Witnessing Abortion


In reporting her recent profile of LeRoy Carhart for Newsweek, Sarah Kliff tapped into her own complex emotional response to the subject of abortion. She describes her experience witnessing abortions in a Newsweek online piece, which LifeSiteNews seizes as proof that abortion is complicated and people’s reactions to it are complicated—not the anti-choice website’s usual message.

When Kliff visited LeRoy Carhart’s Nebraska clinic, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to enter the procedure room. The closest she comes is a room next to it, from which she can view the abortions through a window. Though Carhart is known for performing late-term abortions, he didn’t perform any on the day that Kliff visited.

I’ve witnessed abortions not as a journalist but as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood. I assist the doctor, scrub technician, and anesthetist with room set-up and other simple tasks during the procedure, and I support the patients before, during, and after the abortion—taking their blood pressure, encouraging them to breathe deeply if they’re upset or in pain, holding their hands.

It’s true that it’s an intense emotional experience, especially the first time you witness it. First, it’s overwhelming for someone outside the medical profession, like Sarah Kliff, and me, to be present for a surgical procedure. Second, abortion is controversial, as Kliff points out. For me, this manifested most in how I thought about the patients. What did these women have to go through to get to this clinic? Did this woman, in front of me, have a supportive mother but an absent boyfriend? Or an anti-abortion family that refused to participate, and a friend who’s driving her home?

Kliff observes that

Abortion involves weighty choices that, depending on how you view it, involve a life, or the potential for life.

Indeed, the women I’ve seen in the clinic have in common their commitment to their choice. But this choice is the only thing that binds them; they are living very different lives. One woman may be 20 and the manager of a clothing store; the next is 32, married, with two children, and just beginning graduate school. It’s because of this that I can’t identify with what Kliff says about her anxiety before visiting the clinic:

Would I . . .Encounter women whose choices troubled me? Whom I disagreed with? I was uneasy about coming in such close contact with such substantial decisions.

It’s hard to imagine that Kliff would know enough about a woman to understand, and thus be troubled by, her choice, even after interviewing her. To be in the clinic—in the waiting room or procedure room—is not to understand the choice a woman makes. And to understand the choice one woman makes, even if you could, is not to understand the choice any other woman makes.

To be fair, Kliff doesn’t second-guess any of the women she ends up meeting. She’s left with a feeling of “discomfort,” to which she’s entitled. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, after my first day at Planned Parenthood. I think it’s wise that Kliff, after writing about abortion for years, has finally seen the procedure. If she’d like to further explore her emotional reaction to it, I’m sure her local Planned Parenthood would be glad to have her help.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • anonymous101

    When Kliff writes, "Abortion involves weighty choices that, depending on how you view it, involve a life, or the potential for life." (italics mine), she is talking about the life of the baby that is being murdered. She had an emotional response to watching a baby being murdered. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^When Reeves responds to this quote by stating, "…the women I’ve seen in the (abortion) clinic have in common their commitment to their choice. But this choice is the only thing that binds them; they are living very different lives."(italics mine), she is trying to confuse her reader by putting a different spin on the intended meaning of Kliff’s use of the word, "life", and engaging in a logical failure. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^I would certainly hope that Kliff’s response to this emotional episode would be to listen to her heart and join the pro-life momvement. After my first day working at a crisis pregnancy center, I was filled with joy; pregnant mothers who need help to keep their babies are thrilled to find that assistance in the pro-life movement, and their exuberance is uplifting.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ The choice is obvious, really. Kliff could, like Reeves, be (as Reeves states),"exhausted, physically and emotionally, after my first day at Planned Parenthood", or be filled with joy working for LIFE.

  • hatmaker510

    I’ve read your comments before and each time I wonder why you bother trolling this site? To incite us? To convert us? Maybe to debate? No, it certainly isn’t to debate the issue because you make NO logical arguments, NO common sense. Most of us here are regulars – we are very thankful for RH and all the information it offers and are dedicated to supporting it. We believe in each woman’s right to choose – for herself….without reservation, without judgement.  So you can’t convert us.  And I’ve seen no incitement … Most simply don’t bother with anti-choice trollers.
    Oh – as for you calling yourself "pro-life":  I’ve seen in your words no sympathy, no empathy, no understanding, and absolutely no compassion.  I always find that odd….

     

    TO Kathleen: Thanks for bringing this to our attention. 

    • dlt101

      It is always interesting to watch the blogs and read the snippets of ego trips from both sides of any issue. This one is no exception. BTW, Claiming ownership or affiliation with an exclusive club is a rather shallow concept.

      Here is one I bet you haven’t heard. The choice of pro-life or pro-choice is a choice we all can make. it is always easy to take the quick way out and fail to discuss the issue. I am sure Planned Parenthood has yet to offer prospective clients a complete set of facts so a person can then make an intelligent decision, either pro or con.

       When you, as a blogger disagree that complete information is necessary, you have said all there is to be heard. To the detriment of bloggers everywhere, a computer keyboard removes the kill switch, no pun intended, between the brain and information outlet thus allowing the blogger to batter the writer without conflict.

      A pro-life individual, if intelligence is handy, can state his message quite clearly. "Pro-choice individuals have the right to ignore facts as much or as little as they desire. There is no one expecting anything different. Is a fetus a human life? Of course. Faith is a quality you either have, or you don’t. It is that simple. Many women seeking abortion have no idea of what they are preparing to do. Women have gone through the process of abortion and in later years fail to reconcile the act with their chosen diety. I, for one, believe it is a shame for an abortion provider to relay his or her slanted retoric, gain approval. perform the procedure, and wish the patient a wonderful happy life ahead.

      Choose your poison carfully, for you must live with the concequences. A life with no depth is a sad life to live. You must be the one to answer to your god of choice in the end. I will not be there to smuggly say I told you so. It is not my call. Proceed as you wish. Oh, and really do have a nice day!.

  • amanda-marcotte

    You know, most women who have abortions already have children.  Of the rest, most will at some point.  It’s not like getting pregnant is like winning the lottery, a once in a lifetime opportunity that will never come up again.  If it’s not the time, then that should be respected.  Doesn’t mean they’ll never know what it’s like to have a baby when the time is right.

  • prochoiceferret

    Many women seeking abortion have no idea of what they are preparing to do.

    Uh, I think you meant to say they do know what they are preparing to do. After all, it’s not like women are stupid and think the doctor is just going to give them a Pap smear or something!

    Choose your poison carfully, for you must live with the concequences. A life with no depth is a sad life to live. You must be the one to answer to your god of choice in the end. I will not be there to smuggly say I told you so. It is not my call. Proceed as you wish. Oh, and really do have a nice day!.

    Thank you for being pro-choice ^_^