Norma McCorvey - the former "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade

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Won By Love An excerpt from Chapter 11: A Day in the Life of Norma McCorvey

Getting it Done After "counseling" we would lead the patient into the back room, where she would typically wait for an hour or two, then we would take her to an addressing room, where she would put on a surgical gown, but leave her socks on. Then we'd help her up on the table, get her in position and put her feet in the stirrups. Once the patient was settled, we hit her with about 40 percent nitrous oxide. Though I have received no medical training, I routinely performed this function (as well as other medical acts, such as drawing blood). Most abortionists do not want to spend the money to pay a specialist.

It takes about 10 minutes for the laughing gas to get into the bloodstream. After that, a nurse comes in and numbs the woman's cervix with a small needle. Then she would nod my way. My job was to talk to the women and get them to relax. I would usually resort to small talk. "Do you ski"" I'd ask in winter. "A little bit," a timid voice would reply. "I hear that Angel Fire had so much snow dumped this morning that the skiing is great. Won't it be fun to get out there and take a couple of runs real soon?" "Yeah. Great."

I would do anything to get them to stay relaxed. When I saw them tense up, I'd say, "Think about the nicest thing you've ever seen. Got it? Now tell me about it." or "Tell me about the prettiest dress you've ever owned." During this time the doctor is dilating the patient's cervix with his instruments. He then begins scraping the uterus with an instrument that looks like a tongue depressor-- those little wooden things doctors stick in your throat when they ask you to say "aaahhh" Soon, a little bit of blood begins to trickle out of the woman's body and the doctor inserts a cannula--a medical tube--into the vaginal canal.

Often this was the first time Arnie (the abortionist) would address the patient directly. "Okay, machine may scare you. I have not talked to you because Norma is here to talk to you for me. She is my representative. If you have questions, talk to Norma."

Invariably, the woman would grab my hand—I earned to remove all my rings because many of those young women were very strong. I tried not to wince, even when their fingernails bit into my skin, drawing blood. The doctor turned the machine on, the woman's body shook in rhythm with it, her legs began to quiver and sometimes I had to hold her hips. If the woman was a squirmer, I would have to restrain her. At least 80 percent of the women would try to look down at the end of the table, wondering if they cold see anything which is why our doctor always went in with the scalpel first. Once the baby was already cut up, there was nothing but blood and torn up tissue for the woman to see.

When a later abortion was performed, workers had to piece the baby back together, and every major part--head, torso, two legs, and two arms --had to be accounted for. One of our little jokes at the clinic was, "If you ever want to humble a doctor, hide a leg so he thinks he has to go back in." Please understand, these were not abnormal, uncaring women working with me at the clinic. We were just involved in a bloody, dehumanizing business, all of us for our own reasons. Whether we were justifying our past advocacy(as I was), justifying a previous abortion (as many were) or whatever, we were just trying to cope--and if we couldn’t laugh at what was going on, I think our minds would have snapped. It's not an easy trying to confuse a conscience that will not stay dead.

Women typically began crying as soon as the machine was shut off. Our standard line was, "Honey, you've just had fifteen milligrams of liquid Valium, and it's only natural that you should feel so emotional. Don't worry. It'll pass." We could never admit to the fact that she might be crying because she realized what she had just done to her baby.

We then wheeled the girl into recovery, put a pad on her, pulled the curtain to give her some privacy, then checked vital signs: blood pressure and pulse. Again, I was usually the one to do this.

A Hundred Dollar Lie

More than once I had a conversation with Arnie that went something like this. "She's ten weeks, Arnie." "Norma, tell her she's twelve." I tried looking him in the eye, but he avoided my stare. The difference between an abortion at ten weeks and twelve weeks was a hundred dollars. Abortionists routinely jack up the estimate of a baby’s a age because most women simply won't argue about it--and even fewer would dare to solicit a second, more informed opinion.

In this arena, the abortionist is freer that any other physician. He controls both the sonogram and the sonogram machine, and rarely has to confer with another doctor or share his records. Since he is talking to women who are almost universally uninformed about the mechanics of what he does, it is child's play to cash in by inflating an unborn baby's age.

"You tell her." I said. "I'm not gonna lie." I was not always cooperative. For example, both Connie and I refused to reassemble the body parts after a late-term abortion. It was bad enough having to seal the bags that held them, but there was no way I was going to treat those bodies like grotesque jigsaw puzzles.

"Norma, Norma," Arnie once told me, "I will show you where to put the tissue." "Tissue" was the code word for bodies in our clinic. We stored them in plastic bags, which were kept in a freezer until they were picked up weekly. I was not a newcomer to abortion clinics at that time but I was not about to handle the bodies. "Sorry, Arnie, " I said, "I don't do that. I'll scrub the floors. I'll make appointments. But Don't ask me to handle the tissue." "Is okay," he argued. "I show you how to put in freezer. "I walked in the back, more to shut up Arnie than to commit to handling the bodies in the future. Besides I was feeling a little ashamed of myself.

"You're hard-core", I told myself. "You're Jane Roe. You can handle a couple of plastic bags full of tissue. "

The Parts Room, as we called it, was narrow, with washbasins on one side and medical supplies on the other. Against one wall was a white freezer with the lock broken off. Arnie lifted up a large plastic bag. The contents looked similar to a cut-up chicken, with all the parts swimming in blood, and I felt myself grow nauseous. Then I saw the back of a head float by and I immediately vomited all over Arnie, the sink, and the counter.

"Oh Norma," Arnie complained, "I will have to go and clean myself again." He looked and sighed. "You cannot do this?" he asked. I was white. I thought I might throw up again. And he was asking me if I was sure I couldn't do this? I shook my head. "No" "This is okay," he answered. "I will have Connie do it." Connie also refused, so Arnie ended up piecing the bodies together himself. At the beginning of each week, a service truck would come by and pickup the body parts, which were taken to a lab.

All through the week, the Parts Room became creepier and creepier. I never wanted to go back there, especially at night. Sometimes I had to go back there to fix the phone lines or get some supplies, and every time I would be afraid that the freezer was going to open, reach out and grab me, and pull me into its cold world, slamming shut. No, I was not losing my mind; but when you work at an abortion clinic, you're guilty and you know it.

For all the millions spent on public relations, the abortion movement has yet to invent rhetoric powerful enough to blind abortion clinic workers from the truth. You see the body parts, you hear the women's cries, and you can't keep lying to yourself--at least not without artificial stimulation. That's why drugs, alcohol and coarse jokes are so popular inside clinics. If we had stayed sober and not laughed at ourselves, we would have begun to think of ourselves as hideous monsters preying on little babies.