"The last time I saw you, you were an egg..."
a word of warning, what follows is graphic and not for the light of heart...
I was listening to NPR this morning and they had a story about the difficulties of cloning in which the reporter followed a couple of technicians through the process of cloning cows in a department of agriculture lab. As I work in the same general setting (though we don't do any cloning) the story fascinated me, especially when one of the technicians stepped away from the science and marveled at how he follows the cows from being an egg to actually feeding them in barn stalls. He feigned speaking to one of his cloned bovines: "The last time I saw you, you were an egg." I immediately had a flashback.
Before me on the cold metallic surface of the gross room examination counter of the National Health Lab was what appeared to be a bloody mesh-like sock - containing something. I was new in the lab and watched with interest as the my fellow tech pulled out the contents while dictating into her microphone the details of what lay before her. "Received in a formilin filled container labelled 'products of conception'..."
She pulled out what looked to me to be a fair amount of ground beef soaked liberally in dark coagulated blood - by way of her dictation I learned that it was placental tissue and I could guess why it looked like ground beef because on the requisition associated with the sample were printed the words: "elected to terminate pregnancy." The tech began to sort through the bloody mess with her instruments as if she were looking for something and as she found the first part of it I could not help but gasp.
You see at the time I expected abortions to be the means by which we get rid of a virtually microscopic lump of cells...not unlike a cyst or some other offensive growth. But what lay before me was much more than that. At first it was a tiny leg - perhaps, if stretched out, a half inch long - with a fully formed foot accesorized by toes and a functioning knee joint, but oddly lacking an owner since it was jaggedly severed at the upper thigh. Then after further sorting, an arm appeared through the mess in similar condition, sporting 5 perfectly formed fingers.
At last, another find which again drew an audible response from me. From the hamburger like muddle a pair of tweezer pulled free a tiny little spine with attached rib cage, shoulders, left arm, and groin. It was a horrific site as she carefully laid all of the pieces together. Suddenly, it occured to me as the "grossness" of the scene wore off of me: This, albeit tiny, is the dead body of what was undeniably a human being. We concured, by measurment - as best we could - that the age of the fetus (ahem...human being) was about 9 weeks. There would be no burial for this child, no service, no one to sing "Memory Eternal." Instead he was wrapped back up in his bloody sock and dropped back into his formilin filled plastic coffin - not unlike one you might be asked to piss in at a doctors office.
I was at the time a liberal christian, willing to sympathize with "pro-choice" arguments. But, as is frequently the case, lofty opinions on issues such as these are often subject to change when we "touch" them. And here I was touching (through gloved hands) the tiny arm and leg of a helpless child who appeared to have been placed in a running garbage disposal. Yes, when I was confronted with the brutal reality of such "choices" I no longer had the luxury of walking the fence.
At every Divine Liturgy we pray for the protection of the unborn, and I am very much pleased to be apart a Church which has throughout her long long history always maintained a strong stance against abortion. In the earliest of times, the Church made it a habit of saving newborns (usually girls) who were sometimes abandoned to die outside of city walls by pagans. We see this as our heritage in standing against abortions...though not without regard to the social and personal implications of unplanned pregnancy (something I have been VERY personally involved in...four times). Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote a book called "Real Choices: Listening to Women, Looking for Alternatives to Abortion" and you can read some excerts from the book on her web site. Khouria Frederica has a number of excellent essays on her site which are also worthy of a look.
O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things, Treasurer of blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls O Good One.
from the Trisagion Prayers
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"The last time I saw you, you were an egg..."