Pro-choice counselors at abortion clinics occasionally have to deal with a woman who asks, point blank: “Is abortion killing my baby?” Many former clinic workers have said that the expected response is “no.”
Carol Everett, former owner of two abortion clinics and administrator of four, said that:
Every woman has these same two questions: First, ‘Is it a baby?’ ‘No’ the counselor assures her. ‘It is a product of conception (or a blood clot, or a piece of tissue)’ Even though these counselors see six week babies daily, with arms, legs and eyes that are closed like newborn puppies, they lie to the women. How many women would have an abortion, if they told them the truth?” (1)
Another former clinic worker, Linda Couri, who worked at Planned Parenthood, described how she responded when a teenager considering abortion asked her the following question: “If I have an abortion, am I killing my baby?”
‘Kill’ is a strong word, and so is ‘baby.’ You’re terminating the product of conception. (2)
But Couri was haunted by the girl’s question and troubled about her response. She began questioning whether providing abortions was really moral. She recalls asking her supervisor if she had done the right thing. The supervisor did not deny that abortion was killing a baby but told her that in the teenager’s case, abortion was a “necessary evil.” Struck by the use of the word “evil,” Couri continued to question her position at the clinic. Eventually, she left, and now she is a pro-life speaker.
Clinic worker Peg Johnston, who works in an abortion clinic in New York, revealed how she dealt with women who said they were killing their babies in a 2005 article:
She first says that when the women came asking if they killing their babies, she thought they were repeating what they heard from pro-life protestors and sidewalk counselors who spoke to them as they entered the clinic. But as she talked to more and more women who repeated the question:
They weren’t mouthing an anti-choice message – they were acknowledging that this was serious stuff. How can I want one kid and not the other? (3)
In the article “In Search of New Words: Redefining the Abortion Debate,” Johnston speaks about this at length:
“I would go out there and scream at them. [pro-life protesters] Then I would come back in and listen to a woman talk. Frequently the words were almost the same. The protesters would be saying, ‘You’re murdering your baby,’ and the women inside would be saying, ‘I feel like I’m killing my baby.’ I used to think, well, they’re just echoing what they are hearing. There was a time when I would correct them if they used those words.”
“The word killing was hard. It was so difficult to see women that guilty or distressed,” continues Johnston, who has run the clinic since 1981. “But eventually we got into conversations about the difference between murder and killing. Now our reaction is more: well, does it feel like killing to you and how are you going to make peace with that?”
Johnston acknowledges that many women suspect that having an abortion is killing a baby. It seems that when directly misleading women fails, she uses semantics to separate the concept of “murder” from “killing.”
On the blog “Abortion Witness” in a post entitled “Talking about the babies: saying the things we cannot say,” a clinic worker discusses a similar situation when she describes a conversation with a patient.
“You’ve written in your chart that you feel guilty.” I say to the patient I am screening. “Can you tell me more about this? Why do you feel guilty?”
“I feel guilty because I am killing my baby,” she answers. “That’s why I feel guilty.”
The first time an abortion patient said this to me, I was completely unprepared for it. Although I was a long-time pro-choice activist, a Ph.D. who had studied feminist theory , and a former abortion patient myself, nothing in my experience had prepared me to talk with a woman about killing babies. “Oh no,” I said to her as gently as I could. “It’s not a baby- it’s just tissue.”
But the clinic worker later came to feel that her response was wrong.
She describes how pro-choice activists have trouble with using the word “baby” to describe the child who is killed in an abortion and says:
We all know that an unborn child dies in each abortion. And the majority of abortion care workers accept responsibility for our roles in these deaths. We have, for various reasons, determined for ourselves that having a part in these deaths is an important- and ethical- thing for us to do[.]
The blogger describes how a female abortionist who was 18 weeks pregnant performed an abortion on an 18-week-old unborn baby and felt her wanted baby kick just as she was pulling a leg off of the baby she was aborting. The blogger says:
We might start these honest conversations by asking what differentiates these two eighteen week unborn babies? The short answer – which is both incredibly simple and very complicated – is that the unborn baby moving inside the physician/mother is being carried by someone who has chosen to complete her pregnancy and deliver a living child, and the other unborn baby is being carried by someone who, for reasons that we may or may not understand, has decided that she cannot complete her pregnancy. In other words, the life or death of the unborn baby is determined by the mother’s decision about whether she wants to share her body with another being[.]
The blogger admits that “the distinction can feel unsatisfying to many people” but reiterates that it is moral to kill an unborn baby whose mother does not want her. She goes on to say:
… We should never deny that abortion kills an unborn child. When the topic comes up, a simple “yes, I know – and so do women who have abortions” will often suffice. Several years ago, the director at the clinic where I worked was on a radio talk show about second trimester abortion. A caller said, “You can’t tell me it’s not a baby. And you can’t tell me that baby won’t die!” Yes, she said calmly, it is a baby and yes, it is killed. Women know this, and they have abortions anyway. This is exactly why abortion is complicated, like many of life’s challenges. We must remember, though, that complicated does not necessarily mean wrong.
The clinic worker now suggests that the proper response to a woman in an abortion clinic who says “I feel like I’m killing my baby” is something like:
“Ok. Let’s talk about how you are going to cope with knowing that you’ve killed your baby. What do you believe happens to us when we die?” From this point, the woman and I could have an honest conversation about how she understood her abortion decision within the context of her own life circumstances, beliefs, and ethics.
The blogger then finishes her post by saying:
Women have always known that pregnancy means a baby and abortion means the baby will die. When women care enough about the lives of their children – born and unborn – and about the role lives to make that decision, we owe them the respect and support that honesty conveys.
Such honesty is becoming more and more common. A number of articles from Live Action have documented both pro-choice activists and abortion providers admitting that abortion is murder. As horrific as it is to imagine a clinic worker telling a woman that yes, abortion will kill her baby, but that she should abort anyway, perhaps pro-lifers can take comfort in the fact that even many pro-abortion people are beginning to reject euphemisms and talk about abortion as what it really is – the killing of an innocent unborn child. Their honesty leaves no doubt about what is at stake in the abortion debate.
1. Carol Everett “A Walk Through an Abortion Clinic” ALL About Issues magazine Aug-Sept 1991, pg. 117
2. TIM GRAVES “From Planned Parenthood to Pro-Life” National Catholic Register Aug 24, 2011
3. “Listening to women about abortion” Fairfield County Weekly May 26, 2005
4. David Daleiden and Jon A. Shields “Mugged by Ultrasound: Why so many abortion workers have turned pro-life”. The Weekly Standard JAN 25, 2010, VOL. 15, NO. 18