Another hard one

Stand to Reason Blog found a place on the net called “The Abortioneers” which has since disappeared but remains visible in Google cache. Here is the paper abstract and information.

the article by L Harris is very interesting stuff. she acknowledges her deep ambivalence at performing abortions:

To reflect seriously on the question of how providers determine their limit for abortion, one must be willing to cross borders and boundaries (including seemingly inflexible ones like “pro-choice” and “pro-life”). Therefore, speaking as a provider, I will focus on aspects of abortion care that we don’t normally talk about, issues for which no room has been made in current pro-choice abortion discourse, many of which may frankly be too dangerous for pro-choice movements to acknowledge. They are:

• personal and psychological aspects of second trimester abortion provision

• visual and visceral dimensions of second trimester abortion

• violence inherent in abortion, especially apparent in the second trimester

• legitimate ethical and moral issues providers may have with second trimester abortion, as distinct from first trimester abortion.

There are reasons for the noticeable silence on these more difficult aspects of abortion service provision, as I will discuss. However, ultimately, I argue that this silence is harmful to individual providers, to the abortion rights movement itself, to public opinion around abortion, and perhaps most importantly, to the women and couples who need our services. I will make the case for a new kind of abortion and pro-choice discourse – one which is honest about the nature of abortion procedures – and which uses this honesty to strengthen abortion care

especially personal here:

When I was a little over 18 weeks pregnant with my now pre-school child, I did a second trimester abortion for a patient who was also a little over 18 weeks pregnant. As I reviewed her chart I realised that I was more interested than usual in seeing the fetal parts when I was done, since they would so closely resemble those of my own fetus. I went about doing the procedure as usual, removed the laminaria I had placed earlier and confirmed I had adequate dilation. I used electrical suction to remove the amniotic fluid, picked up my forceps and began to remove the fetus in parts, as I always did. I felt lucky that this one was already in the breech position – it would make grasping small parts (legs and arms) a little easier. With my first pass of the forceps, I grasped an extremity and began to pull it down. I could see a small foot hanging from the teeth of my forceps. With a quick tug, I separated the leg. Precisely at that moment, I felt a kick – a fluttery “thump, thump” in my own uterus. It was one of the first times I felt fetal movement. There was a leg and foot in my forceps, and a “thump, thump” in my abdomen. Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes – without me – meaning my conscious brain – even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling – a brutally visceral response – heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life. Doing second trimester abortions did not get easier after my pregnancy; in fact, dealing with little infant parts of my born baby only made dealing with dismembered fetal parts sadder.

The point is that, visually and viscerally, doing an 18-week abortion is different from doing an eight-week abortion. Removing a microscopic fetus and gestational sac is visually and viscerally different from removing what looks like a fully formed but small baby. Though I focus on D&E here, similar difficulties hold true for second trimester medical abortion.

What do you do with experiences and sensations like mine? Providers of second trimester abortions see things that most people don’t. What kind of dissociative process inside us allows us to do this routinely? What normal person does this kind of work? This brings me to the issue of violence.

and here is her conclusion on violence:

It is worth considering for a moment the relationship of feminism to violence. In general feminism is a peaceful movement. It does not condone violent problem-solving, and opposes war and capital punishment. But abortion is a version of violence. What do we do with that contradiction? How do we incorporate it into what we are as a movement, in particular a feminist movement? In feminist sociological and anthropological literature, the permissibility of acknowledging the legitimacy of any “pro-life” arguments is in dispute. Some scholars consider the possibility that understanding the anti-abortion side of things is all right, and in fact may lead the way to finding common ground with those who oppose abortion.[16], [17] and [18] Others argue that there is no room for compromise or finding a middle ground – that there is no ground to give up in this hard fought battle.19

But where does that leave the abortion provider and team? What do we do when caught between pro-choice discourse that, while it reflects our values, does not accurately reflect the full extent of our experience of abortion and in fact contradicts an enormous part of it, and the anti-abortion discourse and imagery that may actually be more closely aligned to our experience but is based in values we do not share? Where do we go to talk about it? It is one of the notable gaps, silences in the provision of abortion care – I would argue to the detriment of the pro-choice movement, and in particular to more widespread availability of second trimester abortion.

but yet, even in the face of all of that ambivalence and recognition of the reality of what she is doing, she remains unalterably committed to abortion on demand. ” I must add, however, that I consider declining a woman’s request for abortion also to be an act of unspeakable violence.”

and check this bit out:

We might conclude at this point that a provider who feels that abortion is violent is simply ambivalent, conflicted, is not really committed to women’s abortion rights, and just shouldn’t be doing this work. “Pro-life” supporters may argue that the kind of stories and sentiments I’ve relayed spell the end of abortion – that honest speech acts regarding the reality of abortion will weaken the pro-choice movement to the point where it cannot sustain itself any longer. I want to make the case that honesty about abortion work can be the basis for a stronger movement – one that makes it easier for providers and the teams they work with to do all abortions, especially second trimester abortions.

There are ethical and moral positions that make complete sense of the position that says women should have full access to abortion – but simultaneously allow for discomfort with aborted second trimester fetuses. Two traditions prevail in philosophical discussions of abortion and the fetus: conservative views based in natural law, which argue for the inviolability of fetal life from the moment of conception; and liberal views based in Enlightenment principles, in which what matters most is an achievement reached – sentience or birth.22

Really, what can you say? Stand to Reason points out the extreme capability of the human mind to deal with cognitive dissonance with rationalization. That is a fair observation. but keep in mind always that there is a destroying deceitful deceiving adversary helping us selfish self-centered human beings in our rationalization process.

HT to the Z man again.


One Response

  1. wow. fascinating testimony of her experiences. interesting and confusing how she can say that what she experiences is actually more in line with what the pro life movement says than pro choice, yet she says it is not in line with her values. why are her values so different than the reality?

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