I first heard of “abortion dreams” in university, in one of the first accounts of abortion I ever read. It was an essay published in a Norton anthology I had to purchase for one of my first university English courses, published in Harper’s Magazine in October 1990 by a nurse named Sallie Tisdale. It is called “We Do Abortions Here: A Nurse’s Story.” In it, she calls abortion a “sweet brutality,” and attempts to justify what she sees as a necessary evil:
But when I look in the basin, among the curdlike blood clots, I see an elfin thorax, attenuated, its pencilline ribs all in parallel rows with tiny knobs of spine rounding upwards. A translucent arm and hand swim beside. The girl asks to see it, sitting up. “It’s not allowed,” I told her sternly.
I have fetus dreams, we all do here: dreams of abortions one after the other; of buckets of blood splashed on the walls; trees full of crawling fetuses. I dreamed that two men grabbed me and began to drag me away. ‘Let’s do an abortion,’ they said with a sickening leer, and I began to scream, plunged into a vision of sucking, scraping pain, of being spread and torn by impartial instruments that do only what they are bidden.
I’ve had “fetus dreams,” and find it interesting that both an abortion clinic worker and a pro-lifer would instinctively refer to it as the same thing. Other pro-lifers, too, have admitted to me that some nights, after a long, hard day of activism, the realities we work so hard to reveal to the culture will not yet leave them to sleep. I remember one week in particular, when I was working with one of my colleagues to produce an abortion video for a campus debate with a late-term abortion provider. Wading through footage of chopped up children slithering out of the birth canal in a bizarre crescendo of blood is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
And abortionists feel the same way. An old Mother Jones interview with notorious abortionist William Raushbaum reveals his struggles:
He was troubled by a recurring dream of a fetus trying to hold onto the walls of a uterus by its tiny fingernails. Raised to believe that abortion was wrong, he reasons, “What kind of dreams do you think you are going to have?”
It was not, one suspects, the moral compass of his youth that troubled his dreams. After all, the nightmare Raushbaum lived was horrifying to say the least:
The procedure is gruesome, as anyone who has seen it, including Rashbaum, will attest. One of his former interns remembers watching Rashbaum do a D&E on well-developed twins one hot summer day. He intently leaned in closely and methodically pulled piece after piece of the fetuses out of the mother’s uterus, ignoring the attending staff’s whispers of horror — “It’s twins. It’s twins” — to each other. The intern reacted violently, running home, throwing up, and asking herself, “Is this right?”
It’s not just Tisdale and Rashbaum, either. At the 1977 annual meeting of the Association of Planned Parenthood physicians, a report was presented that noted that doctors who are, “crushing or dismembering the fetus in a D&E procedure, which can be emotionally disturbing” can suffer as the result—“As the doctor tends to take responsibility and assume guilt for the procedure, she or he may have disturbing and recurrent ruminations or dreams.” A book on how to practice late-term abortions concurred, noting that even when the physician felt competent performing the procedures, it was common to see “strong emotional reactions during or following the procedures, and occasional disquieting dreams.”
It’s not just the abortion providers. One pathologist, who had to unpack aborted baby body parts, shared his harrowing story (spelling and grammar mistakes his):
“One incident really freaked me, it was a boy fetus, at least 3+ pounds, around 24+ weeks. It sat decomposing because the rest of the staff was AFRAID of it, Im not joking. Then the chief of staff told me to deal with it because I was the FNG (f-kcin new guy) so I went to work. Pulled out 2 well formed arms and then the torso, headless. The head was at the bottom of the container, when I pulled it, he had this expression of such utter horror it flipped me wayyyy out, my PA saw it and ran, literally left work and went on disability (Im serious here). It was like a headless screaming baby, like it had been born at least for a split second to realize it was screwed and let out one agonal yelp. The story of this reverberated around the department, someone actually accused me of doing what should have been a ME case and threatened to call the medical board! Im not joking, I woke up once shortly after that in a cold sweat with piss running down my leg….not pretty.”
Some of those in the abortion industry have cited these traumatic dreams of conscience as the reason they abandoned their bloody practices. It brings to mind a snippet of a poem by the ancient writer Aeschylus:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart
Until, in our own despair,
Through the awful grace of God.
Our collective cultural nightmare impacts all of us—those who kill the babies, those who handle the corpses, and those who try to bring the truth to a public largely unaware of the horror we fund with our taxpayer’s dollars. As thousands of pre-born children die in clinics across the country, many of them live only in our dreams.
It’s time to wake up, and rouse those around us. Lives depend on it.
LifeNews Note: Jonathon Van Maren writes for the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform.