Student News Abortion Cloning Embryo Euthanasia Genetic Eng 'MA' Pill
Change Channels

Home
About Us
Contact Us
Events
Campaigns
Press Releases
Student Groups
Links  

A personal account of a student nurses experiences with abortion during training. A truly moving and thought provoking article.

Last year I spent eight weeks at an NHS clinic as part of my three year nursing training. Upon arrival I asked the sister what services took place at the clinic and was told, lumps and bumps (surgical removal of lesions and warts); gynaecological investigations; dental surgery; terminations; and visual acquity tests.

"Terminations?", I asked.

"Abortions", she confirmed in a hushed and caring ‘day-time TV’ scowl.

And that was how I found out I’d be spending the next two months watching pregnant women have their unborn babies suctioned out of their wombs, thrown into clinical waste bin-bags and then tossed into wheelie bins. Just like lancing a boil.

Forgive the crude analogy, I’m sorry if it shocks you, but this is how I felt. Shocked. Shocked at how casually an unborn baby, what I believe to be a human life, is ended.

I was not pro-life until about four years ago when I began practising Buddhism and was advised by my teacher that abortion, the morning after pill and IVF treatment all involved taking human life. I had always been quite liberal-minded and being pro-choice seemed to fit in with my politics. Once I began studying Buddhism, in particular the law of cause and effect, I began to rethink my ‘politics’.

When I started my placement at the abortion clinic I realised that I could unwittingly play a part in the taking of another human life. All it took was for me to help prepare the patient for her anaesthetic and I was helping to kill that baby.

It’s something you don’t give much thought to, escorting someone to a changing room, handling them a hospital gown and slippers. You don’t realise the consequences, especially when you have no bad intentions; how could you possibly cause any harm? Well, ignorance is no get-out clause. I might as well have been shaving the heads of the Jews before they went to the gas chambers.

We are a species whose primary sense is vision. That is why it is all too easy to be dismissive about the things we can’t see, Genocide in Bosnia? Change channels – out of sight, out of mind…One night stand? Morning after pill…Perhaps if we could see the child twelve months down the line, mewling in a cot, we’d a give a little more thought to wolfing down a tiny little pill that is poison to the foetus.

Of course, the pro-choicers out there would say, ‘But it’s not alive yet’. Well, I could gladly offer a counter-argument, but I know it would fall on deaf ears. It’s been my experience that if you start talking about the ethics of abortion, most people have already made up their mind. Ethics can be the little devil on your shoulders sometimes. It can seem completely logical to do something completely inhuman. That’s why I try to avoid getting involved in discussions about pro-life/pro-choice ethics – it’s all too easy to get caught up in the heat of the debate and lose sight of the issue: another human life.

If someone said; ‘Let’s discuss the ethical pros and cons of killing your mother’, I’d tell them where to go. Yet because the subject is an unborn child, something you can’t visualise as a fellow human being, it’s OK to talk about whether it’s OK to kill it or not. Perhaps it’s dogmatic and closed-minded of me, but now, if you mention discussions of the ethics of abortion, my gut reaction is don’t go there.

I had the option afforded to pro-life nurses; not to take part in the terminations on ethical grounds. I chose to stay on at the clinic, careful to avoid any involvement in the terminations. I did this for several reasons. Partly, because I didn’t want to close my eyes to it. Partly, because, as a Buddhist, it is my belief that the consciousness of an unborn child (at any stage from conception onwards) can remain in the body for several days after the body has died.

At the end of every shift, when I knew a termination had been carried out, I volunteered to take the clinical waste bin-bags out to the wheelie bin. Once outside, I tore a small hole in the bag and slid a flower inside. Just a gesture to say, ‘Sorry, I couldn’t do any more, and to let you know that someone cared about you’.

Those eight weeks were rough. Part of me became very self-righteous and judgmental towards my colleagues. Yet part of me liked the nurses I was working alongside of, they had a really caring aspect. In this sense, it was not a black and white issue. Mainly I felt confused and defensive. And being a male nurse as well, I went through a lot of psychological beating myself up because I felt that I had no right to have such strong feelings about something that is essentially a ‘woman thing’.

After this placement, I had no further contact with abortions during my nurse training and thought I could put this experience behind me.

A few months later, inspired by a friend who does voluntary work for a child welfare organisation, I began training to be a telephone counsellor. Sure enough, abortion raised its ugly head again. The organisation in question had a pro-choice policy. Worse still, they referred any calls requiring medical information about pregnancy to Brooks – as well as a national family planning clinic with a reputation for pushing young mothers towards abortion.

I did not tell anyone in the organisation about my pro-life beliefs. I thought, if a young woman rings up and wants counselling about pregnancy, then better they come through to me, as I will not discuss abortion as a viable option, than they come through to an ‘impartial’ counsellor.

The consequence of this is that maybe I have saved a life or two by not giving someone the opportunity to contemplate abortion. Is that ethical? I don’t know.

I do know that having to keep my pro-life beliefs a secret from my colleagues and having no one to turn to for support about my experiences made me seek counselling support myself. I made the mistake of contacting the counsellor at the Royal School of Nursing. I explained my situation and she told me that I could not impose my beliefs on others like this.

I felt utterly isolated. When I sought help I was made to feel like a criminal. I have met only one other person in the NHS who is pro-life. A mid-wife here in Manchester (a city which has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in England). She gave me the address of the pro-life web-site and they put me in touch with StudentLifeNet. Since then, I have managed to off load a lot of the feelings I’ve been bottling up about my experiences by writing about them in e-mails to other pro-lifers. It has been such an incredible relief to find other like-minded people who actually feel as strongly as I do about being pro-life.

If anyone else reading this has had similar experiences I would be very interested to hear about them. You can email me at matmurdock@hotmail.com.

 

 

Send mail to webmaster@studentlifenet.org.uk with questions or comments about this web site.
This Page was Last Updated on Thursday, 25 May 2000.