Were the Fetuses I Was Carrying Really Dead Babies?

Reflections on my days as an operating room technician.

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In my twenties I worked as an operating room technician. One of my tasks then was to take bodily tissues in jars of formaldehyde to the pathology department for biopsies. This particular New England hospital also specialized in therapeutic abortions, so my tray of specimens also included jars of “fetuses.”

In those days I didn’t know what I believed about abortion: When does life begin; were the fetuses I was carrying really dead babies? What I was aware of was that many of the women who came into the OR for abortions were young single women who seemed to be using abortion as a form of birth control. Probably not in all cases, but my sense at the time was that many of them fit into this category. 

It was also plainly obvious to me that the sight of so many fetuses floating in jars of formaldehyde disturbed many of the nurses. I could tell because of the abortion jars were hidden away from the other specimens. Only one nurse -- a Russian Orthodox woman who wore a three bar cross necklace -- out of the 15 or so scrub nurses on duty refused to participate in abortion procedures. This was certainly not the case with the Irish Catholic nurses -- all of whom seemed to happily acquiesce to the abortion status quo, just like “Catholic” President Biden whose views on the topic have grown more problematic over the years.

Abortion advocates in the 1970s preached that men had no say when it came to women’s bodies. This was the golden age of feminism, when books like Our Bodies; Ourselves were riding high on best seller lists. It was a time when political progressives were taught that men should shut up when it came to a woman’s right to choose. After all, weren’t (legal) abortions better than bloody coat hanger abortions in back alleys?

By late 1972, the state of Massachusetts allowed abortion only in cases where the health of a woman was seriously endangered. One year later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women had the right to decide for themselves whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Decades later, in December 2020, the Massachusetts state legislature went even further and passed the ROE Act, in anticipation of legal challenges to Roe v. Wade.  Bill S. 1209, titled “An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access” broadened access to abortion by permitting it beyond 24 weeks to protect the health of the woman. The ROE Act also lowered the age of ‘abortion consent’ from 18 to 16.

Fast forward to January 2022 when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Roman Catholic, signed that state’s Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, a bill that Murphy had announced his support for at its inception back in October 2020, just one day after announcing that he was running for reelection. The bill’s passage into law occurred during an outdoor ceremony in Teaneck with speeches by a representative from the ACLU and retired State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a longtime abortion advocate. In his speech, Murphy confessed that signing the bill wasn’t an easy matter for him and that the process included some serious soul searching.

“I hope that we can come together in the greater calling of our faiths to make parenthood an easier, safer and healthier choice for anyone or any family in search of support,” Murphy said.

Because Murphy claims to be Roman Catholic, the soul searching reference in his comments has an element of science fiction about it. The new law permits abortion for any reason for up to nine months and allows people besides physicians—nurses and midwives-- to perform abortions. Like Massachusetts’ Bill S. 1209, the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act was radicalized and pushed for passage shortly after the New Year in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s possible reset of Roe v. Wade.

Some abortion supporters argue that New Jersey’s bill doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t require health insurance companies to pay for abortions and makes no provisions for poor people who have no health insurance, or for people who cannot afford to pay insurance co-pays. The New Jersey legislature intends to discuss these abortion insurance options as the year progresses.

Reaction to the New Jersey abortion bill—termed the “Freedom to Kill Act” by the Catholic network, EWTN—has been swift and vehement by conservatives in the Church, with many commenting that Murphy’s Catholic mentor, Father Pat Conroy, is a Jesuit (hence, a radical progressive) who once served as chaplain for the House of Representatives. Jesuits, of course, are masters at flipping traditional Catholicism on its head, as witnessed by Conroy’s statement that:

A good Catholic in our system could be saying… women in our system have this constitutional right… our task as fellow Christians or as Catholics is to make it possible for her to optimize her ability to make the choice.

President Biden, who poses as a Catholic, will undoubtedly be checking the numbers of people who participated in January’s March for Life-- the first March for Life of his presidency. At the same time, you can be sure that he will not mention the March in a positive way in any public address going forward. As The National Catholic Register noted earlier this month:

{Biden} has positioned himself  the farthest from the pro-life position that he has been his whole political career….With the Dobbs v. Jackson Health case before the Supreme Court that holds the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade, Biden and his administration have fully committed themselves to defending and expanding abortion access.

Biden, in other words, has exchanged the traditional tenets of his religion for the secular agenda of the progressive Left. Some might argue that he has sold his soul to Mephistopheles; that the Faustian bargain has been made.

The Jesuits and the progressive radical priests giving Biden and Phil Murphy advice on ‘soul searching matters’ are largely modernists in the ‘new’ Catholic faith established after the Second Vatican Council. These are the same sorts of priests who told a Catholic priest friend of mine that, “Of course we don’t believe in all the old stuff, like the Real presence.”

These priests, like their new age Catholic flocks, live for bolder and more expressive innovations, be they liturgical, such as creative Masses with fireworks and liturgical dancers in spandex body suits, or the advancement of leftist beliefs like puberty blockers for children, open borders, and a commitment to fight for a woman’s right to choose-- above and beyond the old fogy theological rants of people like Church Father Saint Basil who rejected the distinction between a formed and unformed fetus, and St. John Chrysostom’s condemnation of married men who encouraged prostitutes and mistresses in the year 400 to abort an unwanted child. “You do not let a harlot remain only a harlot, but make her a murderess as well, the saint wrote.

 One wonders if Democrat Catholic politicians like Murphy and Biden will become even more radicalized in the coming years.

Will they, for instance, come to understand and accept the ancient Roman law that children are the property of the father? In the name of equity, they would of course change the word ‘father’ to birth-givers and then proceed to copy the old Roman law in full: the birth-givers could choose not to accept a newborn, in which case the newborn would be left outside to die or be taken in by a stranger.

Abortion, of course, goes from one slippery slope to another. Far into the future, might we then see not only the exoneration but the “sanctification” of bad abortion people in history like doctor-abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was arrested in 2011 for operating an illegal abortion clinic in West Philadelphia?  When police raided Dr. Gosnell’s clinic they found blood on the walls and floors, rooms filled with feral cats and infant body parts in cabinets, refrigerators and near the clinic garbage disposal.

Yes, one can easily imagine a heavily radicalized future Democrat president freeing Dr. Gosnell, who in 2013 was convicted on 3 counts of 1st degree murder and forced to serve three consecutive life sentences. The archived reports of how Dr. Gosnell’s staff stuck scissors into the necks of three babies after failed abortions would be stricken from the record, Cancel Culture style.

As for Gosnell’s former 2,700 square-foot abortionist factory in West Philadelphia that’s been boarded up and on the real estate market since the doctor’s arrest, the building would be rehabbed into a Sanctuary-Abortion monument, while its official dedication would include a blessing by a Jesuit priest.  

Thom Nickels is a Philadelphia-based journalist/columnist and the 2005 recipient of the AIA Lewis Mumford Award for Architectural Journalism.  He is the author of fifteen books, including Literary Philadelphia and From Mother Divine to the Corner Swami: Religious Cults in Philadelphia. Death at Dawn: The Murder of Kimberly Ernest will be published in 2022.

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