Former Clinic Worker: “Mary Roe”

In the book The Zero People, a nurse, writing under the name “Mary Roe,” wrote the following essay about her experiences with abortion:

“I was for abortion. I thought it was a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy she did not want. Now I’m not so sure. I am a student nurse nearing the end of my OB/GYN rotation at a major Metropolitan hospital and teaching center. It wasn’t until I saw what abortion involves that I changed my mind. After the first week in the abortion clinic several people in my clinical group were shaky about their previously positive feelings about abortion. This new attitude resulted from our actually seeing a Prostaglandins abortion, one similar in nature to the widely used Saline abortion.

What the medical professionals proudly feel is an advancement in gynecological medicine – the prostaglandins induced abortion – is actually, I now believe, a biochemical murder. It is a natural body substance being used to produce what is an unnatural body action: an abortion. Prostaglandins is a fatty acid present in many body tissues and affects the contractability of smooth muscles, especially useful in stimulating the muscles of the uterus. It is now being used in some medical centers to bring on labor post 16 weeks of conception and up to 20 weeks.

The 2nd trimester abortions are induced by prostaglandins by IV, vaginal suppositories, or most often by intraamniotic deliverance of prostaglandins. Actual labor is induced and the average abortion time is anywhere from 6 to 20 hours but can be longer. The pains are strong rhythmic contractions (just like the labor pains a woman has prior to the birth of a child). The fundus, the firm height of the uterus during pregnancy, moves under the nurse’s hand. The fetus is moving too.

The placenta, the biological separation between maternal and fetal systems, is jarred by the passage of pain medications. The strong analgesics quickly pass through the maternal bloodstream and into the fetal system to be absorbed there at a many times greater potency. Further assault. Ironically, it is an obstetrician who carefully advises against the use of even aspirin during pregnancy, for the child’s sake, but who now orders the dose of Demerol or Valium for the woman in the pains of abortion.

The fetus continues to move, harshly pushed down the birth canal by the strong muscle contractions of the uterine myometrium caused by prostaglandins. The woman remains in bed, unattended much of the time. It is a long wait. Hours pass.

Vital signs and the progress of labor are checked by the nurse at intervals. This nurse is one who is generally used to dealing with the advent of life, not death. She has at one time reassured a tired woman in labor that the tedious process will bring on the birth of a child, not a “termination of unwanted pregnancy”; an unnamed fetus.

16 weeks

16 weeks

Finally the violent contractions of the prostaglandins have done their job. The fetus is expelled wet, red, mucus covered and warm. Limbs are flexed. The head and chin are bent into the chest. The slit like eyes are closed innocently. It is a miniature human being, being awakened from sleep too soon by a woman who was given the choice to interrupt her pregnancy.

The umbilical cord is cut. The fetus is taken away and the woman waits to expel the placenta. In an hour or 2 the entire process is over. She sleeps and then is discharged if there are no complications. She goes home. But I wonder if she realizes just how much he has left behind.

By that time in gestation chromosomes are laid out – distinctive markers of heredity. Crossing over of the genes assures that this fetus would have been unlike any human being: alone, special, and unique. Had it lived.

unbornbaby20w-01 (1)Although still in the experimental stage, this method is being used for terminations of pregnancies of 16 weeks and over. I used to find rationales. The fetus isn’t real. Abdomens aren’t really very swollen. It isn’t “alive.” No more excuses. At 16 weeks the fetus is well formed. By 20 weeks the face, eyelids, nose, and mouth are formed. Organs are well-defined. The heart and circulatory system have been laid down and I have heard a fetal heartbeat at 20 weeks (a pregnant friend of mine told me she heard her baby’s heartbeat at 10 weeks) with the Doppler machine – fast and bounding. Hair begins to appear on the head. The arms and limbs are formed. Sex of the fetus is evident. This is what is expelled from the uterus into a hospital bed or bedpan to be wrapped up quickly and carry to pathology and disposed of.

I am a member of the healthcare profession and members of my class are now ambivalent about abortion. Whereas before I was firm on my stand for abortion, I now know a great deal more about what is involved in this issue. Women should perceive fully what abortion is; how destructive an act it is both to themselves and to the unborn child. Whatever psychological coping mechanisms are employed during the process, the sight of a fetus in a hospital pan remains the final statement.

I’ve lost the steadiness in my voice when I discuss abortion. I find it difficult to say the word. That firm conviction, “a woman’s right,” is gone. There is a time to live in a time to die but I feel that there is a far greater authority to decide that time that a woman or her doctor.”

Jeff Lane Hensley The Zero People (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books, 1983) 221 – 222

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About Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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