I see a case...after twenty weeks, where it frankly is a child to me, I really agonize over it because the potential is so imminently there...On the other hand, I have another position, which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is 'who owns this child?' It's got to be the mother."

~Dr. James MacMahon, who invented D & X abortions, "It's Just Too Late: Third Trimester abortions are an Outrage and an Insult to the Human Race," by Nat Hentoff, July 27, 1993 Pittsburg Post-Gazette

GrannyGrump said...

"This can burn you out very, very quickly...not so much by the physical labor as the emotional part of what's going on. When you do an ultrasound, particularly if you have children, and you see a fetus there, kicking, moving, living, doing things that your own child does, bringing its thumb to its mouth, and things like that—it's difficult. Then, after the procedure, sometimes we have to actually look at the specimen, and you see arms and legs and things like that torn off...It does take an emotional toll."

~Dr. Ed Jones, who had worked at a Planned Parenthood Clinic for 4 years, as quoted in the book Abortion: Debating the Issue, by Nancy Day (New York: Enslow Publishing, Inc., 1995)

GrannyGrump said...

To begin, I must say that until yesterday, Friday, July 2, 2004, I was strongly pro-choice. I am a pre-medical student, and being very scientific, I understood that the mass of cells that forms the fetal body is not often capable of survival before 24 weeks in the womb. I am also somewhat liberal, and I believed that every woman should have the right to choose what she did with her body and one that could potentially be growing inside of her.

This summer, I was accepted into a pre-medical program in NYC in which we are allowed to shadow doctors and see all sorts of medical procedures. When given the opportunity to see an abortion, I did not hesitate to accept the offer. It was something new, edgy, and exciting that I had never seen. When I entered the operating room, it felt like any other I had ever been in. On the table in front of me, I saw a woman, legs up as if delivering a child although she was asleep. Next to her was a tray of instruments for the abortion and a vacuum machine for suctioning the fetal tissues from the uterus. The doctors put on their gowns and masks and the procedure began. The cervix was held open with a crude metal instrument and a large transparent tube was stuck inside of the woman. Within a matter of seconds, the machine's motor was engaged and blood, tissue, and tiny organs were pulled out of their environment into a filter. A minute later, the vacuum choked to a halt. The tube was removed, and stuck to the end was a small body and a head attached haphazardly to it, what was formed of the neck snapped. The ribs had formed with a thin skin covering them, the eyes had formed, and the inner organs had begun to function. The tiny heart of the fetus, obviously a little boy, had just stopped—forever. The vacuum filter was opened, and the tiny arms and legs that had been torn off of the fetus were accounted for. The fingers and toes had the beginnings of their nails on them. The doctors, proud of their work, reassembled the body to show me. Tears welled up in my eyes as they removed the baby boy from the table and shoved his body into a container for disposal. I have not been able to think of anything since yesterday at 10:30 besides what that baby boy might have been. I don't think that people realize what an abortion actually is until they see it happen. I have been tortured by these images—so real and so vivid—for two days now...and I was just a spectator. Never again will I be pro-choice, and never again will I support the murder of any human being, no matter their stage in life.
~This is from a medical student who withheld his name, Sat, Jul 3 22:29:15 2004

GrannyGrump said...

From Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic by Wendy Simonds. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1996. ....However, there was also a chapter on how clinic workers emotionally deal with 'aborted tissue.' Here are some quotes:

"It's just—I mean it looks like a baby. It looks like a baby. And especially if you get one that comes out, that's not piecemeal. And you know, I saw this one, and it had its fingers in its mouth.... "

"It's going to be weird now because you're going to see the sono. You're going to see the heart beating-little hearts, you know-and then, all of a sudden, you're going to put his cardiac medicine in it to make it stop—to kill it. So you're going to see the exact moment when you kill the fetus. I won't kill it, the doctor will kill it...and, I mean, it might be more humane...[if] the fetuses do feel something, why not kill it, you know, fast, [rather] than rip its leg off?"

"At nine weeks...you start seeing fetal parts. And by the second trimester it's, you know, it's a baby, and by eighteen weeks it's definitely a baby. And by like, you know, twenty-two weeks, you go in and you watch someone do a sonogram, and you're like, "Oh my." There it is just moving, moving around. And it's really hard because I always thought of abortion in terms of just the woman, just her body."

"You're looking between the woman's legs; you're seeing, you know, what the doctor's doing. .... I mean, when he...takes the forceps and pulls out a foot, you can see the foot, and my reaction- because I feel so strongly that women who want to have a twenty week abortion should be able to have that- but I mean when I look and was just like, you know, my first reaction was, you know, I was pretty horrified."

"...when you're, you know, putting a fetus's feet in over its head in a baggie, there's just this brief moment of "This could have been me," which I fundamentally believe is okay. She should have the right to choose..."

"...it looks like a baby. That's what it looks like to me. You've never seen anything else that looks like that. The only other thing you've ever seen is a baby...You can see a face and hands, and ears and eyes and, you know...feet and toes...It bothered me real bad the first time..."

"You know, we still say "products of conception." Well, why don't we say it looks like—you know, a twenty-week fetus looks like a baby. Why can't we say that in public? Because that's what the antis say, you know."

"I think the tough part was seeing actual pieces of fetus being removed. .... Features are discernible; you can count five fingers on a hand and five toes on a foot. You know, all the organ systems are formed. You know, you can see ears as structures, and the nose and eyes as structures...I have gotten to the point now that because I've been doing this work five months, four months, I look at it a little differently. I don't see the same things that I did. And, honestly, when I sit down to do one of these now, I am watching to be sure that I'm getting everything that I need to get. It's 'Do I have two lower extremities? Do I have two upper extremities? Is there a spine? ...and the skull?...It does become a bit routine after a while. I don't fear it."

"I hate it when people put it together to look like a baby. I hate that...I don't want to look like it when it's like that because it's like a broken doll, and that grosses me out.

From the author: "Many health workers told me they 'never look at the face' when processing tissue."

GrannyGrump said...

"I went up to the lab one day and on the pathologist's table I saw what I thought was a little rubber doll until I realized it was a fetus. I got really shook up and upset and I couldn't believe it. It had all its fingers and toes, you know, hands and feet. I never thought it would look so—real. I didn't like it."

~Planned Parenthood employee quoted in Dr. Magda Denes' book, In Necessity and Sorrow: Life and Death Inside an Abortion Hospital, New York: Basic Books, 1979

Rachael C. said...

A lot of these quotes would of been great add-ins for Sarah Terzo's Abortion Quotes page, only recently, it seems the website has gone down once again :-(

Rachael C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.