In a memoir released this year, Christine Henneberg discusses her career as an abortionist. In the book, she says that a picture of a preborn baby on an ultrasound screen is “as familiar and interpretable to me now as the stone steps that curve through my garden.”
Henneberg knows the facts about fetal development. In her book, she describes watching a baby being aborted on the ultrasound screen and looking at the hands, feet, heads, and other dismembered parts of babies after abortions. She writes about extracting second trimester preborn babies with forceps, piece by piece, and crushing their skulls.
But she doesn’t tell women who are having abortions about fetal development or show them their ultrasounds.
She explains how, in her practice, she uses different language to describe the preborn baby based on whether the woman is considering abortion. She says:
What I call [the preborn baby], what words I choose to describe it to the person who lies on the table, bare and vulnerable, depends on forces more powerful and penetrating than any ultrasound wave. If I am unsure, I can always fall back on the safest word, the word that may be clinical and unfeeling but is at least always accurate: pregnancy.
These “powerful and penetrating” forces are the mother’s feeling of whether her baby is “wanted” or “unwanted.” This, of course, does not change the nature of the baby — only the way the child is viewed by his or her mother and by Henneberg.
Henneberg explains how she talks to women considering abortion. “Pregnancy” is the word she uses—not baby, or even fetus. She says, “[Pregnancy] is the word I use when [the mother’s] face is turned toward the wall, when she doesn’t want to know the details of what I found—only whether I can help her. ‘Yes, I see the pregnancy. It’ll be fine. We can do it today.”
In contrast, Henneberg’s entire demeanor is different when the woman wants her baby. She says (emphasis added):
And this is the word I use for an entirely different conversation, one that begins with, ‘Yes, I see it. Wonderful. Shall I show you?… That’s the embryo. I’m measuring it now. It’s about six weeks in size. That flicker—do you see it? That’s the heartbeat. Yes! Congratulations.’…
Choice of words. Knowing what to say and when. Different circumstances call for different explanations, and I know how to draw the boundaries.
When the baby is wanted, Henneberg shows the mother the ultrasound screen and the child’s heartbeat. When the baby isn’t wanted, she hides the truth from the woman.
Henneberg is not the only abortion provider who doesn’t show the ultrasound to women considering abortion. Many post-abortive women have spoken out about this.
Is ignorance of fetal development really in a woman’s best interest? Henneberg may hide the biological facts of fetal development from the woman while she’s on the ultrasound table and during her abortion. But Henneberg won’t be there for the rest of the woman’s life, censoring everything she sees.
Eventually, the post-abortive woman is going to find out how developed her baby was. This may happen in a future pregnancy, when she sees the ultrasound, like in this case. Or the woman may become curious, and look for more information online, as this woman did. Either way, finding out the truth too late, after her baby is dead, can be deeply traumatic for the woman.
Henneberg may genuinely believe that it’s easier for a person having an abortion not to know the facts. Of course, it’s also true that abortion facilities don’t make money when women change their minds. Therefore, it is not in the best interests of the abortionist or the facility to tell women the truth.
Pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood fight tooth and nail against laws that require abortion facilities to show women their ultrasounds or talk to them about fetal development.