Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lisa Harris, Abortion Provider

The Weekly Standard describes former abortion providers who have converted to the pro-life cause. I found this passage particularly compelling:
In 2008, however, abortionist Lisa Harris endeavored to begin “breaking the silence” in the pages of the journal Reproductive Health Matters. When she herself was 18 weeks pregnant, Dr. Harris performed a D&E abortion on an 18-week-old fetus. Harris felt her own child kick precisely at the moment that she ripped a fetal leg off with her forceps: 
"Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life."
Harris concluded her piece by lamenting that the pro-choice movement has left providers to suffer in silence because it has “not owned up to the reality of the fetus, or the reality of fetal parts.” 
The article mentions in passing that Harris chose to stay in the abortion business; the article goes on to describe other abortion providers who were so horrified by what they witnessed that they quit and, in some cases, joined the pro-life movement. (See here for a campaign to help more abortion providers leave the industry.)

I'm glad to hear that even people who begin with strong pro-choice views can be moved by the fetus's humanity. However I'm more interested in Harris and providers like her. 

Not only has Harris continued to work as an abortion provider, she writes about how providing abortions can be just as much an act of conscience as refusing to provide abortions. Earlier this year, Harris published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine called "Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision." Harris believes:
Doctors (and, in some states, advanced practice clinicians) continue to offer abortion care because deeply held, core ethical beliefs compel them to do so. They see women's reproductive autonomy as the linchpin of full personhood and self-determination, or they believe that women themselves best understand the life contexts in which childbearing decisions are made, or they value the health of a woman more than the potential life of a fetus, among other reasons. [Emphasis added.]
To be fair, in this passage Harris is describing reasons and perspectives given by other abortion providers besides herself. Even so, it's very frustrating that the same person who has called for the pro-choice movement to own up to "the reality of the fetus" continues to use phrases like "potential life."

So many abortion advocates avoid or flatly deny the humanity or moral relevance of the fetus. I've had pro-choice people insist on using the phrase "clump of cells" even after I point out that most abortions are performed on fetuses with brain waves and heartbeats. But (as I've discussed before) I find it particularly disturbing when people do accept the fetus as a human being--not just in theory, for the purposes of discussion and debate, but in reality--and yet continue to advocate for the right to kill the fetus. I'm a big believer in working to change hearts and minds at least as much--if not more--than working to change laws. But how many hearts and minds are actually unchangeable?


Laura said...

It's called "being confused". Many in the pro-choice movement believe that a baby can threaten a woman's or even a couple's right to their pursuit of happiness. They simply cannot accept that childbirth is something that cannot necessarily be chosen or controlled if someone is engaging in their right to have sex. It has something to do with the historically recent separation of sex and procreation. You know how there are some people that can take the punches in life and go with the flow of things? Others do everything in their power to manipulate and control situations. It is this second type of stance that leads to this tragic conclusion, that the grown person's life is simply worth more, and that somehow, being unable to control reproduction will ruin that life.

Jameson Graber said...

I remember seeing that article and being equally disturbed by it. But I'm sure the inverse is often true. That is, think of the people who look at this web site and think, "What could have ever convinced those people to dedicate their time to that cause? What's *wrong* with them?"

This is an issue with absolutely no clear resolution. All we can do is try to better articulate what the issues are, and continue to face the most difficult among those issues. It simply won't do to ignore the fact that there are people on the other side with the same level of moral conviction as our side.

Laura said...

I have more to add to my thoughts on this. I used to be pro-choice and even underwent an abortion myself. In that situation I even thought what I was doing was in the child's best interest because my life and current relationship was so messed up at the time. I am a controlling type of person and I feel overly responsible for what goes on around me.

I completely understand this pro-choice view because it used to be my own. But what I learned is that being that controlling is wrong, and it leads to pain and suffering. It led to my own pain and suffering. Fact is, most people don't figure that out. The main thing that led me to become pro-life was realizing that the only thing that would have stopped me from getting an abortion was if it were illegal. Having that option to try and control things taken away would have caused me to face the truth, that in reality we cannot control everything, not even our own bodies. Had I faced this truth sooner it would have saved me much heartache.

M said...

Would you be interested in writing a guest blog post about this? If so, please email us at We'd be happy to discuss.

NorthStar156 said...

Have you read the following article?

Laura said...

Wow, thanks for the invitation. I'd be happy to do that but it will take me a long time to get to it. Maybe a month or so.

M said...

That's cool, just let us know.

M said...

I had not read that article and didn't know there was controversy surrounding the information. I got mine from the Endowment for Human Development, but it looks like they're information is from at least some of the sources this article talks about. Thanks for posting it. I will have to look into it more.

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