I have often wondered what mothers think and feel who undergo the induced-labor abortion procedure.

The circumstances of these abortions are different. The babies are wanted, usually aborted only because doctors have discovered they are handicapped. Pregnancies are well along into the second or third trimester when moms feel their babies kick and hiccup and have bonded with them. Names have been picked, nursery themes have been chosen, and life plans have been altered to make room for this little one.

Adding to the shock and suffering of learning one’s baby is fatally ill or deformed, and then deciding to abort, is that this type of abortion can take several days. Doctors insert medications or seaweed sticks into the cervix to unnaturally force it open. The process is slow and painful.

I have tried to imagine myself in the darkened hospital room as the clock slowly ticks, alone with my thoughts, my still moving baby, and the contractions of premature labor I have brought on myself. I think each moment must be pure agony, full of fear, guilt and even change of heart. And what does a mother feel if her baby is aborted alive?

I have heard stories. I worked as a nurse in the labor and delivery department of a hospital that committed induced-labor abortion, and friends told me things.

I was told about one mom who did not speak English, and there was no interpreter when her aborted baby was born. She begged for someone to baptize her dying baby boy, but the chaplain refused because he wasn’t convinced that’s what she wanted.

I was told of another mom who spent four days in the hospital waiting for her abortion to be over. She finally changed her mind. She said she had four children at home, and she began thinking she was going to die. Her Catholic attending physician was notified, and he went into her room and broke her bag of waters to hurry the process along.

Two weeks ago, I actually met a mother over the telephone who underwent induced-labor abortion for her anencephalic baby. (The baby had no brain.)

Toni lives in Kentucky, and she described to me the induced-labor abortion of her 18-1/2 week old daughter Cecilia in early September 2002 (after passage of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which Toni had never heard of).

Toni also told me there is a subculture of mothers who aborted their anencephalic babies. They have even formed their own Internet chat group. She said, in fact, there are support groups for mothers who have aborted for every fetal handicap.

I keep thinking the agony I feel about abortion can become no deeper. I keep being wrong.

We have no idea of the magnitude of broken lives due to abortion. This is Toni’s story – I’m sure one of thousands that are similar:

It took us 18 months to conceive. We were over the moon. It was wonderful.

Then, my routine triple screen blood test came back abnormal, and my doctor told me to go to a hospital in Nashville for a Level II ultrasound.

The ultrasound doctor was on the phone making dinner plans. I could tell the tech saw something wrong. The tech kept saying, “Dr. G–, Dr. G–.” But the doc kept making her plans.

When the doctor finally got off the phone, she checked and told my husband and I she was sorry but our baby had anencephaly. She said, “What usually happens now is you terminate,” and, “We have a guy here who’s really good at D&Es, and you can check in right now.” She did not explain what a D&E is [dilatation and evacuation: dilating the cervix, cutting the baby up, and removing the body parts]. She also described the induced-labor abortion procedure.

My first response to abortion was, “Oh my goodness, no.” But Dr. G inferred it was mandatory. She told me, “You really can’t carry a baby like that to term.” She said I would get toxemia or polyhydramnios and wouldn’t be able to have more kids. She said because the baby’s skull wasn’t closed, it was going to tear me up in the birth process.

We were in a tiny exam room, and they left the door open … and I was wailing … and the doctor went back and sat at the table with the tech, and they started talking about some party.

I wanted to know if the baby was a boy or girl. Dr. G. didn’t want to look, but she started jabbing my stomach to make the baby move, and I started crying harder and told her to stop.

My husband and I drove home and called our pastor. We’re Catholic and we thought, “We can’t have an abortion.” Our priest told my husband that because the baby wasn’t viable, we could go ahead and induce. We didn’t expect that answer.

I had an appointment with my doctor the next day. He said I had to make a decision really soon. He kept saying he was a Christian and he would not perform an abortion, that this was not an abortion.

All the medical personnel I talked to never explained why I had to make my decision really soon. But they kept pressuring me.

Why the pressure? My thought is they do that to get you to make the decision they want you to make. I’m sure the insurance companies want you to abort, knowing if there are any complications with a full-term delivery, the costs will rack up. I call it, “Search and destroy.”

Now I feel so stupid. I didn’t get on the computer and research. I’m not a sheep; I’m a well-educated person. But I was immobilized. My brain just shut down when we got that diagnosis. We just didn’t know what to do.

We left the doctor’s office and called our pastor again. He told us to come over and reiterated that church teaching allowed for early induction because the baby couldn’t live outside the womb. He helped us with funeral plans, he anointed me, he prayed with us.

Cecelia was kicking and rolling. I mentioned it a couple times. Our priest looked funny.

The situation was impossible. I remember calling any number of people on the phone, saying this didn’t seem right, but it was as if this were our only choice. People asked me what the priest said and then agreed with him.

I can’t tell when the magic moment was, but we decided this was the right thing to do. In spite of everything I know now … the decision was incredibly lame … I checked in to the hospital that night at 10:00 p.m.

It was a nightmare.

It was so weird. It was like I wasn’t pregnant to them. I was quite large and uncomfortable and afraid and in shock, but no one tried to comfort me.

They must have hooked me up to an IV. The doc on call came in and gave the first dose of Cytotec vaginally. I think he gave me another dose, but by that time I had been given pain relief medication, and it made me crazy. I began crying so hard about the baby. I asked for an epidural all night, but for some reason they didn’t want to give me one.

The last time I felt Cecelia kick was around 5:00 a.m. They never monitored her.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. They didn’t tell me anything. I kept asking the doctor on call, “Is this an abortion?” He kept saying no.

I was hoping she would be born alive, but at the same time I didn’t want her to. The nurse said some of these babies have a “weird persistent heartbeat.” On either side of us, people were having babies … all that cheering. At that point, I became unglued.

The pains started getting more intense, but I didn’t ask for any more pain relief. I wanted to be lucid.

About 3:30 p.m. I felt something move. My husband and I looked at each other for a long while. We called the nurse, and she checked me and said the baby was close. It took 35 to 40 minutes for the doctor to come in. While I was moving to prepare to push, she came out.

I thought I saw her move, but I don’t think so. Her umbilical cord was white.

I reached down and grabbed her and held her. The doctor kept asking me for her. I finally handed her over.

After he looked her over, we got to hold her again for awhile, until the nurse said she had to clean her up. They took pictures of her on white paper. We held her again for awhile longer. Then the funeral director came. I heard him talking to the nurses outside the door about wanting to pick up “the tissue.”

I knew what I did was so wrong. I held her, and I kissed her, and I kissed her. Then I did something really bad. I was so hungry. I wanted to eat my dinner. They gave me Salisbury steak and took the baby. I could have held her longer, but I ate instead. We never got to hold her again.

This was Saturday. I checked out of the hospital. We went to the funeral home on Sunday. I knew I was in the building with her, but the funeral director didn’t want me to see her. He said they put powder on her to preserve her.

A couple weeks later Respect Life Month began. Our priest gave a homily that we must protect life from conception to natural death. I wanted to throw up.

I became really afraid that I did something so terrible. Any time my husband was gone, or my [older] daughter, I would be terrified they were going to die. Until my son was eight months old [born a year after Cecelia], I gave him mouth-to-mouth a couple times a night.

Around Christmastime, I called the diocese and said I needed to go to confession, and they said I needed to go to the priest who had told us it was acceptable to abort. I didn’t go.

My reality was so shaken up that for four months I would pull up to a traffic light and not know if it was really OK to go when the light turned green.

No one wanted to talk about Cecelia, which is all I wanted to do. When someone finally would, they would wonder why I was so sad.

One of the reasons induced-labor abortion is attractive is that you get to see your baby. I’ve talked to so many moms online who had D&Es and are really hungry for the visual they didn’t get. They imagine their babies were cut up. Almost to a person, these moms have spent a million hours online looking at anencephalic babies. Most of them have looked at D&E babies, too.

There are so many broken hearts and destroyed lives out there. It’s not something you can go back and fix. It’s better for me now, but it doesn’t go away.

My son was born almost a year after Cecelia in the same hospital on Sept. 4. She was born Sept. 7. I didn’t want them to take him to the nursery.

I knew if I was in the hospital on the day Cecelia was born, my son would die. We checked out on Sept. 6. I had to get us out of the hospital before the Salisbury steak menu came out.

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