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My Hour with an Abortion Doctor, Part 1: “It gets complicated”

March 3, 2010

You may feel a little pinching, poking…cramping…”

I didn’t know what to expect. After taking my seat in a room full of mostly young women, I looked through our handout, trying to find my place in the lecture. “Medical Abortions…up to 9 weeks…Mifepristone…Misoprostol…uterine contractions…”

At the front to the room stood Dr. Deborah Oyer, MD, who runs a private practice, Aurora Medical Services, in Seattle.  Dr. Oyer commanded the attention of her audience with the kind of easy confidence and  natural rapport found in the best of college professors. She shared the secrets of her trade with an infectious passion and expert precision.

Despite knowing the grizzly facts about her daily practice and the millions of women who suffer through the aftermath, the baseness my “polite” humanity kicked-in: I wanted to like her, and I wanted her to like me.

The lecture continued…

“Medical Abortion Protocol”

On day one of the procedure, Oyer speaks with the woman alone. After obtaining informed consent, the patient is “brought to the back”.  The mother is given her first pill, 200mg of Mifepristone, which begins the process of detaching the embryo from the uterine wall. “I watch her take her medicine”, explains Oyer, and then the patient is released with the second round of pills to be self-administered within 72 hours. Soon the contractions will begin, and the woman will await her self-induced miscarriage.

It was at this moment in the lecture that I felt a lump form in my throat. Nevermind that I would soon hear the details of legalized child dismemberment. That, it turns out, would have little effect on my emotions. It was this phrase: “I watch her take her medicine” that cut through my hardened shell.

While in surgical abortions, a woman need only lie still while something is done to her, in a medical abortion, the mother is induced to swallow her own poison pill which will begin the process of turning her womb against the very life inside it. It struck me that we have advanced as a society to the point that by the same means we treat a headache, we can destroy life.

“Surgical Abortion: First Trimester”

“About 90% of what we do in our office is surgical abortion”. An image of medical instruments appeared on the overhead as Oyer described and named each piece, commenting that  “everything in medicine is either named after food or the doctor who invented it”.
“We numb the cervix…you may feel a little pinching, poking, coming to a cramping…in the first trimester we pretty much do mechanical dilation…The [tube] goes in…the bulge at the top [of the ultrasound] is the pregnancy, you suction out and it comes to you…and that’s it. And the suctioning in the first trimester takes somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes.

Oyer then takes the contents of the tube back to the lab to inspect the completeness of her work. “We take the [embryo], we float it and backlight it and…dispose of it the same way we would dispose of your tonsils.” An image of a 1st trimester “gestational sack” floating in a petri dish is displayed overhead as Oyer identifies the parts: “We see a little fluff ball, this is sort of what we call the ‘feather boa stage’…if I see that, I know I’m done.”

Second Trimester Surgical Abortions:

When the pregnancy reaches the second trimester, there are several options, however,  “dilation and evacuation [D&E] is what we do most”.  This can be a one, two, or three-day process depending on the means of dilation. As the pregnancy progresses to the later part of the second trimester, an additional step may be involved:

“People who are 19 weeks or above…on day one, they will get an interfetal injection, meaning through the woman’s abdomen, into the fetus. A heart medication called… potassium chloride then stops the fetal heart. Ok? So that you do not have to worry about a fetus being born alive, and then do you resuscitate or not, and at some hospitals you can have an abortion later than the mandatory resuscitation requirements, so it gets complicated.”

There is another reason for stopping the baby’s heart:  “In theory, on day two or day three, after the interfetal injection, after fetal death, the fetus gets softer” making it easier to pull out. “Then when they actually have evacuation we use not just suction, but suction and forceps, which are instruments that can grab parts of the fetus and parts of the placenta and bring it out.”

“So, it’s a little more complicated”, explains Oyer, “but in general, it probably takes between 15 minutes and half an hour to do a second trimester procedure.”

Oyer came to the end of her discussion on surgical abortions.

The young women had been listening quietly with rapt attention as she had divulged the secrets of a taboo, yet politically fashionable procedure. But as a pro-lifer, it was my own reaction that I was surprised and shamed by: I had just listened to instructions on how to dispose of a child, and I did not flinch, I did not weep. It felt routine.

It is routine. In our nation it is estimated that by the age of 45, one in four women will have had at least one abortion. The perception of legitimacy had numbed me to the horror of reality.  I wondered what would happen if I had been put in such a vulnerable situation: if this doctor could have made me feel OK, even for a moment, about being “brought to the back”.  A moment is all it takes. The frailty of my self-righteousness was laid bare.

I was reminded that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,” but I rejoiced that there is a God who sets forth an eternal standard, not based on my emotions, and not weakened by the lies of the Enemy. I am grateful that this same God intervenes daily to protect His children, and speak into the hearts of those being dragged away to death.

Oyer took a brief pause to open up her lecture to questions from the audience: “Let’s take two minutes…”

To be continued…


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