PHILADELPHIA — Abortion-rights activists participating in the Netroots Nation convention Friday used a watermelon to demonstrate an early abortion procedure.
A small, round watermelon was the stand-in for a woman’s uterus and the red watermelon fruit played the role of the human embryo.
“This is a uterus, which is freakishly large for a uterus,” said abortion clinic consultant Jen Moore Conrow, who provided the step-by-step commentary for the demonstration conducted at the exhibition booth for the activist group Abortion Access Front.
The abortion-rights group had a prominent position at the annual convention for liberal activists and bloggers, with a daily presentation at a town hall-style venue inside the main exposition hall.
As Ms. Conrow pointed to a small, round opening cut into one end of the watermelon, she said, “This would be the cervix.”
She said the demonstration was of abortion of an 11- to 12-week pregnancy and would show how easily the procedure can be performed in the first trimester.
“So when you are thinking about how ginormous pregnancies are, just know that a three-month pregnancy is actually very, very small,” Ms. Conrow said.
They used a watermelon because they couldn’t get papaya, which is more anatomically similar to a woman’s reproductive organs. A salmonella outbreak resulted in a recall of papayas, she said.
The procedure was performed using specula or medical spreader tool, a cannula that resembled a large plastic straw and manual vacuum aspirator that looked like an oversized syringe.
“What clinicians do when they do a clinical procedure is insert the specula into the vagina so they can see the cervix,” Ms. Conrow said. “They’ll very gently dilate the cervix just a little bit and then they will insert a cannula into the cervix, into the uterus to remove the pregnancy.”
Papaya or watermelon are commonly used to train abortion technicians, she said.
The demonstration was performed by Roxanne Sutocky, the director of community engagement for The Woman’s Center, a chain of abortion clinics.
After inserting the cannula into the watermelon, Ms. Sutocky experienced difficulty in attaching the vacuum aspirator to achieve the necessary suction.
A man in the audience who was wearing a “Dump Trump” T-shirt chimed in: “Looks like you were trained at Trump University.”
Ms. Sutocky and Ms. Conrow laughed.
As Ms. Sutocky continued to adjust the vacuum aspirator, the man called out, “It’s no longer first trimester.”
No one laughed.
Ms. Sutocky successfully attached the vacuum aspirator and a core of watermelon fruit was removed in the cannula.
She emptied the red fruit into a kidney-shaped plastic basin beside the watermelon.
“That’s how you do it,” Ms. Conrow said.
“That’s it?” replied a woman in the audience.
“That’s the whole shebang,” Ms. Conrow said. “Most procedures take about three to five minutes and folks feel OK afterward.”
She stressed that the procedure can be performed with a local anesthetic.
“Some people opt for sedation. It is really is just a matter of what folks feel comfortable with, but it is easy, it can be safely done in any clinician office,” Ms. Conrow said.