The needle and the damage done
If you want to know why I am so ferociously pro-choice and have so little time for those who would deny a woman's right to control her life, it's because I can remember the bad old days, before safe and legal abortions were available.
So too can veteran Boston obstetrician and gynecologist Waldo L. Fielding who wrote this essay published today in the New York Times. Here's an excerpt:
The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.
We did not have ultrasound, CT scans or any of the now accepted radiology techniques. The woman was placed under anesthesia, and as we removed the metal piece we held our breath, because we could not tell whether the hanger had gone through the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Fortunately, in the cases I saw, it had not.
However, not simply coat hangers were used.
Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.
Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.
The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.
Bill C-484 is still in play. The co-called Unborn Victims of Crime Act -- whose passage anti-choicers trumpet as the end of abortion rights -- would, in effect, make a fetus a person. (Lots of background here.) The blog Birth Pangs is where you can get the 411 on what is happening with this bill, and how you can help to stop it.