NPR Airs Recording of Woman’s Abortion: ‘What Hell Sounds Like’

At the beginning of the story, NPR issued a warning that some listeners would be disturbed by the story’s details. Wells, for her part, compared the abortion to giving birth.

NPR sign at headquarters building entrance in Washington, D.C.
NPR sign at headquarters building entrance in Washington, D.C. (photo: DCStockPhotography / Shutterstock)

NPR listeners heard the sounds of a women’s abortion aired on radio Thursday.

“You’re going to hear this machine turn on now, okay, it makes a loud noise,” someone tells the unidentified Michigan woman who is 11 weeks pregnant.

The loud whir of the vacuum aspirator machine that will suck the unborn baby out begins — followed by the woman’s moaning. 

The segment aired during NPR’s Morning Edition in anticipation of Michigan’s upcoming vote on abortion during the midterm elections. For the program, Kate Wells of Michigan Radio spent more than a week with Northland Family Planning just outside Detroit to talk to patients — and witness an abortion.

At the beginning of the story, NPR issued a warning that some listeners would be disturbed by the story’s details. Wells, for her part, compared the abortion to giving birth.

“Most patients are partially awake during the procedures,” she describes. “They get IV medication for pain and anxiety. The lights are dimmed, there’s soothing music, it actually feels a lot like a childbirth, a medical gown, your bare legs in stirrups, and a person next to you saying, ‘You can do this.’”

In this instance, that person was a staffer named Brandee.

“Here’s my hand, just keep breathing,” she encourages the pregnant woman undergoing the abortion as she monitors vital signs. Wells called it an example of “women guiding other women.”

Throughout the abortion, Brandee kept encouraging the pregnant woman through her moans and heavy breathing.

“Blow it out, blow it out, breathe through it, breathe through it,” she says. “Keep breathing.”

At one point, Wells reports that the woman said she could not keep breathing through her painful cramps. Brandee tells her she can. The exchange is only described — and not aired — for listeners.

The abortion is done in a couple of minutes, Wells reports.

When the woman thanks everyone in the room, they start encouraging her, “You did good, you did great! You did just fine,” while laughing.

National pro-life leaders responded to the NPR segment.

“My prayer is often that the truth about abortion is ‘brought into the light’ but nothing prepared me for what this audio recording of an abortion would sound like,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini tweeted. “What’s happening here is the taking of an innocent human life. Heartbreaking. No words.”

Live Action President Lila Rose emphasized, “This is what Hell sounds like.”

As president of Students for Life of America, Kristan Hawkins added on Twitter: “I hope the disgusted NPR listeners will never forget this sound and #voteprolifefirst on Tuesday.

SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser also brought up the midterm elections in response to NPR’s segment.

“Exposure to the harsh reality of abortion is important for voters as they consider their choices next Tuesday,” she said in a statement.

“This heartbreaking audio exposes the brutal truth about abortion — the destruction of unborn children and exploitation of their mothers for profit,” she added. “We can just imagine the last moments of the unborn child, who has a beating heart by six weeks, is forming unique fingerprints by 10 weeks, and can feel excruciating pain at least by 15 weeks. And we may never know the fate of the unnamed mother, but we know abortion can result in life-threatening complications and long-term emotional and mental health impacts.”

In an October story published by Michigan Radio, Wells went into more detail about the abortion. 

“It’s typical for patients to be awake during first-trimester abortions, especially when the patient doesn’t have underlying medical issues,” she reported. “It not only reduces the risk of complications and the costs to the patient (general anesthesia for an abortion in a hospital setting can cost thousands of dollars); it also means patients can go home the same day.”

She continued to describe what happens.

“Northland Family Planning gives every patient numbing medication applied to the cervix, and strong pain and anxiety medications (fentanyl and midazolam) administered intravenously,” she wrote. “Some patients also get a cervix softener a few hours before the procedure to make dilation easier, depending on how far along their pregnancy is.”

After a woman is fully relaxed, the OB-GYN “would use a speculum to view inside the patient’s vagina, then clean the vagina and cervix with gauze and antiseptic” and dilate the cervix, she added.

Wells described the vacuum aspirator, which was used on the unidentified Michigan woman, as a “machine [that] uses gentle suction to remove the pregnancy tissue from the patient’s uterus through a thin tube.”

She reported that the woman, after her abortion, said, “I hope I didn’t do too bad.” Wells added: “Brandee leaned close to her, their faces only inches apart. ‘Don’t you ever tell yourself what you can’t do again,’ she said, smiling.”

NPR and Michigan Radio did not immediately respond to requests for comment by time of publication.

Caravaggio, “The Incredulity of St. Thomas,” c. 1601

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