By Sarah Terzo
Pro-choice author Magda Denes witnessed abortions for her book In Necessity and Sorrow: Life and Death Inside an Abortion Hospital. Her book was published decades ago, but is still relevant today and is one of the most detailed and poignant books by an observer at an abortion clinic.
Here she describes viewing the bodies of aborted babies killed in the second trimester:
I am drawn to the unit, irresistibly, by my reactions of disbelief, sorrow, horror, compassion, guilt. The place depresses me, yet I hang around after working hours. When I leave, I behave outside with the expansiveness of one who has just escaped a disaster. I have bad dreams. My sense of complicity in something nameless grows and festers. I consider giving up the research…
I remove with one hand the lid of a bucket…I look inside the bucket in front of me. There is a small naked person there floating in a bloody liquid- plainly the tragic victim of a drowning accident. But then perhaps this was no accident, because the body is purple with bruises and the face has the agonized tautness of one forced to die too soon. Death overtakes me in a rush of madness…I have seen this before. The face of a Russian soldier, lying on a frozen snow covered hill, stiff with death and cold….A death factory is the same anywhere, and the agony of early death is the same anywhere. I take the lid off all the buckets. All of them. I reach up to the shelf above this bucket and graveyard tabletop and take down a pair of forceps….With the forceps I lift the fetuses, one by one.
I lift them by an arm or a leg…Finally, I lift a very large fetus…I look at the label. Mother’s name: Catherine Atkins; Doctor’s name: Saul Marcus. Sex of item: Male. Time of Gestation: Twenty-four weeks. I remember Catherine. She is seventeen, a very pretty blond girl…This is Master Atkins- to be burned tomorrow- who died like a hero….Might he have been the only one to truly love her?
Magda Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow: Life and Death in an Abortion Hospital (New York: Basic Books Inc. 1976) 50, 58-61.
Editor’s note. This appeared at liveactionnews.org.