• Janette Johnson Melson

Abortion: Facts You May Not Know Which are Vital to the Conversation

When I was pregnant with my first child more than thirty years ago, I became a volunteer for a crisis pregnancy hotline called Loveline. Run by AGAPE of North Carolina, a Christian foster care and adoption agency, the hotline offered young women free pregnancy tests and alternative options to abortion. During training, I remember being horrified by the descriptions of the abortion procedures, especially because of the life I carried inside me, and wondered why it wasn’t common knowledge.

And that’s why I’m writing on this subject—not because it’s the trending political topic, but because, to me, it’s a conflict of morality which has nothing to do with politics. Please understand that my goal in writing this is not to instill guilt. It’s not meant for those who have had abortions in the past. This is meant for those who might consider terminating in the future. It is purely for information and insight, with facts about the procedure itself and why I, and many others like me, feel the way we do.

First of all, I have a heart for children. I honestly feel they are gifts from God and tiny bundles of Heaven on earth. There is nothing sweeter to me than the sound of a child’s laughter. However, I believe in family planning and don’t have a problem with birth control, although I have wonderful friends who do, and I understand their position. To me, abortion should not be used as a form of birth control. It should be a rare occurrence when conventional forms of prevention have failed. My belief is that proper access to and use of birth control, including abstinence, would make abortion unnecessary, except in rare cases. What I do have a problem with is the dismemberment of babies, which is what occurs in second-trimester abortions. This kind of abortion, performed anywhere from 14 weeks to 24 weeks of pregnancy, is usually a surgical procedure known as a D&E (Dilation & Evacuation). Here is a brief description of a D&E from the ScienceDirect website. “Surgeons use a combination of suction and uterine forceps to remove fetal and decidual tissue . . . Inspection to identify expected fetal tissues and the placenta confirms a complete procedure.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/dilation-and-evacuation

I think the language used when describing abortion is often unclear. In the description above, the term “fetal tissue” is used. This terminology conjures up images of shapeless blobs of tissue. However, below are two pictures, taken from babycenter.com. The first is a 14-week fetus (the size of a peach) and the second is at 24 weeks (size of an ear of corn). To me, these are visibly babies—small—but babies, nonetheless. Let’s rewrite the previous paragraph, so that it accurately reflects what is going on. The parentheticals below are my additions.

“Surgeons use a combination of suction and uterine forceps (Sopher ovum forceps with flat, hollow blades which are serrated (sharp, saw-like edges) to be able to firmly grasp) to remove the fetal and decidual tissue (baby and placenta) . . . Inspection to identify expected fetal tissues and the placenta confirms a complete procedure.” (At this level of development, the baby is too big to be removed by the D&C process which first-trimester abortions employ. So, the baby is dismembered and individual body parts removed one at a time. These individual parts are placed on a tray, and at the end of the procedure, the doctor must inspect to make sure that all the parts are accounted for. If anything is left inside the womb, it can lead to infection and serious complications.)”

More often than not, the baby is alive at the beginning of the abortion and is not given any pain medication. The baby dies from dismemberment, which would be a painful death. Even though the evidence isn’t concrete on when a fetus can feel pain, for decades the belief had been that unborn babies can probably feel pain around week 24. However, more recent studies show there is a possibility of pain existing between 12 and 24 weeks. Because of the possibility of fetal pain, most surgeries done in the womb (including heart repair and tumor removal), employ anesthesia to make the baby more comfortable while the procedure is being performed. https://jme.bmj.com/content/46/1/3

And yet, few doctors provide any kind of pain killer for babies being aborted. With more than 90% of abortions occurring before 14 weeks, one could argue that such a small percentage of fetuses who might feel pain is insignificant. However, in 2019, according to the CDC, 625,000 legal abortions were performed in the United States. Ninety-three percent of these were before week 14. But that means that seven percent—or 45,000 babies (4,000 more than would fill Truist Park in Atlanta)—likely felt the pain of the procedure.

Death by dismemberment, along with all methods which include torture, is illegal as a form of capital punishment for criminals. We try to make death for the least innocent in our society as humane as possible, and yet we are still using what some might define as barbaric forms of abortion for the most innocent.

Our country has even enacted laws to protect unborn animals from inhumane torture and death. I don’t understand how a country which has laws against the harming of unborn animals can, at the same time, have laws which allow injury to and subsequent death of the most innocent and defenseless of humans.

Here are two federal laws which provide punishment, including fines and prison sentences, for people who perpetrate harm against unborn animals.

  • Sea Turtle Protection – Federal law provides fines of up to $100,000 and a year in prison for people who “take, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or capture any marine turtle, turtle nest, and/or eggs, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.” https://seaturtlespacecoast.org/emergency-information/

  • Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act – Provides criminal penalties for persons who "take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle . . . [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part (including feathers), nest, or egg thereof." A violation of the act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense. https://www.fws.gov/law/bald-and-golden-eagle-protection-act

Now don’t misunderstand me. I fully support the laws protecting vulnerable animals. I don’t understand why there are not similar laws protecting vulnerable babies. If we are in the habit, as a country, of protecting the unborn sea turtle and the unborn eagle, how can we not protect our own unborn children?

In my own life, I have very poignant examples of people who might not be here under different circumstances. My own granddaughter, who has Down syndrome, is one of these. Sadly, 60-90% of babies like her are aborted. https://www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/ade656cc-206b-4624-a51b-10eeca1d1f28/down-syndrome-report.pdf But I can’t imagine this world without her sweet smile and gentle, loving spirit and think the world would be a sadder place if she weren’t in it. I think it’s tragic that the world deems her life to be dispensable and less worthy. What are we, as a society, missing by not having more of these special people around us?

I also have a dear friend whose parents were unwed teenagers when they got pregnant, a prime reason for aborting a baby. But they didn’t. They got married and pursued their dreams. They have been married for more than fifty years. And my friend is a successful, productive member of society. I realize that this is an ideal outcome and that a lot of marriages which start out this way don’t end this way. I don’t even believe that getting married is always the best answer to an unplanned pregnancy. But I write this as an example of hope. An unplanned pregnancy does not mean an automatic death for a woman’s dreams.

As a woman, I understand the possible slippery slope of not having autonomy over my body. However, once a woman becomes pregnant, there is another life, another body which needs to be considered.

I don’t know for sure what the best answer is. It is a complicated issue. But I feel for certain that as a society, we can do better than what we’re doing now.

I love you, my dear readers, and am grateful that you were given a chance at life.

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