What’s in the Sack?


Not everything that goes on in a place like this orbits around fixing people.
Unsplash photo by the National Cancer Institute.

The young woman walked into the labor and delivery suite of the University hospital unannounced. She carried a big red biohazard bag with the top tied in a knot. I inquired what we could do for her.

She reported that she had undergone an abortion that morning at a local clinic. Afterwards the doctor had given her the bag and told her to come see us. He had not told her why. She reported a little abdominal pain but otherwise felt fine. She seemed confused by the whole affair.

We made her comfortable in a labor room while we tried to sort this all out. A fellow resident and I took the bag into another room, put on some gloves, and opened it up.

Inside we found a dismembered baby. Amongst a little extraneous goo were two perfectly formed arms, two similarly perfect legs, and a miniature torso. It was a little boy. There was no head.

We reported all of this to our attending physician, a highly experienced gynecologist. He just sighed. He suddenly seemed very old.

“If you’re not willing to go all the way you shouldn’t be doing the job,” he said with resignation.

I asked him what he meant by that.

Is this a human being? It’s an important question. Think it through. A lot is riding on the answer. Unsplash photo by Jill Sauve.

This man had been the city’s sole abortionist for many years before he came to work at the university. He explained that he had performed the procedure more than five thousand times. He said that not infrequently when you are extracting the fetus it comes into pieces. It must be accounted for on the outside to ensure nothing was left behind that could serve as a nidus for infection. In this case the doctor who had performed the procedure had recovered what was in the sack but had been unable to retrieve the baby’s head.

I asked what was to be done at this point. He dispassionately explained that you prep the patient in the OR, dilate the cervix, and crush the head so that it will pass through more readily. He likened it to an egg. He said there was a tool designed specifically for that purpose.

This isn’t some grandiose moral or political statement. It’s not Left or Right. This isn’t Sunday School or church. I’m just telling you what abortion looks like up close. Make your own value judgments. Most folks marching and screaming haven’t actually seen what they’re screaming for.

Unlike most of the activists in this debate, I have diagnosed pregnancy in a twelve-year-old. I’ve seen the fear in those eyes. I appreciate both points of view. I really do. However, the contents of that sack changed me. Nothing could ever justify that.

There is literally nothing more innocent and defenseless than a human child.
Unsplash photo by Filip Mroz.

I knew some hard men when I was a soldier. One proper warrior killed a man with a knife in Vietnam. I served with a Blackhawk door gunner who had unlimbered his M134 minigun, the electric-powered Gatling gun used as defensive armament on Special Operations helicopters, on a crowd in Somalia. I met quite a few soldiers who had done their share of killing. I never knew anybody who had taken life on the scale this physician had.

What most shocked me was that at some point some doctor did that and called it medicine. As I beheld those little arms and legs I just couldn’t comprehend how anyone could not think that was anything but a chopped up little baby. I still frankly don’t understand it.

Killing is meant to be viscerally objectionable. However, packaging is everything. The Air Force pilot commanding a Predator drone can sit in an air-conditioned building in Nevada and launch a hellfire missile over Afghanistan while readily distancing herself from the practical results of her actions. The Army Ranger who shoots a terrorist in the chest at bad breath range while clearing a building is a great deal more emotionally involved. Regardless, both of those people are comparably dead. There are parallels here.

It is easy to pontificate about rights and injustice over coffee late at night in a dorm room or on the street corner during a protest. It is another thing entirely when you are physically sifting through the remains of what is clearly a dismembered headless human child. Even that seasoned physician, the veteran of more than five thousand abortions, cannot completely convince himself that what he did was not somehow innately wrong. The emotional baggage was patently obvious.

“If you’re not willing to go all the way you shouldn’t be doing the job.” Indeed.

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