Schizophrenic response: Two embryos, two attitudes

By Sarah Terzo

The pro-choice author of one book described observing an ultrasound training workshop:

“The workshop was for primary care clinicians who were beginning to offer medication abortion in their practices and were planning to use ultrasonography to date their patient’s pregnancies precisely. (Ultrasounds are not required as part of the medication abortion regimen, but are widely used for this purpose, and in abortion care more generally.) As is common in this kind of medical training situation, the host clinic had recruited two pregnant patients to serve as volunteers, so the trainees could practice using an ultrasound machine.…

The group was informed that the first room contained a woman who was planning to continue her pregnancy. In the second, one who was planning to terminate.…

When I entered the first room with a group of about six trainees and two trainers, I sensed the high energy level, and there was a lot of jovial banter between the clinicians and the volunteer, including thanks for her service. When the embryo (about five week’s gestation) was first located on the ultrasound, the trainer enthusiastically pointed this out to her. As different trainees took turns finding the tiny embryonic sac, others kept up a steady stream of small talk, asking how the pregnancy was going, how the patient was feeling, and so on. The group left with wishes for a successful pregnancy and birth.

The mood changed immediately when we entered the second room. People became far more subdued. The patient was graciously thanked for her volunteer service, but there was none of the buoyancy that I had just witnessed, with the first patient. When the embryo was initially located on the screen, the trainers quietly pointed it out to the trainees and did not call it to the woman’s attention. I noted that she did not look at the screen at all for the 45 minutes the group was in the room.”

Carole Joffe, “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: the Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us” (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2009) pp.123 – 124.

This quote shows the strange kind of “schizophrenic” behavior of medical professionals as they switch gears between wanted and unwanted pregnancies.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Clinic Quotes and is reposted with permission.