A few women have told me that they had abortions. When that happens I try to listen compassionately to their stories, which are tragically so common. But as soon as we began the display on that Saturday, I got the chance to learn from someone with a different kind of experience.
“Choice” Chain is a pro-life activism activity that involves engaging passersby in dialogue while holding photographs that show what abortion does to a baby. I participate in Choice Chain in hopes that fewer abortions will happen as a result. Sometimes people assume that condemning women who have had abortions is the goal, but it’s not at all. Showing the pictures is an effective way to spread the life-saving truth: abortion kills a human being. I’ve seen tons of positive interactions and changed minds; I’ve even met a child who was saved from abortion when his mother saw the signs. But during “Choice” Chain a few weeks ago, it was my turn to learn about abortion.
At first I assumed the man who approached me was being rude. He pointed to the picture of the aborted fetus: “I’ve cut up thousands of those.” But I sensed a sincerity that belied his words. “What do you mean?” I asked. He is a pathologist at Victoria General Hospital. He had indeed cut pieces from thousands of aborted babies for samples. I didn’t ask his name, and I don’t think he would’ve given it. He thought we might be interested to hear what he had to say because we’re not likely to get such information otherwise. He was right. I’ve known for a while that approximately 300 abortions happen every day in Canada but I’d never heard about it firsthand from someone who deals with the aftermath.
“Some are quite a bit older than that” he said, pointing to a sign showing an 8-week old aborted fetus. He had obtained tissue from thousands of dead babies every year, some of which were at least as old as the 2nd-trimester neonatal preemies that, instead of being aborted, were treated with delicate care. He described gently and carefully obtaining blood from preemies that could just as easily have been aborted, sampled and thrown in the trash. He said “I used to be more on the pro-choice side, but seeing so many of these makes you think about it.” When you take samples from aborted fetuses you can see the body parts. It makes you think twice “when someone drops a jar and the abortion falls on the floor and blood goes everywhere and everybody can see what it is.” [this is a graphic video showing "what it is"]
The grim realities this man described don’t belong to the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic murder trial, a story that is presently horrifying many on both sides of the issue. They belong to the local hospital. They describe things that happen regularly.
The pathologist thought we’d be interested to know just who gets abortions. Apparently young women roughly 17-20 are most common. Situations surrounding abortion are often complicated, but pro-lifers hold that every innocent death is tragic. So in that sense, the age of the woman doesn’t make a difference. But he went on: Women from about 20 to 35 get relatively few abortions. Instead, the second most common group is women of about 35 and up. That was surprising. He suggested they’d had enough kids and didn’t want larger families, or they didn’t want the higher risk of complications associated with pregnancies near the end of childbearing years.
He really didn’t like how “anybody can get an abortion for any reason” but he didn’t say he was pro-life. He was adamant to discuss it with “ideology aside.” He didn’t get behind religious or other “ideological” oppositions to abortion. Instead he told me that he just wants people to know the truth. I should’ve pointed out that many of us who call ourselves “pro-life” have the same straightforward, untwisted aim.
He said that everyone is sent down to Victoria to get abortions; none are performed up-island. He attributed this to pro-life activism in some communities on Vancouver Island. I’m not sure if that’s common knowledge or not but I hope this is encouraging to those activists. He also noted that whenever a medical study comes out that is not in favour of abortion, even in the interest of the health of the mother, it is shouted down. “Ideology aside” again, he was frustrated that, as a medical person, you can’t even discuss these possibilities.
He thanked us for being out on the street and said that people need to see the pictures. I offered him a business card for “Silent No More,” thinking that their healing mission might help him. He said he didn’t need it – “I’m fine.” Despite his confidence, I think he wished, with some bitterness, that everyone knew what he did for a living. He seemed easygoing, confident and friendly. Looking back now I wonder why he opened our conversation so candidly: “I’ve cut up thousands of those.” What do you say to that? I first thought he was trying to get a rise out of me so I was calm. But maybe outrage would have been better – maybe outrage would have validated his experience. Because abortion is truly outrageous, and this man had seen the results firsthand.