The XX Factor

A Friend Recalls Her Visit to Tiller’s Clinic

A friend recalls her visit to Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. You can read another memory of Dr. Tiller here :

It was horrible. We were driving onto the grounds and the protesters were there with their ugly pictures yelling at us. Just yelling. Then we got inside and it was calm, very professional. Those people are miracle workers, every last one of them, from the littlest nurse to the admin guys. They had to know their lives were in danger, and there was security everywhere, but they just wanted to reassure us.

The baby had contracted a virus and you could see on the MRI that its organs were all messed up. It looked like there were bubbles in them, instead of solid masses like they were supposed to be. Then they figured out that the baby had been exposed to Fifth disease. All sorts of researchers contacted us, because they wanted to study it.

That was at about 20 weeks. I got a blood transfusion and I thought everything was cool. We went on vacation. But then we came back, and the doctor realized everything wasn’t cool. His brain had a hemorrhage. The MRI reminded me of my other son’s. He’s autistic, and when he was three he’d had an MRI that also showed abnormalities. At a minimum, they said the baby would have developmental delays. But the doctor also used the words: “This child could not make it into childhood.” I was six months along then, and I was already showing. But we couldn’t handle having another special needs kid. Psychically, we just couldn’t handle it.

It was definitely not a threat to my life. My doctor sort of indicated that there were other options but he didn’t give us any contact info. He basically said we had to go to Wichita, Kan., and we’d be in good hands. It was an unusual environment. There were about 10 of us, with our husbands. We stayed in a hotel with all-night security. They were parents from all over the country, and racially mixed. Some of them definitely could have been Republicans, and Christians. Some wanted to give the fetus a name, and bury it, but I didn’t want that. Most of them had babies with Down’s Syndrome. They wanted us to go through this together, and in therapy sessions they let us talk about it.

After they injected us with something to kill the fetus, they used some kind of seaweed stick, to make the process more organic, so the body would naturally start to abort the fetus. The whole thing took two or three days. We were all pulling for each other.

There were elections going on at the time, and in my hotel room I remember seeing Sam Brownback, a senator from Kansas, on T.V. giving some big speech, and he kept saying this is a message for Americans and for the “unborn children.” And I thought, “this is just horrible.” This is a very difficult decision, a very personal decision, and it shouldn’t be up for debate in this kind of forum. It seemed totally inappropriate.

I cry all the time, and that will be for the rest of my life. Because I really, really wanted that baby. It’s so sad, that no matter what was wrong with it, it was trying to grow, that my body was still trying to make that body grow. It could even have looked like a perfect baby-it probably did look like a perfect baby. So it’s just weird and sad that nature is trying to do this thing, and everything is working against it.

You can read other tales from inside Tiller’s clinic here and here.