[Today’s blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]
We live in a country where doctors can elect to kill an unborn baby at her mother’s request. At the same time, some women are so dedicated to preserving the lives of their unborn children that they will do anything to save them. They will research every possible option, see specialists, and spend thousands of dollars in medical bills in order to keep their babies alive—unless it turns out that 2, 3, 4, or 5 children result, in which case, it’s off to the abortion provider to “selectively reduce” the burden of caring for all of the children they created. Other women will undergo expensive and invasive in vitro fertilization techniques, and, when a child results, guard the life of that child passionately
All this has led to a strange situation in the United States where some unborn babies are valued to the extreme and some are considered worthless. There have been cases where a doctor works to terminate the life of a baby whose mother doesn’t want him one day and then tries to save the life of a premature baby (of the same age) whose mother does want him the next. The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist, describes how this strange situation became a reality right after Roe v. Wade:
In the mid-70s, I would be up on one floor, putting the hypertonic saline into a woman 23 weeks pregnant, and on another floor down, I would have someone in labor at 23 weeks, and I would be trying to salvage this baby. The nurses were caught in the same bind, the same moral whipsaw. What were we doing here, were we saving babies or were killing them?
Hypertonic saline solution was a liquid containing caustic salt and other chemicals which was injected into the uterus of a woman having an abortion. It slowly poisoned the baby to death, and then the woman would go through labor to deliver her dead child. At the time, it was the most common method of abortion in the 2nd trimester. Today, most of these abortions are done by dilation and evacuation, where the baby is torn apart with forceps. You can see a diagram of this newer procedure here.
Nathanson would later become pro-life and produce The Silent Scream, a short film which is credited with changing many hearts and minds on abortion. Dr. Nathanson attributed his own conversion to the proliferation of new technologies that allowed scientists to learn more about unborn babies and observe them in the womb (i.e. ultrasound). Perhaps the “moral whipsaw” was a factor too.
Nathanson was not the only abortionist to make an observation like this. In the 1996 book Lime 5, pro-life author Mark Crutcher quotes abortionist Dr. Don Sloan saying:
On some mornings, I leave my office, and if I turn right I go down the hallway to the [abortion facility] and terminate. I am a destroyer of pregnancies. If I turn left down the same hallway, I go toward the nursery and the labor and delivery unit and take care of the myriad of complications in women who are in the throes of problem pregnancies—and I do things to help them hold on. It’s all so schizophrenic. I have a kind of split personality.
Pro-choice author Magda Denes quoted yet another abortionist who spoke in similar terms:
You have to become a bit schizophrenic. In one room you encourage the patient that the slight irregularity of the fetal heart is not important—that she is going to have a fine, healthy baby. Then in the next room you assure another woman on whom you just did a saline abortion, that it’s good that the heart is already irregular… She has nothing to worry about, she is not going to have a live baby… Somebody has to do it. Unfortunately, we are the executioners in this instance.
Today, most abortions are done in clinics by doctors who do nothing else. But there are still gynecologists who do a small number of abortions for their established patients and also deliver children and manage pregnancies, and they may run into the same strange situation of saving a baby one day and destroying a baby the next. And just recently, a combination abortion and childbirth center opened in Buffalo, NY.
In my next article for Secular Pro-Life, I will highlight how this double standard of viewing one child as valuable and another as worthless based outside factors (typically the mother’s opinion) affects the medical profession in more subtle ways.