“This one is six weeks. It’s just lumps of red tissue floating in water.”

foetusnew460Six-week old fetus. Source.

From “The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker” in Esquire:

Now we arrive at the heart of the process, the focus of so much controversy and rage. In the surgical room, Dr. Parker softens each woman’s cervix and uses a vacuum extractor to remove her pregnancy. The entire process takes five minutes. After each procedure, he carries the large glass vacuum bottle into an adjoining room. There he pours the fetal tissue from the bottle into an ordinary kitchen strainer and runs tap water over it, then empties the strainer into a clear Pyrex dish and examines the tissue on a light table.

Bending over the glass dish, he stares with the blank expression of a scientist at work. Come closer, he says. Have a look. These are blood clots and this is the decidual tissue, the stuff that looks like feathery coral. That supports the embryo, sloughing off monthly if a pregnancy doesn’t develop.

This one is six weeks. It’s just lumps of red tissue floating in water.

When the triplets arrive, he points out one sac, two sacs, three sacs.

But then he brings in one that’s nine weeks and there’s a fetus. He points out the scattered parts. “There’s the skull, what is going to be the fetal skull. And there are the eye sockets.”

Floating near the top of the dish are two tiny arms with two tiny hands.

Parker continues to examine the tissue. He points to a black spot the size of a pencil tip. “That’s an eye.”

Very few outsiders are invited into this room, and rare is the doctor who would show this to a reporter. But today he made a conscious decision not to hide the truth. “At some point, we have to trust that people can deal with the reality of what this is,” he says. “And keeping it hidden only enhances the stigma.”

Growing reflective, he continues to study the parts. “The reality is we’ve disrupted a life process. There are recognizable fetal parts, right? The capacity for this development is always there. After five weeks, you just have the sac. At six weeks, you have a fetal pole with cardiac activity. At seven to eight weeks, it’s just a larger fetal pole. By nine, it’s differentiated.”

But here’s the vital question: Is it a person? Not by the standards of the law, he says. Is it viable outside the womb? It is not. So this piece of life—and remember, sperm is alive, eggs are alive, it’s all life—is still totally dependent on a woman. And that dependence puts it in the domain of her choice. “That’s what I embrace,” he says.

But it’s hard not to look at those tiny fingers, no bigger than the tip of a toothpick.

Does that ever disturb him?

“When I recognize whole fetal parts? No. Because I’m not deluded about what this whole process is.”

And what does examining this tissue tell him? Does this satisfy another state regulation?

“It tells me her uterus is empty and she is no longer pregnant.”

With that, Dr. Parker goes back into the operating room to give the woman who can now become an Air Force officer the sad good news.


  1. I’m surprised no one has commented on this yet.

    Then again, what do you say? What do you say when you reduce the human being to a purely material reality that hasn’t reached utilization yet?

    I can sort of respect his decision to be open about the remains and show reporters. But does the article see the women before the abortion? After? During? The remains of a fetus do not tell the whole story. Nothing we see will tell the whole story, but he’s offering just one very small part of it.

    • Matthew Lickona says

      The article spends a good amount of time with the the doctor and the women before the abortion. And there is mention of the women after the abortion. This is really just a tiny bit from the end.

      • Then I will have to force myself to read it.

        • Rufus McCain says

          I read this a while back when my niece posted the link in Facebook. Your image contrasted against the words of the abortionist is pretty striking.

          The most compelling passage in the article:

          Right across is the recovery room, empty now. An elderly black woman named Callie Chatman sits waiting for the women to emerge from surgery. She’s a youth minister at a local Baptist church, where her husband is the pastor. She serves here as an exit counselor. “You know, preacher been teaching that the wages of sin is death,” she says. “Not many of them know that God is a forgiving God. So if they ask me if I think they’ll go to hell, I tell them what Jesus say: ‘I do not condemn thee. Go and sin no more.’ I tell them not to make the same mistake—and how not to make the same mistake.”

          Not one woman has told her that she thought abortion was okay, she adds. “What they have told me is it’s the last resort. And I am here to let them know that God will meet you right where you are. And then I ask them to accept Christ as their lord and savior.”

          A couple women have accepted, she says, right here in the recovery room.

          • Matthew Lickona says

            I was very glad the reporter included that. I did wish that he’d talked to the protesters, as long as he mentioned them as often as he did. There was talk about the awful things they said, but I don’t recall any exact quotes.

            • We don’t talk to protesters and we don’t talk to accused rapists. Them’s the rules of the game.

              So how does it feel… to be a Lying Stone?


              I feel an overwhelming sense of Schadenfreude – and I resist it with all my might in this semi-solemn season, but it’s there anyway, hanging outside my door, a Jehovah Witness just waiting, pleading to be abused….

              Note to self: Pray to live Shakespeare Sonnet 94. Amen.



  2. OK, and that let me to a different story called “My Abortion” in NY Mag, the personal stories of over 20 women. It’s impossible to know how representative this is, and I certainly see a political slant, but it’s worth reading in that makes clear that 95% of the time, there are big personal issues that need to be addressed (#1 dumping crappy abusive boyfriends). You can’t help but be sympathetic to the awful situations many of these women were in, but why is abortion presented as the only solution to their problems? or that they perceive it as such, anyway?


  3. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    One part self-awareness; one part self-delusion: a heady cocktail. Tastes awfully… familiar.

    Thanks for this.

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