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We Must Stand Witness

On Tuesday night, a flown-in rent-a-mob screamed, jeered, and overrode ordinary small-r republican governance in Texas in order to make sure that viable children in utero, 20 weeks old and older, could still be killed on their mothers’ say-so. They also opposed efforts to make it so that a woman receiving an abortion did so in a clean medical facility, because a lot of abortionists don’t run those.

They stood with Kermit Gosnell and Douglas Karpen, the doctors who, respectively, are in jail for murdering children of the same age and in horrible sanitary conditions, and likely soon will be. And they were cheered on almost unanimously by print and television media.

Mollie Hemingway has a wonderful writeup on this, but I wanted to add a part. Because you see, we as Americans allow this madness — mobs running over governance, children being butchered — and I feel it is important to explain exactly what is at stake here.

I do this not because it will change a single mind. If you support abortion at 20 weeks and after — when the baby looks like what it is, a baby — then nothing I say will persuade you. I do this because we must bear witness to what we allow to be done, and we pay for the products and services made by those who cheer it on.

This is about the brutal murder of a child, in a way that were it done to a rabbit would end with the killer in prison. It is a murder because the person actually doing it knows he is cutting up another human being and does so without any pang of conscience — with, if you will excuse the phrase, a cold and abandoned heart.

A baby at 20 weeks may or may not feel pain. However, as Ben Domenech’s excellent Transom notes, she does know her own mother’s voice. She responds to it as the most common sound in the womb. She turns to it. Her brain waves and heart rate all change when she hears it. It is the most familiar and comfortable outside stimulus in her little world.

An abortion of this little girl works like this:

If you could see her baby, which is quite easy on an ultrasound, she would be as long as your hand plus a half from the top of her head to the bottom of her rump not counting the legs. Your patient has been feeling her baby kick for the last 2 months or more but now she is asleep on an operating room table and you are there to help her with her problem pregnancy.

The first task is remove the laminaria that had earlier been placed in the cervix to dilate it sufficiently to allow the procedure you are about to perform. With that accomplished, direct your attention to the surgical instruments arranged on a small table to your right. The first instrument you reach for is a 14-French suction catheter. It is clear plastic and about nine inches long. It has a bore through the center approximately ¾ of an inch in diameter.Picture yourself introducing this catheter through the cervix and instructing the circulating nurse to turn on the suction machine which is connected through clear plastic tubing to the catheter. What you will see is a pale yellow fluid that looks a lot like urine coming through the catheter into a glass bottle on the suction machine. This is the amniotic fluid that surrounded the baby to protect her.

With suction complete, look for your Sopher clamp. This instrument is about thirteen inches long and made of stainless steel. At the end are located jaws about 2 ½ inches long and about ¾ of an inch wide with rows of sharp ridges or teeth. This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go. A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can.

At twenty-four weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard–really hard. You feel something let go and out pops  a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.

The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush d own on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you.

Let me summarize that for you: the baby sits there, safe and warm because she has never been anything else, waiting for the next instant when she will hear her mother’s voice. She is then punctured, torn, sliced, and slashed to death, her body ripped to shreds where before all she ever felt was comfort and sleep.

She is still waiting for her mother’s voice as her brains are ripped from her body.

An adult who did this to a cockroach would be considered too ill to be allowed to run free. (A child who did it would also be hospitalized.) To do it to a puppy would end with prison time.

But if you do this, if this is your livelihood, if you will stand and talk in the Texas Legislature to make sure that baby can be torn apart waiting for one last moment of her mother’s voice, then Texas Monthly, the Washington Post, and every major news organization want to give you a medal.

And we allow this. We encourage it. We reward it.

We have reached a point as a country where seventy to eighty percent of us are horrified by this, and yet our media and governing classes (but I repeat myself) rush to preserve it, and we yawn. (If you think the Republican caucus leadership in the Texas House and Senate weren’t complicit in the bill’s demise, you aren’t paying attention.) We vote for them, we watch their news programs, we go on their shows and act like they think we’re human, we reward them by treating them with dignity.

If we had a bare modicum of decency, people who differ with supermajorities in this country on whether a baby can be torn apart as she waits for her mother’s voice would not be welcome in our homes, our lives, or our conversations. They would be cast from our politics and in an ideal world, our country.

But conservatives (and libertarians who don’t understand that liberals suspect they’re conservatives) will go right on going along, hoping it will all change.

It won’t.

And we are at fault.

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