By Dave Andrusko
To me, there are few questions ultimately more puzzling than how people involved in the abortion trade—and not just the abortionist—are able to do what they do. This is a gruesome, soul-deadening business which requires a participant to wave the bloody flag (“back alley abortions”); wrap it in a higher calling (“reproductive justice,” “autonomy,” etc.); or persuade themselves that unborn children belong to a kind of unknown species who exist only to get in the way of the aforementioned autonomy.
This morning, I re-read a book review I wrote for First Things eons ago that reminded me how one prominent early leader in the abortion movement wrestled her conscience into submission.
The woman was the late Judith Widdicombe, an abortion clinic operator in Missouri, who died in 2001. In 1973 she founded Reproductive Health Services, the focal point for the abortion debate for years to come. She was also early to the game in incorporating a “new” technique: Dilation and evacuation (D&E).
Widdicombe anesthetized her conscience by repeating the word “potential” to herself. As [the author of the book] writes, “What landed in the plastic basin in the Widdicombes’ back toilet was a potential human being, the premonition of a human being, the first rough arrangement of eyelids and fingerprints and human skin.” The “actual” human being was the woman. …
Widdicombe brought her chief abortion doctor to Washington, D.C., to learn how to perform a new technique, “D&E.” As he observed the abortionist’s technique and listened to his matter-of-fact explanation of what he was doing, “a small arm with a hand on it dropped into the surgical pan. A hand.”
He “felt momentarily short of air, as though someone had punched him hard in the stomach . . . . What was wrong with him? Why was he suddenly thinking about Nazi Germany?” The truth was that while over six years “he had observed his share of bloodied parts,” never before had his work “required him to consider so plainly the mechanics of dismemberment.”
Clearly, the abortionist, if not Widdicombe, experienced a kind of ‘aha’ moment, when the scales fell from his eyes. Seeing a “small arm with a hand” drop into a steel pan can do that to you.
I have no idea if the abortionist exited the killing business. Having read a number of accounts, I’m aware that some abortionists do finally come to the end of their rope and make an escape. Others keep the killing machine fully operational.
We can only pray that whatever role someone plays on the assembly line, their souls are awakened to what they are doing to the most defenseless of God’s creatures.