Account of a Tragedy

Following are excerpts of Brenda Pratt Shafer's presentation to National Right to Life Committee's NRLC '96. Before witnessing three “partial-birth” abortions while working at a Dayton, Ohio, abortion facility, Pratt Shafer, a registered nurse, considered herself “pro-choice.” She is now an outspoken pro-life crusader.

Editor's note: The testimony below contains graphic descriptions of the partial-birth abortion procedure.

… This one particular lady didn't want the abortion. She had this Down syndrome baby; she was unmarried; her boyfriend didn't want the baby, and her parents didn't want the baby. She cried the whole [time] she was in there. So we did her first to get her over with. We brought her in, prepped her, started an [intravenous] of Valium to calm her down. We did not use a general anesthesia and knock her out.… We brought the ultrasound machine in and hooked it up to her stomach.…

I could see the baby. I could see the heartbeat. And the doctor wanted me to stand right beside him, because he wanted me to see everything there was about partial-birth abortion. So, I stood there. He went in guided by ultrasound. He took a pair of forceps and went in and turned the baby because it wasn't in this position at the time. He found a foot and he pulled the baby's foot down through the birth canal, bringing it down, and grabbed another foot and literally started pulling the baby out—breech position—feet first. And he kept pulling it down and I'm seeing this baby come, pulled out of the mommy, his butt, his chest, and then he delivered both these arms. And the lady's in stirrups, just like you have a baby or just like you're having an ob-gyn examination. And the baby, the only thing that was supporting the baby was the doctor was holding it in his two fingers, holding the neck in to where the head was just inside the mommy.

And the baby was kicking his feet, hanging there, moving his little fingers and his little arms. I couldn't believe—I don't know what I thought killed it (before the abortion procedure) in those three days, but he was moving, and I kept watching that baby move. And I kept thinking to myself, this isn't happening and I thought I was going to pass out. And I kept telling myself I'm a professional, I can handle this, you know, this is right, this is supposed to be, and I'm supposed to be able to handle this, I'm a nurse. He then took a pair of scissors and jammed them in the back of the baby's head. And the baby jerked out, like a static reflex, like a baby does if you throw him up a little bit and they jump. And then the baby was real rigid. He then opened up the scissors to make a hole. He took a high-powered suction machine with a catheter and stuck it in that hole and suctioned the baby's brains out. And the baby went completely limp.

And I have seen that in my mind a thousand or more times, of that baby, watching the life just drain out of it. And like I said before, I've seen babies die in my hands. I've had people die in my hands. But it wasn't anything like seeing that vision of watching it. And I almost threw up all over the floor. I was literally just breathing and saying “don't throw up, don't throw up, you're gonna be embarrassed if you do this.” So I tried not to.

He pulled the head out, he cut the umbilical cord and threw it in a pan, and delivered the placenta and threw it in the same pan, he covered it up and took it out. Well, this mommy wanted to see her baby. And the doctor told us ahead of time, he said, “Try to discourage her from seeing the baby.” He doesn't like that. But she had the right to see it. So they cleaned it up, and we cleaned her up, and we walked her out of the operating room, and took her to a room and handed her baby.

… She held that baby in her arms and she screamed and prayed to God … to forgive her, and for that baby to forgive her, and she held it and rocked it, and told him that she loved him. And I looked in that baby's face, and he had the most perfect, angelic face I've ever seen, and I just kept thinking he's an angel now, he's in heaven. And I couldn't take it. In all the years I've been a nurse, I lost it. And I pardoned myself and excused myself and I ran to the bathroom and I cried and I prayed.