by Jonathon Van Maren
Photo: Youth Defence Ireland
I have talked to thousands of pro-choice people about abortion during my last decade-and-some years working in the pro-life movement, and nearly all of them default to a single position when confronted with the truth about abortion: Denial. When we display photographs of the broken and battered bodies of aborted babies with their bashed in skulls gaping hideously, the instinctive insistence of many that this cannot be real is actually an admission—this disbelief is an involuntary spasm of conscience telling them that if the photos are real, their worldview has just been dealt a devastating blow.
This is not always the reaction, of course. There are plenty of people who use macabre jokes and gallows humor to fend off conviction; others throw up shields and ignore what they see; others combine denial with self-righteous rage. But most desperately want to believe that we are somehow lying to them so that they can keep on lying to themselves and everyone around them. They need our photos to be fake and our facts to be deceits, because if they are not, choices that they have made—or that they want to have available to them—are lethal.
But in our current cultural milieu, where being raw, open, vulnerable, and “yourself” has replaced being right or moral, there are increasingly many who take a confessional approach to the barbarism of abortion as a way of acquitting themselves of guilt; of exorcising the dead pre-born child who whispers at the edges of their consciousness and consciences. They need to believe that the abortion they had or performed was a good thing: by talking about it publicly in blunt and often brutal terms, they receive the immediate feedback of countless others who need to believe the same thing, affirming them and assuring them that they are good, that their baby would understand, that everything is going to be okay.
I observed part of this trend in an article on what I call “empathetic eugenics” several months ago—the women and men who choose for abortion because their child may not live long, or has a minor or major “defect,” or may have Down syndrome. This is particularly chilling in the light of a New York Times report that five prenatal tests for rare genetic disorders are wrong most of the time, with some achieving up to 93% inaccuracy—these being the tests that persuade parents to abort their children. It is just as wrong to have a disabled child killed as a healthy child, but one feels sick thinking of all the children dismembered and evicted over a medical mistake.
Irish parents who recently discovered that they’d aborted a healthy baby that they thought had an abnormality have confessed to experiencing “all-consuming physical and mental trauma.” Abortion is forever, and the children that doctors kill cannot be beckoned back.
The first time I read an article about abortion that was both brutally honest and pro-abortion was in university—it was called “We Do Abortions Here: A Nurse’s Story” by Sally Tisdale. Tisdale describes buckets of blood and basins of tiny severed limbs, but insists that abortion is a “sweet brutality” that brings life to the women and girls dropping their children off at the clinic forever.
Tisdale was trying to do the same thing as abortionist Christine Henneberg in a recent Boston Review article titled “Why I Provide Abortions.” She and her patients, she says, don’t like to use words like “choice” or “viability.” Instead, they prefer to take refuge in emotionally complex language; each abortion is justified for unique, individual reasons. Henneberg essentially admits that the child in the womb is a child; writes about rejoicing with others at seeing the little arms and legs of wanted babies on the ultrasound screen; about being happy for a new mother. One can almost feel the “but” coming, the word loaded with death.
And then, there it is:
Later that afternoon, Jenny assists me during a fifteen-week procedure. The fetus on the ultrasound screen looks just like Jenny’s, in every recognizable, perfectly formed detail: fingers, toes, beating heart. But this image is very different because of the context in which I am viewing it.
The woman is lying on the table, awake but sedated by medications. I dilate her cervix and place a small plastic tube inside her uterus. I watch the ultrasound screen. I flip a switch; a humming noise fills the room. At this instant, the fetus seems to jump as though startled; then it squirms in the tight, already shrinking space of the uterus. It continues to move in this very human, baby-like way until the last instant, when it is overpowered by the force of the vacuum and sucked through a plastic tube, whisked out of the uterus and into a glass jar in in a rush of blood. Gone.
Then all I see on the ultrasound is the fluffy, whitish-gray lining of the uterine walls; after a few more seconds, even that disappears. All that is left is the empty uterus, and the memory—mine and Jenny’s alone—of what was there before.
What you have read is not a description of healthcare, but the details of a human being’s demise, facilitated by a doctor—and the words used to describe this are nothing more than an abortionist trying to create moral complexity through talented writing designed to trigger emotion. “Fetus,” as you probably know, is Latin for “young one.” Replace “fetus” in these paragraphs with “young one,” and let the horror of what Henneberg has done here hit you. A young human, gone forever. Words cannot cover this gruesome act. Blood leaks everywhere.
The same is true for her description of late-term abortion:
After twenty-four weeks, however, when the fetus and uterus have grown substantially larger (in the third trimester, the uterus circulates approximately one-third of the woman’s entire blood supply), the removal of the fetus in parts becomes less safe and effective than the alternative: inducing labor. Such inductions are accomplished with the same medications used on Labor & Delivery wards to induce live births. The major difference is that, in large part because of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, the doctor first ensures intrauterine fetal death by injecting a medication that stops the fetal heart, usually very quickly.
After that the induction looks much like any other delivery. The woman’s uterus begins to contract. She feels pain, which doctors try to ease with medications, comfort measures, and soothing words. After minutes or hours, a small, still fetus emerges from the woman’s vaginal canal and into the doctor’s hands. The placenta follows. The woman may see and hold the baby, or she may choose not to. Her bleeding is monitored and controlled. Sometimes she requires stitches. She always requires some recovery, both physical and emotional. She has just delivered a baby—or a fetus. What we decide to call it, and whether it is viable or non-viable, are entirely beside the point.
Whether the child is a child, of course, is precisely the point. Henneberg’s justifications amount to using semantics to neutralize the immorality of murder. The article is presented as a deeply personal, even confessional piece, revealing Henneberg’s reservations about aborting babies only in order to justify her ultimate conclusion that it is a right and good thing to do. This is a political piece posing as the description of a personal journey. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Abortion.
It is cliché to quote George Orwell, but there is a reason people do it so often. His essay on “Politics and the English Language” has never been topped: “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible…Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
It is not the sound of wind we hear in the glib words of the abortionist. It is the sound of a suction aspirator, mulching another human child into ruptured pulp.
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© 2022 Jonathon Van Maren.