The First Time Abortion Became Real For Me

Sad to say, but one of the hot-button issues in politics today is abortion. There are those who are passionately for it, and just as many who are passionately against it.  One aspect of this issue wherein you would hope to find consensus is around abortion survivors — those babies who survive a mid-to-late term abortion.  Surely, once a baby takes a breath and is struggling to live, even after a failed abortion attempt, a civilized society’s response would be to mobilize resources to save that life.  One only has to view how the medical community rallies their resources to care for premature births to see the combined effect of compassion, technology, and medical know-how.

Some in Congress apparently have a different viewpoint.

Last week, Congress voted on legislation requiring immediate medical attention for babies born alive after a failed abortion attempt. The House passed what is known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill passed 220-210.  All of the “no” votes came from Democrats.  

I have difficulty understanding why all newborns do not deserve the same level of care. Isn’t it common sense to do so? Isn’t it morally reprehensible not to?

What is even more incomprehensible is how two House members, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NJ) and Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), argued that requiring such medical attention could cause even more harm to the newborn infant.  Huh?

Passage of this act is unlikely in the Senate since a majority of Senators worship at the altar of abortion.

This Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the ensuing debate prompted me to recall when abortion became real for me.

It was February 1973.  

My late wife (Tootie) and I had only been married for five months.  She had graduated from Nursing School the previous summer and passed her boards in August. We were married in September, and she started working at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital a couple of weeks after the wedding.

Life was good. We were just as happy as any newlyweds would be. True, we had little money, and I was just a Junior at Georgia Tech.  But we had a plan.  She would work as a nurse at Northside, and I would finish school and get a job.  We would save money, and sometime in our later twenties, we would have a baby and buy a home. 

Well, that was the original plan.

As we entered 1973, we were still basking in the afterglow of our honeymoon period.  Schedules were being constantly juggled as Tootie worked the night shift.  She would arrive home at about 730 am and kiss me as I walked out the door for the twenty-minute drive to the Tech campus. She would leave for work around 10 pm each night.  Night shifts are stressful for married couples, especially newlyweds, but we worked it out.

Little did we know that February 1973 would become a life-altering moment for us.  We had no idea the events that month would so dramatically change the direction of our lives.  In January, the Supreme Court issued its now famous Roe v. Wade abortion decision. The effect was like a tsunami across medical facilities and practices throughout the country. Almost immediately, hospitals like Northside started allowing abortions.  What had been an ongoing debate on the national news media suddenly became a harsh reality for medical personnel.

When she started working the previous year, Tootie signed a conscientious objection form stating that she would not assist with administering abortion procedures due to religious reasons. So, she thought the hospital offering abortion services would not affect her.

She soon learned she was wrong.

Rumors were flying that doctors would start putting mid to late-term abortion patients on the medical/surgical floors (instead of the OB/GYN floor) because it would be too traumatic for the abortive patients to hear crying babies. By February, the rumors came true, and her nightmare began.   

She was designated a “float” or “rotation” nurse.  This meant she received her assignment each night when she arrived at work. One night it would be on the surgical floor, the next would be ICU, and the next would be in the newborn nursery, wherever help was needed.  It was a great experience for a “newbie.”

One day in February, I arrived home from school to find my bride visibly shaking and crying. She shared her experience from the night before:

I was working the medical floor and overseeing approximately 20 patients.  When I learned I had two patients in labor.  One was more active than the other.  I was terrified.  What was I to do?  The charge nurse for the other wing was much more experienced and an ex-nun, so she had a “take charge” attitude and helped me through the night.  My patient was about 20 weeks pregnant.  She explained that she was divorced with two little girls at home and could not face an unplanned pregnancy.  She did not want to have to explain this to her girls or her family.  Her doctor told her it was not life and nothing had formed yet.  A day earlier, she had received an injection of saline (salt solution) into her uterus that would slowly kill the “fetus.”  Usually, within 24/48 hours, labor contractions begin, and the woman delivers the child.  This is what my patient was experiencing, labor, not mild to moderate menstrual cramps as her doctor described.  Her doctor prescribed Tylenol for pain.  When I called to try to get something stronger, he actually said she didn’t deserve anything stronger!  So as she labored and cried in pain, she did finally deliver — her baby boy.  Not a mass of cells.  Not a glob of tissue, or the products of conception…her baby boy.

I should mention that Tootie and I were expecting our first child too.  In February of 1973, Tootie was 20 weeks pregnant.

Alone with the young mother, Tootie continued her narrative of the night’s events.

Oh, how we cried as my baby moved within me.  I then had to take her baby, place him in a bucket, and take him to the lab.  He should have been placed in her arms and taken to the NICU.  I was numb.  I don’t know how I got thru that night.  I don’t remember.  As I left the next morning, I went by the office of the Director of Nursing and told her I would never do that again.  She informed me I could lose my job and possibly my license if I refused to care for a patient.  I told her I was going home to recover and be checked by my doctor and wouldn’t be back until my next rotation.”  

Tootie recalled years later how “I held someone’s “choice” in my hands.  You can’t get much closer to the subject.  I was outraged at how this woman was treated.  She was duped.  She was disrespected.  Women deserve better!” 

Fearing she might have to do this again before she quit to have our baby, we prayed that God would spare her from the horror of delivering these aborted babies until she resigned at seven months.  God honored that prayer.

After raising our five children, she returned to nursing at a local hospital. But after just a few years, she felt called to help women with crisis pregnancies.  People may have wondered why she would take an 80% pay cut to work as a Nurse Manager of a crisis pregnancy center.  One only has to look back to that February evening in 1973 to understand her motivation.  From 1973 until she died in 2011, she was passionately pro-life and pro-woman. She focused not only on saving babies but on serving the needs of women both before and after birth. 

She would also tell you the greatest impact of that experience was helping her to be open to God giving us children and being blessed by them.  

Though Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, the abortion debate will continue. And those of us who call ourselves Pro-life need to continue to serve women in need.  They, after all, deserve better. 

Unfortunately, I expect the Senate Majority will consider the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to be radical and extreme. 

And we thought the Romans were barbaric.

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  1. jjk500

    Buddy, Always powerful in the retelling. Thank you. Sanctity of Life Sunday coming up. Many blessings to you & family. John K.


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