Greater Purpose

A Nurse’s Testimony

I will never forget the day my mother wept as she told me about witnessing an abortion during a nursing research assignment in college.  Her experience could never be forgotten and influenced her career path to stand for life as she specialized in childbirth education for forty years.  I asked her to write out her story, her testimony.  I pray your heart will also be broken for the unborn and the violence of abortion.

It was February 1972.  

I was 20, newly married and a junior in college.  

My husband and I lived in Independence, Missouri which is a suburb of Kansas City.  I was in my third year of a nursing major and we were in the obstetrics rotation.

One of our assignments was to work with another student and do research, write a paper, and present it to the class.  The instructor gave us a list of topics from which to choose. My former roommate, Jane, and I decided to be a team. After discussing it, we agreed to do something really extreme – the topic of abortion.

Throughout my life, abortion had been a hush-hush subject.  It was generally seen as a horrible and extreme action that was not discussed.  It was illegal and only took place in dark hidden places. It was not something that either Jane or I had ever been exposed to, but the subject was being talked about more and more.  Abortion on demand had been made legal in some states in 1970. Kansas, our neighboring state, was now one of them!

I had heard (perhaps from one of our instructors) that there was an abortion clinic that had opened in Kansas City, Kansas.  That was next door to Kansas City, Missouri and very close to Independence. I conjured up the courage and called them. I explained that we were college nursing students and that we would like to come and visit their clinic.  They were amazingly welcoming and we set up a time.

At this juncture, I must say that although I was very horrified by the subject of abortion, I had also heard all the arguments for it.  

Having grown up in the 60’s, I certainly didn’t miss all the raging rhetoric about the sexual revolution and the feminist movement. The “woman’s rights” issues were everywhere and the “women have a right to their own bodies” argument was tantamount.   

Even then, I could not reconcile a woman’s sacred gift of growing a child to her right to dispense of it.

It is such a sacred trust given only to women. Even so, I went into this determined to have an open mind. I would hear what they had to say and I would give them serious consideration.

Jane and I came from the same background.  We were both raised in the church, very strong and active Christians, and our faith was very important to us.  We had the same moral foundation and the same values. We were both very hesitant about this project, but both determined to see it through.  

The day arrived.  It was a freezing cold, snowy and dark Saturday morning.  The weather reflected the nature of our mission.

This clinic was in a very run-down part of Kansas City, Kansas. The dark brick buildings were old and the area was depressing.  I guess at that time, abortion clinics were not welcome in the middle of an upscale business area. Its gloomy setting seemed appropriate.

Jane and I were welcomed so warmly that it seemed odd to me.  After thinking about it, I realized that we were just the kind of people they wanted on their side – young, female, and future medical professionals.  They saw us as having the potential of influencing many others. They wanted us to have a positive experience so that we could pass on this attitude.

We were told that the first thing they did was to meet with the client to discuss her situation.  It would be at this time that they would discuss the procedure. Our role was to observe and sit in on the interview.  We were not to say anything. That was fine with us.

Jane and I were separated.  They did not want too many people in the room while talking with the client.  The first interview that I observed was with a teenage girl.

She was alone. She explained that she became pregnant because her boyfriend was Catholic and he didn’t believe in birth control.  So, they decided to have an abortion. The irony of this situation was not lost on me. Let me get this right – birth control is bad, but abortion is okay? Of course, her boyfriend was not with her.  I felt such sympathy for this young girl. She had fallen victim to a lie that young girls believe all the time. She had trusted someone who failed her, and now he was making another decision for her that would be with her for the rest of her life.  

The clinic workers never discussed adoption. They then said that her abortion would be easy because she wasn’t far along. They directed her to the procedure area.

The next client was a woman who was the mother of four.  She was in her late 30’s. She and her husband had driven from Minnesota to have an abortion.  She said that they could not afford another child and so they had decided to abort this one. I felt her anguish.  I was so sorry that her desperation was so great that she could not see a way to bring this child into their established home.  I wondered what other concerns had brought her to this decision. I’m sure it must have been heart-wrenching. The clinic worker did not address her emotional pain or offer other options.  I don’t recall that there was any discussion of adoption. Her pregnancy was further along than the first client, but they determined it was still within the range of an early abortion. The clinic worker sent her to the procedure area.

By this time the teenage girl was prepped and ready.  I was allowed to stand in the procedure room – off to the side and out of her sight.  As opposed to a surgical setting, this room was dimly lit. There was a surgical light in the region where the practitioner worked, but the rest of the room was dim.  They gave her some medication to help her relax.

I didn’t know the credentials of the practitioner, but I remember assuming it was a medical doctor.  The first thing he did was to insert different centimeter dilators into her cervix. This was to gradually stretch the cervix so that the “contents of the pregnancy” could be removed.  The girl was not relaxed and she did not handle this process well. She was very agitated and anxious. The nurse was trying to calm her.

The very thought of having gradually bigger rods inserted into my cervix made me anxious, too.  But watching it done to someone else was even worse. I felt I was complicit in this by just being there! I was unprepared for this procedure.  I started to feel faint. (Remember, I was a nursing student and I had seen all manner of blood and variety of bodily fluids, some of which ended up on me!  I had also seen some bloody surgeries. I had never felt faint nor had I ever fainted. All medical people pride themselves on not getting sick in medical settings.)

After he had sufficiently dilated the cervix, he began the suction. He inserted the tube into her uterus.  I saw the blood and tissue come through the tube into a bottle attached to the floor!! Because of the surgical lighting, the blood was so vividly red.  The reality of what I was seeing hit me with force. I was watching a fetus being torn apart and sucked into a bottle!!! Dear God!!! The horror of it welled up inside me and I felt convicted of being in that place.  Forgive me God!. I felt like I was in another world.

The girl was very distressed.  This was not going as she or I expected.  This was not a neat little sterile procedure.  She could not see the bottle, but she could feel the process.  She was crying and moving around on the table. The nurse was upset.  She tried to calm the girl. She could tell I was also upset. She kept saying that the girl was having a reaction to the medicine they gave her.  

Everything that I had ever believed cried out to me.  

Everything that I valued was laid bare for me to see.

What am I doing here?  

Should I say something?

Do something?

It was over.  I was in shock.  I didn’t say anything or ask any questions.  I was led into another room where the woman from Minnesota was on the table.  The practitioner was starting the process when he realized that she was too far along for this kind of abortion. {This was before ultrasounds were in common use}  He questioned the mother about how many weeks she was. As it turned out, she was way past her first trimester. He was very agitated by her response. She had not been honest with them in her interview.  She was crying and the practitioner was rather perturbed. This was going to be a much more extensive abortion and one they did not want me to see. I did not want to see it either, and I was still feeling light-headed and dizzy.   At this point the practitioner and nurse decided that I should leave. They had someone come to get me.

They led me to a room with a cot in it. (Surely this wasn’t their recovery area?) I lay down and they brought me some ice chips.  They were sincerely concerned, but I also know they were sincerely disappointed. A few minutes later, Jane was brought to the same room for the same reason.  I guess that further reinforces my statement about our similar upbringing by our reaction to this experience. We stayed in the room until we felt better.

We had seen enough.  We were ready, no, anxious, to leave.  The staff was very disappointed with what had transpired.  They again explained that the first girl I had seen had a bad reaction to the medicine and things don’t usually go that way, etc, etc.

Jane and I had enough to write the experiential part of our research.  Way more than either of us had ever expected. We included the different types of abortions in our paper, added some visual aids, and called it good.  We presented it to the class. When we shared our abortion clinic experiences with our fellow students, there was silence. This was a room of Christian young women.  Young women, who in the years to come would be sought after to join the ranks of abortion supporters .

I have thought about this experience many times over the years.  This happened 47 years ago, but is still vivid in my memory. It was a foundational experience for me.   I have often thought that if all the people who march in favor of abortion could actually SEE one, they might view it differently.  

I feel deep compassion for women who have abortions.  Whatever reasons bring them to this decision must be so insurmountable in their minds that they see no other way. Honestly, I don’t have the same feelings for those who have a casual attitude about abortions and have multiple ones over the years.  However, I know that they too deserve my compassion because they are obviously ignorant of the magnitude of their decisions.

After many years of maturing as a Christian, I now see the entire abortion issue as spiritual warfare.  The powers of evil permeated my experience. I recognized them, but yet I didn’t. One of my favorite scriptures has always been Ephesians 6:12:

 “We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.” 

This puts it into perspective.

May God have mercy upon our country and may we have the courage to speak for Him and for His precious creation. 

Brenda Bradford Weller  RN, BSN, LCCE, FACCE

February 25, 2019