WARNING: This article contains intense imagery.
Nature frequently goes awry. Who knows why some cells metastasize into cancer, or why a fetus doesn’t properly develop? Such are the mysteries that medicine is challenged by and seeks to answer. in many states, the law will not allow an abortion for any reason past a certain point — even if the fetus is so totally deformed that it has no chance to live. This is the story of such an incident. The author is a doctor, writing anonymously, and the article was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Business Insider wrote an article on this story and that is where I found it. I cite and link to both sources deliberately so that there is no question whether this is true. This is all too painfully real. This is a tale of human misery that medicine could have averted, but for the fact that a warped political system decrees that mercy be denied and the inhumane go forward.
You are in OB triage, crammed on a stool between the woman’s stretcher and the wall. When you move, the stool squeals. Her hand rubs her belly….The interpreter is a stranger on a screen, mounted to a pole on wheels. You try to angle the screen so the interpreter sees your face. He is aghast at what you ask him to repeat. The cadence of your words is carefully measured, but your beautiful cadence is mangled by his hesitation.–You wait for the patient to break the silence. The baby’s heartbeat trots through the monitors while you softly hold her gaze. Her eyes plead with you. End it. You talk to the obstetricians, because eventually it will end. But nobody will do it. Not in this state. Not in this hospital. And so, the mother goes home, pregnant and grieving.–She returns a few days later. She’s having a miscarriage. Her labor is managed just like that, like labor. The baby is born with no skull, eyes like gumballs too big for their sockets. Alive, briefly. It hurts to look. Grotesque is all you can think, but you cannot say it. Thinking it calms you inside so you can calm everyone else. That is your job. To lead, to calm. Because everyone is upset. Some of the nurses need you to fix it, to save this baby with the magic of medicine. You remind them that he is very premature, that he has no brain, that he cannot survive. This is not an ambiguous diagnosis. You encourage the mother to hold her child, but she does not want this bond. She cannot see the deformed creature she birthed, because once seen it cannot be unseen.