Over the past month our national conscience has been reawakened to the inhumanity of abortion due to the release of undercover videos exposing us to the graphic realities of Planned Parenthood.
In reading some of the counter-response by the defenders of Planned Parenthood, one commentator said, in effect, “Sure, the public is grossed out by some of what they’re seeing, but only because they have no experience in medicine. Even apart from abortion, doctors and nurses see that kind of stuff all the time. Doctors don’t react to the videos the way civilians do.”
Really? Does frequent exposure to the graphic realities of the human body lead doctors to become desensitized to abortion itself?
I turned to a dear friend of mine, Clay Smith, M.D., a veteran doctor in the emergency room of one of the leading hospitals here in Tennessee—and a devoted follower of Christ.
In reading Dr. Smith’s column below, you will note that for at least this one doctor, his vocation of medicine has not shut down his capacity for emotion and clear thinking about the realities of what we are seeing in the videos.
By Clay Smith, M.D.
I recently took care of a young woman who miscarried 15-week gestation twins in the Emergency Department. As I looked at the two tiny boys she delivered, there was a sense of loss and helplessness. There was no way to help them survive when they were so premature. Their eyes were still fused shut at this gestation, but they had perfect little faces, noses, lips, and fingers. I cloaked my feelings under professionalism and pulled myself together in order to be compassionate to this new mother who just lost twin boys. But it was a tough night, and the image of their tiny, bruised but perfect bodies remains etched in my memory. We were all sad that night: the expecting mother, the nurses, and me.
So as I watched the third video from the Center for Medical Progress, I was deeply unsettled as the technician sifted through body parts on a pie plate. This baby had been torn apart, “there’s a leg…a kidney…that’s neural tissue.” Not much rattles me as an Emergency Physician. I’ve seen it all, from gunshot wounds to the head to gangrene of the toes. But inflicted human suffering is disturbing and often makes it hard to fall asleep, even after a night shift.
Sometimes I can’t turn my mind off. I can’t notremember the patients I’ve just seen and their injuries. Sometimes I lie there and ask myself, “How can people do these things to each other? How can one person take a baseball bat to another person’s head?” (Sadly, I’ve seen that too…several times.) The feelings of incredulity, injustice, and indignation are always there when I see people hurt by other people. It doesn’t go away or get easier just because I’ve seen the same drama replayed in our trauma resuscitation rooms 1000 times over either.
I had the same feeling as I watched the third video. Something deep inside me is repulsed at this. This is a fellow human being who has been dismembered, and the perpetrators are haggling over the price of the body parts and discussing how to alter the procedure to extract more intact parts and maximize profitability. Paramedics, emergency nurses, and Emergency Physicians know the sense that something is wrong in the world when we see a 7-year old caught in the crossfire and shot in the head from drive-by gang violence.
Now the doors are flung open for the world to see what is happening inside Planned Parenthood, and it’s even more horrible than that. They are the perpetrators and are auctioning off the parts of the slain. Incredulity, injustice, indignation…
A Gospel Informed Response
How should we respond? We as Christians must say what is true, even when it’s unpopular. Abortion is wrong; it is people hurting and killing other people. We need to pray that God will make this stop. We need to support scared and confused new moms who find themselves pregnant. We can share our time and money to support those who give their lives for this purpose, like the Hope Clinic in Nashville and countless other organizations who reach out to help women in need. For those called to it, we can adopt. We need to be individuals and churches who look past the stigma of unwed pregnancy and open our hearts, closets, and wallets to help hurting women. We need to pray for the advance of the gospel in the hearts of young men and young women so they will follow Christ and not experience the painful fallout of sex before marriage.
Finally, we need to pray for the advance of the gospel in our own hearts as we wrestle with feelings of incredulity, injustice, and indignation. It’s not that those feelings are wrong or not fitting, but these seeds in the wrong soil will grow weeds of rancor and revenge, which must never be.
As the gospel shows us our own sin and how we have hurt others too, it provides the soil in which humility, prayer, and service grows. Incredulity softens to introspection. We have done some pretty shocking things too. I would be mortified if a secret camera recorded some of the things I have said and done. Injustice mobilizes us to do what we can to, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” (Proverbs 24:11 ESV) Indignation gives place to obligation (Romans 1:14).
Those around us need the hope of Christ. Those considering abortion need compassion and support. As more videos appear, these feelings of incredulity, injustice, and indignation will rise in our hearts, and they should. But as the gospel works in us, we have the privilege to shine our light and be a salty savor to the world in this dark day.