Abortionist wants recognition that abortionists have consciences, too
By Dave Andrusko
I grant you I am at a disadvantage: I have not seen abortionist Lisa Harris’s editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) which is scheduled to be released sometime today. But I have read accounts, one of which may be more revealing since it was distributed by the University of Michigan where Harris is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Health System.
Those who’ve been readers of NRL News Today may remember a piece I wrote three years ago about Harris. I am reprinting it because it helps us understand Harris’s assumptions. (See “A Long Night’s Journey into Dehumanization and the Moral Incoherence of Abortion”)
The woman who demands that abortionists have equivalent conscience rights with those medical personnel who refuse to participate in an abortion is the same woman who wrote about dismembering huge unborn babies at the very same time she was 18 weeks pregnant. Here is an amazing illustration of cognitive dissonance that appeared in “Reproductive Health Matters”:
“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 realized 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…. 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.”
Back to her NEJM editorial, Harris argues that there is a “false dichotomization of conscience and abortion provision.“ She “writes that federal and state laws continue to protect only conscience-based refusals to perform or refer for abortion, offering minimal legal protection for conscience-based abortion provision,” according to the story sent out by the University of Michigan.
“[S]he’d like to see a clause recognizing moral reasons for having and providing abortions,” according to LiveScience.com. “Right now, the only folks who are actively claiming moral ground are the people who oppose abortions,” she said. What exactly that means in practice is unclear.
Presumably Harris means one of two things, or both. The first probably is a defense of second (and third) trimester abortions which the abortionist feels ethically “compelled” to provide. The second is likely is respect for people who (as Harris wrote) feel “lucky that this one was already in the breech position – it would make grasping small parts (legs and arms) a little easier.” They have a kind of conscience, too.
Put another way, Harris is arguing that if there is not an explicit conscience protection for abortionists while there is for objectors, “then the implication is that they act in ‘bad conscience’ or lack conscience altogether.”
To be charitable, let’s say that it is an incredibly selective conscience, made the more readily apparent by Harris’ comment that at the same time she is pulling off arms and legs from one unborn baby she feels her own baby move for the first time.
Perhaps the real motivation behind the essay is found in this statement from the University of Michigan story: “In addition, equating conscience with only the refusal to perform abortion continues to stigmatize physicians who are abortion providers.”
She has already told us that in addition to stigma, abortionists (“abortion providers”) are marginalized within medicine and often have those pesky pro-lifers holding vigils outside their walls. Nonetheless they still soldier on, doing their fair share to extinguish the lives of 1.2 million unborn babies each and every year.
Bearing all that in mind, shouldn’t this be ample evidence they are doing so “because deeply-held, core ethical values compel them”?
In a word, no.
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