You have to wonder if the normal routine of dehumanizing those tiny bodies had so dehumanized Dr. Henneberg that it was only seeing one intact which momentarily woke her up and engaged her heart?
WARNING: Contains graphic descriptions of abortion and aborted babies
A bit of sick humor showed up on my Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, in the form of a video of two aborted babies being used as puppets on a surgical tray by two anonymous people in white lab coats with gloved hands. Someone lays down a beat while the baby-puppets dance, to the sound of many people laughing in the background.
The babies were the size of premature infants born at about 30-32 weeks; i.e., they were fully formed. Their limbs and umbilical cords flailed, and their heads lolled around as the faceless cowards misused and abused their tiny corpses. The video’s source has been traced to Venezuela, and the Twitter account which shared it has been suspended.
And, right on cue, many abortion rights proponents distanced themselves from the message by declaring it to be a hoax.
If you get the chance to view this abortion porn please note that when the baby on the right is tossed back onto the tray, his or her tiny body falls in such a way to show a gaping hole at the base of the skull. This is consistent with the late-term abortion method of extracting the brain matter while the head is still in utero, facilitating extracting the skull.
All to say, if it is a hoax, someone went to a lot of trouble to get that damning detail just right.
Twitter reacted with disgust and disbelief—who would do such a thing, and why?
But to the people who perform abortions, which are perfectly legal in our culture, or people who work in any high-stress surgical environment, the scene depicted is easier to understand. That sick sense of humor when confined behind closed doors keeps the stress manageable so the next patient can be seen.
And that humor works hand in gloved hand with the unhealthy coping regarding a truth that all of us, not just those docs, would just as soon deny: abortion carries a body count. Whether handled with more surgical dignity or not. Whether the body is younger and appears less baby-like or not. And whether we acknowledge the human value of that small body or not.
I thought of that video as I read “When an Abortion Doctor Becomes a Mother” in the New York Times on June 26. Christine Henneberg’s description of herself as an abortion doctor is telling. What exactly is an abortion doctor? She doesn’t provide her credentials in her bio for the NYT piece. Researching her medical credentials I found she is an MD, perhaps with a specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology, although she also lists her specialty as Family Medicine. She trained at UCSF, whose search engine for their abortion provider training at Bixby Center yields no results for the term. The UCFS health care system “Find a Doctor” search engine also yields no results for the phrase “abortion doctor.”
NPR decided against use of the term nearly a decade ago. In 2011, National Public Radio’s Ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, explained their decision, saying, “We don’t say a physician is an STD doctor. Or a child-birth doctor. Or a breast-exam doctor.”
Per NPR’s style guide: “Do not refer to murdered Dr. George Tiller as an ‘Abortion Doctor.’ Instead we should say Tiller operated a clinic where abortions are performed. We can also make reference to the fact that Tiller was a doctor who performed late term abortions.”
You can find an “abortion provider” searching the doctors at UCSF, Henneberg’s alma mater. So why not call herself that? After reading her NYT piece my guess is that she wants to go beyond mainstreaming abortion, something UCSF has been working on since 1999, and to have the prestige of being a doctor rub off on her work providing abortions.
You see, as she writes, “We routinely perform procedures well into our patients’ second trimester, when the fetus is well-formed and easily recognizable as humanlike, even “life”-like. Baby-like.”
Before you can object, “You mean like a baby?” Henneberg switches gears to help you understand the need to compartmentalize that instinct. It’s all about your boundaries. Your boundaries as a doctor, not their tiny boundaries encompassed in their well-formed lifelike baby-like bodies.
Next, she takes us into her conscience briefly to let us know that a personal challenge getting pregnant had her wondering if her failure to conceive right away was a punishment “like some kind of bad karma: the abortion doctor who can’t get pregnant.”
But. Don’t worry—her boundaries kicked in and carried her past any moral consequence, karmic or otherwise, for dismembering the very young.
Although, she admits one time she “almost fell apart.”
“I was in my second trimester, performing a 17-week procedure on a patient. The fetus, which is normally extracted in parts, came through the cervix intact. I dropped it in the metal dish and I saw it move, or thought I did. It was all I could do not to run from the procedure room crying.”
Do you realize what is being described here? As a doctor, she has reached into a woman’s uterus to grasp a baby’s limb, likely with forceps, to “extract it in parts.” This means-to pull that limb from the baby’s body before returning to the uterus for the other limbs, the torso, and the baby’s head.
You have to wonder if the normal routine of dehumanizing those tiny bodies had so dehumanized Dr. Henneberg that it was only seeing one intact which woke her up and engaged her heart?
But. Don’t worry. She follows this revelation of her normal and routine inhumanity by telling us, “That was the only time.”
The only time anything happened to her which looked or felt like punishment for every other time she had detached herself from dismembering near-viable babies?
The only time her boundaries failed her?
The only time it didn’t feel “normal” to extract a healthy baby from his or her mother “in parts”?
The only time she considered the children entrusted to her as a physician?
Despite that emotional lapse, she proves a hero, bravely erecting a shaky boundary against a religious heckler outside her workplace, who noticed the stroller in the trunk of her car and called on her to repent.
Bottom line she wants us to know her motherhood harmonizes with her work, because as a doctor she can draw a distinction between a fetus and a baby, even though as a mother she knows such distinctions are artificial at best.
Her conclusion: life is messy, some women don’t choose to be mothers and “somebody has to do the work.”
The cognitive dissonance here is staggering. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable result of holding two conflicting thoughts or emotions at the same time. The discomfort motivates us in three main ways, all of which Dr. Henneberg illustrates in her op-ed.
- We can accept the new information and change our behavior. Dr. Henneberg almost accomplished this when she encountered that intact fetus who might have moved. Had she run from the room as her emotions were leading her to do, it would have been very difficult to return. Her self-image as a helper and healer would have to change along with the way that she expresses those caring impulses.
- We can change our beliefs by discounting, reframing, or ignoring the new information. This is the aim of those who ignored the Twitter video depicting fetal corpse abuse as a hoax. For her part, unable to avoid the reality that a fetus is a baby, and not just baby-like, Dr. Henneberg erects a boundary to protect her status quo as an abortion doctor. By compartmentalizing her empathy for the babies whom she is routinely extracting in pieces (her words), she decides to believe that because she is a doctor such empathy is out of bounds.
- We justify the behavior with new beliefs. Dr. Henneberg arrives at the belief that her involvement in child killing is a duty she somehow must fulfill. As an abortion provider, prior to her own pregnancy she modelled a firm belief that the fetus is either not human or has no value as human. Yet, driven by fear of not being able to conceive a child, she became extremely protective of her own fetus which she completely valued from the very beginning, even going so far as to say there is no distinction between a fetus and a baby. So now in her work she sidesteps the messiness of that dissonance by casting herself as a humble servant.
Her moral capitulation rings hollow at best. She seems to believe since women don’t value their babies (whom she routinely extracts in pieces), the babies have no value, and what she is doing is therefore necessary medical care.
She doesn’t reflect on the fact that her practice as a medical professional makes her morally culpable in the devaluing process at its core.
This is the reason why restricting abortion legally is so important: not only is the law a moral teacher, but, more importantly women entrust themselves to their doctors. When their doctors deny basic medical truth to salve their own consciences that trust is both broken and betrayed.
How would you feel reading her article if you’d been a patient of Dr. Henneberg recently? Would you wonder if your child survived intact, moving after what was intended to kill them? I don’t imagine she shared that detail with that mother. Keeping it together for that conversation would have taken some serious boundaries! And would you have been made fully aware that it would be normal and routine for your child to be extracted in parts, i.e., dismembered? If not, would there be a grief on learning so?
Most women have no idea that they are consenting to the dismemberment of their children when they contract for abortion services. The pervasive and iron-clad policy of euphemism keeps women believing several wrong ideas. They are told, and hence, believe, a fetus is not a baby and just tissue. That was my experience last century before the internet and 4-D ultrasound and DNA, and as surprising as it may in light of all those innovations, it’s still the case today.
Exhibit A-Rewire News writing in May about heartbeat laws, stated unequivocally, “At six weeks’ gestation, there is no heart, there is no heartbeat, and there is no fetus. Instead, there is a “fetal pole,” a thick area alongside the yolk sac that extends from one end of an embryo to the other. What can be measured at six weeks is electrical activity in the fetal pole.”
This is written as fact by the author, a journalist who is not a medical professional. He is either guilty of purposefully misleading his readers, or shoddy research.
There are two ways to measure the age of babies before birth: fetal and gestational age. A fetal age of 6-7 weeks equates to a gestational age of 8-9 weeks, at which time a heartbeat can not only be detected, but is to be expected in a routine ultrasound, as noted by the American Pregnancy Association in their material on fetal development:
“By this point in the pregnancy, everything that is present in an adult human is present in the developing embryo. The embryo has reached the end of the embryonic stage and now enters the fetal stage. A strong fetal heartbeat should be detectable by ultrasound, with a heartbeat of 140-170 bpm by the 9th week. If a strong heartbeat is not detected at this point, another ultrasound scan may be done to verify the viability of the fetus. If a pregnancy has been diagnosed as non-viable, most physicians will give the choice of waiting to see if the body will miscarry naturally (pending no other health issues) or to have a Dilation & Curettage (D&C) procedure. ”
By the way, the section on fetal development on the APA website is subtitled, Your Developing Baby. The same language used regularly on obstetrical sites aimed at pregnant women. The same way no one ever gets invited to a Fetus Shower.
Because unlike Christine Henneberg, the abortion doctor, along with Christine, the mother, we know a fetus equals a baby, and we say it too.
Many NYT readers reacted to her piece by lauding her service and courage, and that’s an odd turn, given the universal disgust we feel while watching someone dancing with dead babies.
Is treating babies’ bodies as medical waste all that far removed from using them for a moment of gallows humor?
I’m grateful Dr. Henneberg was honest enough to admit exactly what she is doing to the bodies of babies in her practice as an abortion doctor. And I agree that she is not morally responsible for the demand, she’s just working the supply side.
But I’m hoping and praying she would open the eyes of her heart to see the value of the babies she’s destroying in the name of family planning.
And as for the rest of us, it’s too easy to say you’d never have an abortion, you’re not an abortion doc, you’d never abuse a dead baby. It is happening. Defenseless, innocent children are being extracted in parts in a normal legal procedure every day.
That ought to break our hearts and drive us to their cause.
If you have been impacted by abortion, please visit our Resources page for help. Free and reduced cost resources are available. Use the Contact form to ask us how.
Kim Ketola is the author of the Amazon bestseller Cradle My Heart, Finding God’s Love After Abortion.