Clinic workers hold woman down and force her to have abortion

A pro-choice feminist who observed  abortions at a busy abortion clinic for her book Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic told the following story of a woman who came in for an abortion and did not speak English. When put on the operating table for her abortion, the woman struggled and tried to get up. However, she was not allowed to leave. Instead, she was held down on the table by three clinic workers while the doctor forcibly aborted her baby.

Wendy Simonds, the author of the book, tells the story:

The second woman was Japanese and spoke very little English, and she had not brought anyone to translate.… This woman actively resisted… She was very drugged up – Demerol and Valium on top of the Sublimaze. She wouldn’t keep her legs open and kept sliding up on the table. From the second Roger [the abortionist] first touched her, she looked like she was in agony.

What happened was that three people held her down, basically. Julia and Toby held her legs apart, and Ilene, who was assisting, held her at the waist to keep her from sliding up. I stood at her side and tried to get her to do deep breathing, pretty ineffectually. It was horrible to watch, and Julia sputtered, during it, “this is so humiliating!”… Roger looked very annoyed during the whole thing. Toby told me later that when Julia was first encouraging the woman to take deep breaths, Roger said, “This will make her breathe!” And slid in the speculum roughly. I had thought of him as very compassionate but apparently not when things don’t go well. I wonder what that woman was thinking during the whole thing.

Maybe the woman was thinking, “Please stop; I don’t want this abortion. Let me go. Stop hurting me.” In all likelihood, the reason she was struggling was because she had changed her mind. She clearly did not want the operation to continue. She seems to have been the victim of a forced abortion. Even though she was heavily drugged and restrained by three people, she fought for her baby.

Clinic worker Julia complains that holding the victim down and forcing an abortion on her was “humiliating” — not to the victim, but to herself.  She is unmoved by the woman’s suffering and obvious trauma. Instead, she is concerned about her own feelings.  In fact, the horrible reality of what they were doing seems lost on all who perpetrated the forced abortion. These self-proclaimed feminists don’t seem to realize that what they were doing is not only wrong, but about as far from feminism as one can get. Instead of medical care, the whole scene reads like a gang rape — the angry abortionist jamming in the abortion instruments, the clinic workers pinning the struggling woman to the table, the victim thrashing around helplessly.

It is chilling that none of the clinic workers think there is anything wrong with holding a pregnant woman down on a table and forcing her to have an abortion. The author tells this story as one anecdote among many, giving the whole incident little commentary in what is overall a sympathetic portrayal of the clinic. The unnamed woman’s brutal experience seems not to warrant more than a few brief paragraphs.

Source: Wendy Simonds. Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1996) 75

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