By Dave Andrusko
The “ambivalence of abortion” was a 1978 book written by Linda Bird Francke from which I have quoted numerous times. Here is a passage from one of the many women she interviewed that is embedded in my memory:
“There was no doubt, when I became pregnant, that life was right there, in my womb. Left undisturbed, that blob of cells and tissue would have grown into a baby. The process was beginning, and I chose to end it……I was totally unprepared for my mounting ambivalence as the time for the abortion came closer, an ambivalence that turned into grief and guilt for a period after the abortion was over. The little ghost haunted me for about six months before it disappeared, and after it was gone, I even missed it a bit. But as my children grow and take up more and more of my time and energy, I realize emphatically that the addition of another child for me would have been negative rather than positive.”
I have often thought that “The little ghost” may well have haunted her long after she would admit.
In a fascinating essay, written a while back for the New York Times, Dr. Alison Block tells her readers why she proudly performs second trimester abortion and how abortionist should be congratulated for overcoming their “ambivalence.”
But first she tells us that previously “the vast majority of abortions that I perform in my California practice are at six, seven or eight weeks of pregnancy — a period during which the gestational sac, a tiny piece of tissue that resembles a cotton ball, is about the size of a coin.”
Clearly she is already desensitized to what she is doing—and to whom.
Block admits “Abortions, especially second-trimester ones, can be emotional and complex,” then excuses them away: “But for me, condemning a person to an unwanted pregnancy is worse.”
This is par for the course—such abortions are tough but somebody got to do them. For example
“Nobody likes doing this,” a mentor said to me the first time I witnessed a second-trimester abortion as a medical student, more than a decade ago. As we were examining the pregnancy that we had just removed from the patient, my mentor went on to explain that we do this work because people need us, and we do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Many second-trimester abortion providers I know balance ambiguity and a sense of responsibility: The work is sometimes hard and complicated, and it is our duty to provide the care those patients need.
Block ends her piece with a rhetorical flourish:
Later on, I go for a walk along the Oklahoma River. The sky is the bright cornflower blue of spring, but the leafless trees and dry dull grass are still holding on tenaciously to winter. I look up at the trees, and their spread-out branches remind me of human anatomy, the arteries splitting into arterioles and capillaries, branching into ever finer points.
The natural world has all sorts of these redundancies, where life echoes life. I feel a deep wonder at the beauty of the natural world, and the complexities of the human experience within it. And I feel gratitude that, at least for now, I can continue to provide.
Ah, yes, it’s all so “complex,” yet there she is offering an ode to the “human experience.” Too bad hundreds, perhaps thousands, of “little ghosts” will never experience the “beauty of the natural world.”