National Right to Life News Today has posted a number of stories about the documentary “After Tiller,” hailed by the usual culprits as a successful effort to “humanize” the four remaining abortionists in the United States who perform third trimester abortions. (See, for example “A brief for third-trimester abortions: the documentary ‘After Tiller’”)
One of the more remarkable statements to which I have not paid sufficient attention was that at least one of these abortionists went out of her way to accommodate those women who wished to name the nearly-full term babies they had aborted and/or hold them.
You don’t have to be a pro-lifer to wonder about that dichotomy/schizophrenia. Which is why I want to say thanks to Sarah Terzo who told her readers about an interview one of those four abortionists–Susan Robinson–gave to The Hairpin. It’s amazing what you can learn from them when they are talking to a sympathetic outlet.
Worth noting is the headline to the story/interview written by Jia Tolentino, “Interview with Dr. Susan Robinson, One of the Last Four Doctors in America to Openly Provide Third-Trimester Abortions.” There are no doubt other abortionists who abort children in the third trimester. The introduction cites Gallup as demonstrating only 10% of the public approves.
Terzo does a very nice job of categorizing the real questions. Let me offer two slightly different ways of looking at these “controversial” abortions.
First, there is the allusion that practically all these abortions are performed on babies who would not survive birth or would die within hours/days. Second, what is going on when, for example, a woman aborts a baby with Down syndrome well past when the baby is viable.
(Terzo shrewdly points out that “[N]owhere in the article does Dr. Robinson mention women who need to have abortions in the third trimester because of health reasons. This may be because simply removing the living, viable baby by C-section is no more dangerous than going through a procedure to abort him or her.”)
Robinson notes early on, “I think that the public perceives first of all that late abortion could be completely eliminated if people would only get their act together and have their abortions earlier, which is completely untrue.” Robinson offers a bevy of extenuating circumstances—excuses—to get around the simple truth that some unspecified percentage of women abort huge, mature babies for reasons most people would not believe are commensurate will the gravity of taking the life of a viable unborn baby.
Tolentino tees up a softball question for Robinson to hit out of the park: “Can you tell me more about the “these people need to get their act together” argument?” Robinson responds
“Well, a large percentage of our patients had no idea that they were pregnant. People go, ‘How could this possibly be?’ Well, look at that reality show. It happens. …
“I could tell you a million reasons why women who are perfectly smart—and they are, these are not stupid women—don’t come to know they are pregnant. They have no weight changes, they don’t feel sick, they don’t feel movement, or if they do they think it’s gas. Suddenly someone says, ‘Hmm, your stomach’s looking big, have you taken a pregnancy test?’ And the person may have taken a test, and it may have come out negative—I’ve had women that only got a positive on their third test. And either way they think they just got pregnant. They have no idea they’re in their 24th week. So they make an appointment for an abortion, and it takes a few weeks, and they have their ultrasound and find out that they’re at 27 weeks, which is too far for an abortion anywhere. So then what happens? They either give up or have a baby, or they go on the Internet and they find us.”
Tolentino finally asks straight out if Robinson would ever say no in cases when the baby has a fetal anomaly. After some of this, and some of that, No: she would never say no.
She feigns concern over the “disabled-rights side to this,” but “When parents are saying, ‘We do not feel we can adequately cope with that issue,’ I believe them, and I don’t think they’d have an easy time putting a child with severe disabilities up for adoption successfully.”
Which (a) is completely untrue: there are waiting lists to adopt babies just like this; and (b) is (to borrow a word from Robinson) a “specious” argument. Robinson doesn’t say so but the babies with fetal anomalies most often aborted in the third trimester are likely Down syndrome. This is hardly a “justification” to abort a child and, as noted, there are tons of parents waiting to adopt babies with Down syndrome.
What about healthy kids? Occasionally she won’t abort– for questions of safety; for example if she can’t finish the abortion in the office. As if to show what a hardliner she is, Robinson remarks, “I had a patient from France and she just desperately did not want to be pregnant—but she was 35 weeks, and gestational age is plus or minus three weeks, so she could’ve been at 38 weeks, and that’s just too far along. It wouldn’t be safe.” Not because it would be monstrously wrong to abort a baby at 35 or 38 weeks but because it wouldn’t be safe for the mother.
There are many more specifics we could touch on, but here is just one more. It’s a long exchange, but hugely revealing:
Tolentino: I was really moved and amazed by the scene where you’re writing down a baby’s name, noting the family’s request for a memory box and a viewing, showing the little ink footprints. Do families often want to engage with their baby like this after an abortion? How many people are ready to—as you say—say hello to their baby at the same time that they’re telling it goodbye?
Robinson: With fetal anomaly patients, we ask them right up front if they plan to hold their baby after it’s born. These patients, their emotional needs are so different from the ones who are looking at their pregnancy as an absolute disaster, who are just thinking, “Get it out of me, please, please, please.” Those patients—the maternal indications patients—they are not relating to their fetus as a baby, they’re relating to it as a problem.
But with a fetal indications patient—if she refers to it as her baby, I’ll refer to it as her baby. If she’s named the baby, I’ll use the baby’s name too. I would say that most of these patients do decide to see and hold their baby, although many of them have a hard time dealing with the idea at first. We’ll take remembrance photographs, we’ll give them a teddy bear, the footprints. I mean, imagine being six months pregnant and finding out your baby’s missing half its brain, and you’ve got this nursery you’ve painted at home, you’re so ready—I don’t want them to go home from the procedure with absolutely nothing to remember and honor the baby, and its birth.
Tolentino: Wow. You’ll say “birth”?
Robinson: Yes. I try to mirror what will be the most consoling to the patient. In general, these patients—fetal indications—do talk about giving birth, so I’ll say that as well.
Tolentino: What is it like watching these patients say goodbye?
Robinson: It is very difficult. It’s the saddest thing on earth, I think sometimes. They cry, and I cry, and sometimes they’ll ask for a baptism or a prayer. I’ve got some little non-denominational prayers that I’ll say with the families.
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Tolentino: To simultaneously sustain these ideas—that you desperately loved and wanted this baby that’s here in your arms, and also that you just committed yourself to ending its life—it’s one of the most complicated emotional situations I can imagine. In these cases—I am sorry for this macabre question—the baby is dead, right? They never meet their baby alive?
Robinson: That’s not macabre! That’s a good question. Yes, that’s the first part of the procedure. We sedate the patient and euthanize their fetus, their baby, with an injection. The fetus passes away, doesn’t feel anything.
Robinson can’t be sure the baby feels nothing when “euthanized” (most likely the baby is poisoned). That she sees Tolentino’s inquiry as a “good question,” tells you how far she has distanced herself from what she is doing and to whom.
Robinson’s interview is must reading, certainly in the context of the praise heaped on the documentary “After Tiller.” Her last ten words—“And the need for late-term abortions will never go away”—remind us that the “no-apologies ever” crowd will always have “champions” like Robinson.
LifeNews.com Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared in his National Right to Life News Today —- an online column on pro-life issues.