In September, 1993, Brenda Pratt Shafer, a registered nurse with eleven years of experience, was assigned by her nursing agency to an abortion clinic in Ohio. Because of her “strong pro-choice” views, Nurse Shafer did not think this assignment would be a problem. This is her story.

I was present for three of these partial-birth procedures. It is the first one that I will describe to you in detail.

The mother was 6 months pregnant, 26½ weeks. A doctor told her that the baby had Down Syndrome, and she had to have an abortion. She decided to have this abortion. She came in the first 2 days to have the laminaria inserted and changed [to dilate the cervix], and she cried the whole time she was there. On the third day, she came in to have the partial-birth abortion procedure.

The doctor brought the ultrasound in and hooked it up so that he could see the baby. On the ultrasound screen, I could see the heartbeat. As the doctor watched the baby on the ultrasound screen, the baby’s heartbeat was clearly visible on the ultrasound screen.

The doctor went in with forceps and grabbed the baby’s legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby’s body and the arms — everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus.

The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to 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 went completely limp. I was really completely unprepared for what I was seeing. I almost threw up as I watched the doctor doing these things.

Next, the doctor delivered the baby’s head. He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used. I saw the baby move in the pan. I asked another nurse, and she said it was just reflexes.

I have been a nurse for a long time, and I have seen a lot of death — people maimed in auto accidents, gunshot wounds, you name it. I have seen surgical procedures of every sort. But in all my professional years, I had never witnessed anything like this.

The woman wanted to see her baby, so they cleaned up the baby and put it in a blanket and handed it to her. She cried the whole time. She kept saying, “I am so sorry, please forgive me.” I was crying, too. I couldn’t take it. That baby boy had the most perfect, angelic face I think I have ever seen in my life.

I was present in the room during two more such procedures that day, but I was really in shock. I tried to pretend I was somewhere else, to not think about what was happening. I just couldn’t wait to get out of there. After I left that day, I never went back. The last two procedures, by the way, involved healthy mothers with healthy babies.

I was very much affected by what I saw. For a long time –and sometimes still — I had nightmares about what I saw that day.

I wish I hadn’t seen what I saw. But I did see it, and I will never be able to forget it. That baby boy was only inches, seconds, away from being entirely born, when he was killed. What I saw done to that little boy, and to those other babies, should not be allowed in this country.

As told to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, November 17, 1995, and the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, March 21, 1996

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