Swedish author Vivian Wahlberg as training to become a nurse and was called upon to assist in an abortion done at 22 weeks
Wahlberg describes the abortion:
[T]he operation was performed through an abdominal incision. I vividly remember the moment when the doctor lifted out the whimpering baby and put it into a receptacle, which he then passed to me with instructions to put it on the fridge. Often I would go to the fridge and open the door slightly, full of wonder and feelings of ambivalence towards the tiny baby – who was later collected with the rest of the department’s biological waste.
The very next week after witnessing that child being left to die, Wahlberg was back training in the delivery ward. Her very first patient was giving birth to a disabled baby. The child was expected to be born with a clubfoot. When the baby was born, his deformities were more extensive. Wahlberg says:
[I] was fully prepared for the fact that there would be an abnormality. In fact both feet were deformed and even the child’s head was deformed, and much of the brain was missing.
Despite the baby’s condition, this child was wanted. Doctors and nurses immediately fought to save his life.
My clinical teacher had instructed me to immediately follow all of the resuscitation procedures necessary. A pediatrician was called in, oxygen was connected up, alternating hot and cold baths for the infant were prepared, and so on.
Because one child was wanted by his mother, doctors and nurses fought hard to save his life. The unwanted baby was pulled from his mother’s womb and died with no help from the same medical professionals that fought so valiantly to save the other baby. Wahlberg says:
Once again I felt great ambivalence. How can one make such a distinction between children? The first was taken out far too early – an apparently perfect and clearly viable little human being – and was then ignored. The other, born at full term, had such severe defects that any life–supporting measures were doomed to failure. Despite this, every possible resource was used to save this gravely ill and badly deformed child, but not the other healthy, living fetus.
Ever since that time I have tried to answer the question “What in fact is a human being?
Vivian Wahlberg Memories After Abortion (Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing, 2007) 7
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