This is an adapted excerpt from The Scalpel and the Soul: Our Radical Transformation as Husband and Wife Abortion Doctors (Kolbe & Anthony, June 20).
I have a particular memory related to the years we spent doing abortions. I had completed an abortion and had a brief break before the next. The nurse who’d been assisting me had stayed with the patient a little longer than I had, then joined me for a break. She seemed a little troubled, so I asked if everything was okay.
“It’s just that the patient asked me a question after you left,” she said. “She was lying on the table, staring up at the ceiling. Quietly, so I almost couldn’t hear her, she said, ‘Was it a boy or a girl? The baby.’”
The nurse paused for a moment, then said, “I’ve been asked that same question more than once. It always makes me a little sad.”
The reason that memory keeps coming back to me is what it reveals about the patient’s attitude. By that time the baby is gone. All the mutilated body parts have been taken away. But there lies a woman with a mother’s heart. Maybe she didn’t even want to be there — she might have come because she was pressured to, or because she felt that she had no choice. She might have felt abandoned or unsupported. She might have yearned for someone to rescue her. Regardless of why she was there, if she asked that question, she must have been looking for closure. She wanted the ability to envision the little life that was lost so that she could bid it goodbye. It humanizes the moment.
And the minutes after an abortion are definitely a moment that needs humanizing.
Was it a boy or a girl?
The thing is, a boy or a girl isn’t just a lump of protoplasm, a glob of tissue. A boy or a girl is a person. Someone whose coming might have been joyously anticipated by someone. A boy or a girl is destined to have a unique future.
Yet somehow, despite the jarring words of the nurse and my discomfort with them, when our break was over we went back into the abortion chamber and invaded and emptied the womb of another woman. My reasoning and conscience never took the next step. Neither she nor I asked the logical next questions: Could it be that destroying these little lives is wrong? That it’s the wrong thing for the mother as well as the baby? And that it was the wrong thing for the doctor to do in the first place?
Shame on us! We sold out at the cost of millions of lives. Doctors should have never accepted the role of executioners when Roe v. Wade was passed. Doctors could have shouted a collective “No!” We could have insisted that abortion is not medicine and pregnancy is not a disease. But we cowered to the prevailing voices of the day and lost our moral footing. Just as Noreen and I were romanced by the dollars lining our pockets.
All of this makes me think that it isn’t really compassion those in the world of abortion feel for the women in their care, even though they sometimes speak words that indicate compassion. I think it’s false compassion. I think the words of compassion come because, despite our best efforts to keep the patients at arm’s length and not engage with them personally, sometimes it happens anyway. Maybe the patient reaches out to you or a colleague directly, as the woman did in the nurse’s story I just told, and when that happens, you have to respond somehow. So you put on your best bedside manner and you react in a way that sounds compassionate. Even if you’re about to scrub up and go into the next room for the next abortion.
Back in the days when Noreen and I were doing abortions, there were very few places offering alternatives.
Nowadays, there are thousands of pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) equipped with ultrasound equipment enabling mothers to see their preborn children and eager to give out supplies and clothing. There are maternity homes, adoption agencies, and other choices that, if they were available at all in the 1980s, were available in far smaller numbers and perhaps not locally.
Ultrasound machines are one of the most significant life-saving tools of our time. Abortion-prone women, when shown an ultrasound of their child, change their minds and give birth nearly 80 percent of the time. That’s why PRCs are so hated by the abortion industry. Babies’ lives are saved, which means abortion revenue goes down.
These days, PRCs outnumber abortion facilities six to one.
Six to one.
Our challenge, then, is to woo more parents who are facing unexpected pregnancies to step inside a PRC and see for themselves the tiny baby snuggled inside the womb. In that moment, so very often, a new romance is kindled — the love between parent and child.