Written by Kathy Clubb
30th January 2024
In her 2016 book, “What the Nurse Saw”, Brenda Pratt-Shafer wrote about her shocking experiences as a nurse assisting an abortionist. Although she only worked in that position for three days, Brenda writes that what she witnessed was so disturbing that it caused her to immediately renounce her support for abortion and it eventually led her to full time pro-life work. Testimonies of this kind provide an insight into the profound after-effects caused by participation in the taking of an innocent human life.
The book explains how Brenda had been hired to assist the notorious late-term abortionist, Martin Haskell, a pioneer of the partial-birth abortion technique. Since Haskell was experiencing a high turnover of staff to assist him with these abortions, Brenda knew she would be hired after successfully completing a three-day probation. She writes that she had been looking forward to the job as she was not against the idea of abortion and needed an income to provide for her family. However, Brenda didn’t realize that what she was about to witness was the barbaric murder of dozens of tiny humans.
On her first shift, Brenda watched “dilation and curettage” (D&C) abortions – those committed during the first trimester. She saw babies being evacuated from their mothers’ wombs by a suction aspirator “twenty-nine times more powerful” than a domestic vacuum cleaner. Brenda writes that at the end of that day she was “reeling” from what she had witnessed.
The second day, Brenda watched in horror as the tiny bodies of second trimester babies were crushed and torn apart in “dilation and evacuation” (D&E) abortions. This technique is used when a suction-machine can’t cope with the calcified bones of larger babies. After that second day of witnessing abortions, Brenda writes that she couldn’t sleep because she “kept seeing all those baby parts”. She was conflicted about returning to the abortion mill but was lured by the thought of a full time job after her probation.
Brenda recounts that the third day was the worst of all: Martin Haskell began a partial birth abortion on a baby who was at twenty-six and a half weeks’ gestation. Remember, at this stage, a baby is fully-formed and can potentially – with good medical care – survive outside the womb. Brenda watched as the abortionist located a foot with his instruments and dragged it into place: this was necessary so that the baby wouldn’t be born head first. (The abortionist knew that once a breath was taken, the baby would be considered a ”human being” and so, in legal terms, he would be committing murder. Of course morally speaking, he was committing murder with every abortion, regardless of the gestational period.)
For the reader who is already pro-life, an account of a partial-birth abortion can never fail to revulse and sadden them. We cannot imagine ourselves, not only being in a room where one of these barbaric procedures is taking place, let alone, not doing all in our power to stop it. However, all of this took a pro-choice eye-witness like Brenda completely by surprise. She really had no idea of what was involved in a late-term abortion procedure – an indication that the sanitized term, “abortion” does little to convey its horrific reality. Brenda writes,
“The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors through the back of the head, and the baby’s arms jerked out in a flinch, a startled reaction, like a baby does when he thinks he might fall. The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby was completely limp.”
Although disturbed, Brenda writes that she was in such a state of shock, that she stayed to witness three of these procedures on that same day, before she could bring herself to hand in her resignation. Unable to sleep due to the trauma of seeing babies killed in her presence, Brenda eventually went to her doctor for some medication. The doctor was so shocked when he learned that this barbarity was happening in his own town that he called his associates and had Brenda repeat her experience. These doctors were simply incredulous, although they presumably referred for abortions on a regular basis, another indication that most people, even medical professionals, don’t really question all that is meant by the term, “abortion.”
Incidentally, Brenda writes that “reliable sources” told her that the partial-birth abortion technique was specifically honed for the sake of researchers who wanted to harvest the precious organs of these tiny humans. This is not entirely accurate however, since, we know from insiders like Pamela Acker and David Deleiden that human tissue needs to be living at the time of extraction, ie, organs are not harvested from dead babies. However, it may be that development of the partial-birth abortion technique facilitated the harvesting of fetal tissue, since by using this technique, the partially-delivered child can be kept alive until such time as its organs have been extracted. [For more information on this topic, see our book, Conscience and Vaccines]
Witnessing the partial-birth abortions had a lasting effect on Brenda. When she wrote her book in 2016, more than twenty years after witnessing the abortions, she was still suffering from insomnia and wrote that she remained “haunted” by the perfect face of one of the tiny victims. Such is the high price of being involved in an abortion procedure.
Many accounts of abortionists and their staff experiencing unwanted reminders of the murderous work abound online [eg see here]. As just one example from this article, a former abortion worker tells how common is trauma from this line of work. She writes:
“Somebody was having a breakdown every procedure day. Women that were working in the POC (products of conception) room would often cry and have breakdowns while they were cleaning instruments or, you know, picking through fetal body parts.”
In the medical world, abortion lobbyists try to suggest that low job satisfaction among abortionists is due to the “stigma” they feel in their line of work and they even produce studies in an effort to prove their claim. Other studies conclude that “providing abortion services is a highly distressing experience for nurses and midwives”. Providing abortions certainly didn’t rate among Forbes’ 2023 list of careers providing the highest job satisfaction.
If an abortion worker feels traumatized by what she has witnessed, we can only imagine the effect that actually performing an abortion has on the abortionist. A friend from Melbourne tells the story of a client she met when she was delivering food with St Vincent de Paul many years ago. During the course of their meetings, he disclosed to her that has was a former abortionist: the negative effect this had on him was obvious:
“When I first met John (not his real name), I was struck by how utterly lonely and alone he was. He was a small, skinny man dressed in filthy old clothes. He was bent, balding and unshaven with no care of himself at all. John was living in a broken down boarding house in Fitzroy in a tiny room with very few possessions. He slept on an old horse hair mattress with no sheets, a stained pillow and a few filthy blankets. Struck by his situation, I offered him hot soup and sandwiches which he gladly accepted. The “Vinnies” van of Fitzroy visited many lonely people each night, but there was a sadness in John’s eyes that really spoke to me. Not one for a chat he usually took food and quickly shut his door.
“One night I tried again to get through to him and he told me not to be nice to him because he didn’t deserve it. He told me he was completely alone and that’s all he deserved and the way it was best. I pushed him about getting out and having a haircut and getting some clothes to build his confidence. He growled at me and told me to go away, saying “You don’t know me, You don’t want to know me. I’m bad and I hate women. They made me hate them, you know, coming to my place down the lane.”
“I had no idea what he was talking about but he was angry and upset and filled with self loathing. When I asked, “Why?”, he said, “You don’t want to know me”, again and cried like a little boy. I felt bad and asked what had upset him in his life to hate women so much. “They made me”, he repeated, still crying. “Why?” I asked again. “Well girlie,” as he used to call me – a naive 21 year old, “I used to help them, see, they would come all times of the day and I would kill their babies for them.The blood, the blood….” as he rubbed his filthy hands all over me. “It was a living, but I sure hate them for it. I never married or had kids; who would want me?”
“I was trying not to be shocked but grabbed the door jamb so as not to faint. “There”, he said, “now you can go away, too, now you know what I am: a cold blooded killer who got away with murder.” I wanted to go back the next week but asked someone else in my group to go. I couldn’t face his misery or situation again. He got what he wanted: to shock me and send me away. I heard he was found after his body started to smell. St. Vincent de Paul used to do paupers’ funerals for those like John who had no one else to care for them after they died. Today I just feel pity and sadness for this man who made decisions in his earlier life that led to him being totally broken.”
It is convenient for someone pro-life to think of anyone involved in the provision of abortion to be cold and emotionless, and perhaps even to justify hatred for such a person. But we must always remember to pray for these poor souls, many of whom are trapped in a living hell, albeit of their own making. Many, like Brenda Pratt-Shafer repent and experience God’s healing, while others, like “John”, go to their grave in a state of extreme despair. Young doctors and nurses who are tempted to provide abortions need to be informed about the reality of “a woman’s right to choose” – and about the high and tragic cost of providing this procedure.