From tomorrow’s Washington Post Magazine: “A Hard Choice: A young medical student tries to decide if she has what it takes to join the diminishing ranks of abortion providers.”

Seems like learning to kill babies can be lots of fun:

There isn’t anything nice about abortion, Lesley said, but she does not equate it with murder. “I think it’s a necessary evil, no, unpleasant service, we have to provide for the sake of” women’s lives and health. But she wouldn’t call herself passionate or driven to provide abortions. “I don’t have a gut drive. It’s more like an intellectual drive {lcub}hellip{rcub} A woman’s control over her body is representative of her freedom. I feel the obligation to make sure that service is available and not stigmatized.”

It was Christina, the Students for Choice chapter president, who proposed holding a papaya workshop to expose more students to abortion. She’d heard about such a workshop at a national Students for Choice gathering. It was a hands-on opportunity for second-year medical students to learn how to perform an abortion, using a papaya as a stand-in for a woman’s uterus. Lesley thought it was a great idea.

The women enlisted doctors, residents and nurses from Maryland and Johns Hopkins to run the workshop and e-mailed an invitation to all second-year students. They promised dinner, a sure bet to lure medical students. This time, if the dean knew about their plans, he didn’t object. Soon the workshop, which could accommodate 20 students, had a waiting list — and the women organizing it had a small firestorm on their hands.

In her e-mail, Christina had hoped to attract participants by suggesting that they’d have fun learning the procedure: “You’ll get the opportunity to be shown how to use manual vacuum aspirators using papaya models (apparently papayas bear a striking resemblance to a uterus. Who knew?)”

Lesley’s eyes were drooping as she, Christina and Regina set out tortillas and taco fixings in a second-floor classroom and assembled papayas and abortion instruments at stations in a lab next door. Like the others, Lesley was recovering from a big test earlier in the week, but she also had overextended herself on the treadmill. Still, in a long-sleeve, black scoop-neck top, jeans, shiny black rain boots and a tan sweater vest tied lightly at her waist, she was a picture of elegance. Her chin-length blond-streaked hair was tied into a tiny pony tail, accenting her angular features.

“This is so cool,” said Lesley, who believed she was doing something important to address the shortage of abortion doctors. After years of defending abortion rights, she would finally learn how the procedure is done.

Seems it’s not as much fun when you get down to business though.

The doctor gave a short lecture on first-trimester abortions. Then she showed the students how to grip the papaya with the scissors to hold the angle of the “cervix” straight on. With one hand, the doctor demonstrated how to administer a local pain killer, at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. She picked up different sizes of dilators used to widen the cervix and advised against pushing them in too hard, because in a soft-skinned papaya, the dilators might come out the other side. In a woman, more pressure would be needed to slide the dilator past the cervix and into the cavity of the uterus.

The doctor next picked up the suction instrument, a manually operated vacuum suction syringe. It was attached to a cannula, or thin tube, that she inserted into the papaya. She rotated it around the fruit’s cavity, pulling and pushing the syringe, suctioning the papaya’s contents.

“This is the most important thing and the hardest to learn,” the doctor said as she pulled out lots of seeds and juice, what in a real abortion she called the “products of conception,” or POC. “You put the POC into a bowl, repeat if necessary, and examine them under a microscope to make sure you got everything,” she advised.

There was silence as she passed around photos of a dish with a light under it from a real abortion. It contained something that looked like a cotton ball, a yolk sac, and some blood and tissue. It was hard to make out any parts of a fetus under 3 months old, which, she said, is when more than 90 percent of all abortions are performed.

“How do you know you are done?” a student asked.

When you do it often enough, the doctor replied, you’ll notice a gritty feel as you are scraping the uterus. If not, there is another tool, a rod with a spoon, one side sharp as a knife, to scrape again.

Now it was the students’ turn to try the procedure in the lab next door. Imagining herself working on a real woman, Lesley looked tentative as she pushed up her sleeves and reached for the razor-sharp tenaculum.

“This just seems so awful,” she exclaimed as she tried to grab the papaya with it. “Do [patients] feel this?”

Her look turned to fright when the nurse practitioner at her station answered that they do.

And they will feel it, “Doctor,” for the rest of their lives–unlike their babies, who will never feel anything.