Testimony of Dr. Paul Jarrett, Former Abortion Provider

Dr. Paul Jarrett

This testimony was originally given at a "Meet the Abortion Providers" workshop sponsored by the Pro-life Action League of Chicago, directed by Joe Scheidler. For more information see http://prolifeaction.org/providers. Priests for Life offers their video, "Inside the Abortion Industry," containing excerpts of the testimonies of many former providers. Order the DVD, "Meet the Abortion Providers" at http://prolifeaction.org/store

Thank you for inviting me to the Pro-Life Action League's fifth "Meet the Abortion Providers" conference, I think you will find my story of how I became an abortionist, unfortunately, somewhat typical, and my story of why I stopped, unfortunately, somewhat atypical.

I say "unfortunately" because it seems the majority of physicians who leave training today have been indoctrinated in [and have adopted] a pro-choice viewpoint. Even those of us who are strongly pro-life face tremendous pressures to support a national standard of care which does not honor the sanctity of human life. I will say more about this later.

I am 50 years old. I have been delivering babies in Indianapolis for 26 years; I lost count many years ago of the actual number, but I would estimate the total to be between four and five thousand. My father is also an obstetrician, now retired, who practiced obstetrics in Anderson, Indiana where I grew up. He delivered over 10,000 babies and has a strong pro-life viewpoint even though he is an agnostic.

I did all of my training at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. I rotated back and forth between the private Coleman Hospital for Women and the Marion County General Hospital for the indigent population. My residency was from 1970 - 1973. Since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision came down in January 1973, my career overlaps the years before and after that landmark decision. However, I became all too familiar with abortions from the very beginning of my residency.

Of course, I saw women whose social circumstances seemed desperate who asked to be referred for illegal abortions. Once, I asked an attending staff physician about such a referral, and rather than condemn it, he said he knew of a general practitioner who had the reputation of doing abortions. In retrospect, I asked the wrong doctor that question, but at that point in my life, I respected the opinion of all of my mentors.

About 1970 the state of New York passed legislation allowing abortions to be performed legally. This was not necessarily a popular choice. Referendums to legalize abortions in Michigan and North Dakota were defeated by 3:1 and 4:1 margins.

A few months into my residency, I came face to face with the issue of abortion for the first time. An 18-year-old Indiana University coed came into Coleman Hospital with lower abdominal pain. She related to me that she had been to New York City earlier that day to have a legal abortion performed at a clinic there. She had gotten on a plane at 8am at Indianapolis International Airport and flown to New York. She was taken to a legitimate clinic by a cab driver. She had believed she was two and a half months pregnant, but after the doctor had unsuccessfully attempted to abort the pregnancy, he told her she wasn't really pregnant after all and sent her home. She returned to Indiana on the 4pm flight as planned.

When she returned home in terrible pain, she realized she was in trouble and for the first time, told her mother what had happened to her. Her mother contacted her own gynecologist, who in turn referred the patient to Coleman Hospital to be evaluated by the resident on call--me.

Even though I was still wet behind the ears, I know that this pale, frightened little girl was still 10 weeks pregnant and her blood count was only half of what it should be. The private, attending doctor came in and took the patient to surgery immediately that night, where he repaired the hole that had been torn in the back of her uterus, which had caused her massive internal hemorrhage.

Over the course of the next few days, infection set in which did not respond to antibiotics, and we made the painful decision to perform a hysterectomy. Tragically, the shock from the infection severely damaged her lungs and her course was steadily downhill. As I helplessly watched, she slipped into unconsciousness and a few days later she died.

I had difficulty putting the whole thing into perspective. Unfortunately, my conclusion was that there had to be a better way to perform abortions than to send patients off to a clinic in New York.

There was another kind of abortion being done at that time right in Coleman Hospital. These were so called "second trimester abortions" being done for "psychiatric" reasons. Although my textbook stated that true psychiatric indications for abortion were extremely rare, in practice it was relatively easy for a woman to get two psychiatrists to rubber stamp her abortion request for the price of a consultation visit. By the time all the paperwork was done, these pregnancies were more advanced and were classified as second trimester. Technically, these could be between 14 and 27 weeks, but usually they were 18 - 20 weeks along.

This type of abortion was then done by hypertonic saline injection. In laymen's terms this meant injecting a very caustic salt solution into the amniotic sac which the baby swallows, causing his death. Labor begins 12 - 36 hours later, A well liked member of the teaching faculty would inject the solution and the patient was admitted to the gynecology ward to await delivery.

It was my job to go to the ward and pick up the dead baby from the labor bed and make sure the placenta had all come out. This was my least favorite duty as a resident, and again I concluded there had to be a better way.

Since hypertonic saline was so toxic if it was injected into the uterine wall instead of the amniotic sac; there was a constant search for the ideal drug. Prostaglandin has now become the drug of choice, but one of the early experiments was with hypertonic urea. The major disadvantage in using it, was the problem of live births. I remember using it on a patient that the psychiatric residents brought to us from their clinic from an institutionalized patient who really was crazy. I'll never forget delivering her nearly two pound baby, and hearing her screams, "My baby's alive, my baby's alive." It lived several days.

Later, I was taught by my chief resident that if I was delivering a defective baby, such as an anencephalic, I should place it in the bucket of water at my side and declare it a stillborn. I never did that, but I'll always remember it.

The problem of live birth in second and third trimester abortions has been solved by the dilation and evacuation procedure, or D & E. The cervix is dilated with laminaria, which are pieces of dried seaweed which absorb water over a 12 hour period and stretch to 4 times their original size. The baby is then delivered piecemeal.

When I rotated over to the county hospital, I became familiar with illegal abortions and their aftermath. Every woman who came in with even a routine miscarriage was suspected of having had a criminal abortion. We were trained to be suspicious because of the consequences of missing the diagnosis of a perforated uterus.

We were all indoctrinated with the almost legendary story of how one of our preceding residents, Dr. James Brillhart, had gone out of the hospital and tracked down an old, dying abortionist who had been responsible for the deaths of several patients. Ironically, Dr. Brillhart has been one of the leading abortionists in Indianapolis from Roe v. Wade to the present day. The actual number of criminal abortions was small and although I saw some patients who were pretty sick, I don't recall any patients during my three years who died from a criminal abortion.

At the county hospital, we received patients from the other two private hospital residency programs when they didn't want to take care of a particular patient. Consequently, we looked down on those residents and developed the mind set that we were to take care of every problem we encountered. We would not "dump" problems on others.

When I finished my residency, I covered my father's practice for 6 months before beginning a teaching position at Indiana University. I recall asking my department chairman what I should do about abortions, since my father was pro-life. His wise advice was not to perform them in Anderson.

However, when I returned to the medical center, I was placed in charge of the outpatient OB/GYN clinics at the county hospital, now called Wishard Hospital. Since Roe v Wade was now the law of the land, Drs. Joe Thompson and Bob Munsick were both performing abortions at Wishard. I greatly respected both men. I was faced with the direct question, "Would I also perform abortions at Wishard?"

I had already bought the big lies that "Abortion is a logical extension of family planning services" and that "All people needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies is more information and better access to contraception."

I might add at this point that I was not encumbered by any personal religious beliefs at that time. As a teenager, I had expressed to my future wife, that I had a desire to know God and had joined her church, but I didn't have any conviction of sin and I didn't come to a saving faith at that time.

After studying science, I had come to an agnostic position with respect to God. Without a foundation of absolute truth, and under the influence of my peers, and based on my own experiences, I decided to do what was right in my own eyes and perform first trimester abortions for poor women at Wishard. I would be a good soldier and do my duty. A doctor's duty, I believed, was to do everything in his power to fix what was wrong with his patient.

I believed in applying this medical solution of abortion to a societal problem of unwanted pregnancy. I believed that if these women were unencumbered by unwanted children that they could rise above their poverty.

I still believe that I was not in it for the money. In my teaching contract, I only got to keep 25% of anything I earned in private practice. At age 28, I was idealistic, immature, and too inexperienced in the way of the world.

In making the decision to do abortions, I went against God's Word, the beliefs of my father and violated my Hippocratic Oath. Incidentally, the section of the oath stating "I will not give a woman a pessary to induce abortion" has been deleted from the oath when it is used by new physicians today. I'm not sure Hippocrates would understand,

Between January and May of 1974, I performed 23 "pregnancy terminations" at Wishard. That is a euphemistic way of saying that I killed 23 children. One definition of a euphemism is a figure of speech where a less disagreeable word or phrase is substituted for a more accurate but more offensive one.

The deception in the language of abortion is achieved through the use of euphemisms. "Pregnancy termination" rather than abortion. "Menstrual extraction" rather than early abortion. "Products of conception" rather than baby and placenta. "Tissues" rather than flesh and bones. It makes it sound more like a Kleenex than a baby. Even "fetus" and "embryo" are Greek and Latin words for Baby. "Chorionic Villus Sampling" rather than placental biopsy. "Selective Multi Fetal Reduction" rather than random killing of several babies in an attempt to save the remainder of the lucky ones.

All of these terms dehumanize what is being destroyed so that we deceive others -- and ourselves.

One of my idealistic bubbles burst in about April of 74, when a patient whom I had aborted in January, returned to me for another abortion. She was using abortion for birth control.

In order to tell you why I finally stopped, I need to explain a little about the technique of suction curettage abortion. Incidentally, I did them under general anesthesia in surgery. Today, most are done under local anesthesia in a clinic.

First, the cervix, or mouth of the womb, is stretched open with pencil shaped dilators, until it is open enough to insert the suction curette, which is a clear plastic straw like tube. A vacuum source is then attached to the curette. After the curette is introduced into the uterus, the water is broken and is seen through the curette, followed by bits of flesh and blood, which is what remains of the baby and placenta. The procedure works well because the baby is small at 10 weeks and is not calcified, so that it fits easily through the narrow tube. All parts become almost indistinguishable in the mesh filter bag in the suction jar.

My 23rd abortion changed my mind about doing abortions forever. This patient was a little overweight and ultimately proved to be a little farther along than anticipated. This was not an uncommon mistake before ultrasound was readily available to confirm the gestational age.

Initially, the abortion proceeded normally. The water broke, but then nothing more would come out. When I withdrew the curette, I saw that it was plugged up with the leg of the baby which had been torn off. I then changed techniques and used ring forceps to dismember the 13 or 14 week size baby. Inside the remains of the rib cage I found a tiny, beating heart. I was finally able to remove the head and looked squarely into the face of a human being -- a human being that I had just killed. I turned to the scrub nurse standing next to me and said, "I'm sorry".

I knew then that abortion was wrong and I couldn't be a part of it any longer. No one was critical of me for what I had done, nor for having stopped. But I had a lot of guilt about that abortion and had flashbacks to it from time to time. I sometimes dreamed about it. The guilt lasted about four years,

Sometime after that, my wife became a Christian. She explained the gospel to me, but I thought she was weak, It irritated me that she felt she needed something else besides me to provide for her needs. I knew I didn't need anything, because I was self-reliant. I was a doctor. I could fix anything that was wrong in my life.

However, other things in my life began to bother me. Finally, when I betrayed an agreement with my best friend which seemed to destroy that friendship, I became convicted of my sinfulness. It was then that I asked Jesus Christ to come in to my life and forgive my sins. It was Jesus who forgave me for the murders I had legally committed. It was Jesus who took away the guilt.

As I look at our country, particularly in regard to abortion, I find very little encouragement. As I stated earlier, most OB/GYN physicians leaving training at this time seem to have a pro-choice philosophy. This trend will likely continue, particularly because residents in many training programs are selected on the basis of an unofficial quota system to ensure that residents will be available to work in the abortion clinics run by those programs. I am personally acquainted with an absolutely top notch resident in our hospital, who was run out of a hospital's residency program for his failure to participate in their abortion clinic

Starting with the murder of Dr. David Gunn, and continuing with the other clinic attacks and murders, I sense a siege mentality in our specialty. The pro-choice people are now the martyrs and public opinion has swung their way.

Successful attempts have been made this year to require mandatory training in abortions in residency programs by a residency review committee. There are proposals at the highest levels of our national organization for the training of non-physician abortion technicians to carry on the work of abortions.

There are repeated pleas for the importation of RU-486, the abortion pill from France. Several programs are running pilot studies in preparation for seeking FDA approval.

Several articles have appeared in our literature detailing the use of two other medications, Cytotec and Methotrexate, as abortifacients, that is, as a medication that will cause abortion to occur. Both of these medicines are already in widespread use in the United States. Cytotec is an ulcer treatment and Methotrexate is an agent used in chemotherapy and in the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.

If for any reason surgical abortions become unavailable, these drugs are readily available and their use will increase.

There have evolved national standards of care in our specialty which make life as a pro-life physician frustrating. I am referring specifically to the area of prenatal diagnosis. Three things in particular come to mind: Amniocentesis, alpha-feto protein screening, and ultrasound.

Standards of care are somewhat nebulous in many instances, but when a governing body such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG] issue policy statements and technical bulletins, it is assumed that the issues addressed define the standards for all the country in the practice of OB/GYN. As an organization ACOG has been consistently pro-choice in its advocacy.

Prenatal diagnosis is an ever-expanding area as new technology becomes available. More and more time in doctor's offices is being spent discussing the availability of these procedures and the rationale for them. Underpinning the whole issue of prenatal diagnosis is the idea that some forms of human life are undesirable and expendable. Judicial courts have reinforced this notion with multimillion-dollar awards against physicians for "wrongful life" or "wrongful birth". Conceivably, a doctor could lose all his possessions by failing to document that he informed a patient that tests were available which would have detected an abnormal child that could have been aborted.

It is considered the standard of care to offer a pregnant women who is 35 years old an amniocentesis at 16 weeks gestation. Age 35 was defined as the standard because for the first time the mother's age-determined risk of carrying a genetically abnormal child was greater than the risk of the procedure itself. Somehow it was decided that the 1 in 200 risk of losing a normal baby by having a diagnostic procedure was equivalent to the advantage of detecting a baby with a chromosome abnormality. It doesn't help in raising that child to know 22 weeks before it's born that it has Down's syndrome. It only helps if you're going to kill it while it's still legal.

Chorionic Villus Sampling [CVS] is an invasive technique done at 9 or 10 weeks gestation. A small catheter is introduced through the cervix under ultrasound guidance until it bumps into the placenta. A biopsy is then taken which can determine the genetic makeup of the baby within a few days. The advantage of this over an amniocentesis is that if you don't like what you find, you can have a first trimester abortion instead of a second trimester which is assumed to be less traumatic to the mother.

The obvious disadvantage is to the normal baby who is aborted once in 50 to 100 times depending on the skill of the operator. Some babies have been born missing arms or legs amputated by the suction used in the "sampling".

Alpha-Feto Protein [AFP] screening has become the national standard after the California trial a few years ago. A blood test is taken at 16 weeks gestation. If the value is too high an ultrasound is obtained to see if the baby has an open spine defect. The worst possibility is that the baby has anencephaly [no brain], That baby will be stillborn or live only a short time, but may go to full term or beyond. The lesser abnormality is the baby with a myelo-meningocele [hole in the base of the spine] which must be corrected immediately after birth. Individuals born with this problem may have physical handicaps, but have normal intelligence. I have a 15-year-old niece with this problem who loves the Lord Jesus with all her heart and is a constant witness for Him.

A byproduct of this research found that some babies with chromosome abnormalities such as Down's syndrome have low levels of AFP. These mothers were offered an amniocentesis. California passed a law that all pregnant women would be given this test unless they objected on religious grounds. The goal was to refer the mothers whose babies had open spines to tertiary centers for delivery and immediate corrective surgery.

The results were exactly the opposite. The mother's whose babies had Down's and open spines were aborted and the anencephalic babies were carried to term so that their hearts could be harvested for organ donation. Obviously, these babies were sacrificed while still alive so that others might live.

An editorial appeared last month in the ACOG Clinical Review, a new publication, advocating routine obstetric ultrasound. It demanded that out of respect for a patient's autonomy, she must be offered the opportunity for complete diagnostic ultrasound, principally, but not exclusively, for the purpose of allowing her the opportunity for abortion of a defective baby, according to her own values. It was written by a nationally respected authority and rebutted very weakly, in my opinion. How quickly this will become the standard of care is unknown, but it will have a de facto impact regardless.

It has recently been discovered that HIV transmission from an infected mother to her newborn can be dramatically reduced by treating the mother with AZT throughout the pregnancy. It has been recommended that all pregnant women be screened for HIV [with their consent, of course] because the very fact that she is pregnant proves she is sexually active and therefore she is at risk for HIV.

However, with the AFP story in mind, think what the results will be of such a program. Since HIV positive women may have higher risks to themselves in pregnancy, and are carrying babies who still have an 8% chance of developing AIDS, I will predict that many more babies will be lost in this detection program than are saved.

Keep in mind as well that all these abortions we're discussing are acceptable in the minds of some pro-life people because the health of the baby is the issue.

Francis Shaeffer warned us in the early 80's in his book, Whatever Happened to the Human Race that once we as a society accepted abortion, we were on a slippery slope leading to euthanasia. Physician assisted suicide has found increasing support in the courts in recent months. It seems unlikely that we as a nation will be able to climb back up that slippery hill.

Could it be more apparent that no agreement is possible with the pro-choice camp? After many years of debates, legislative hearings, and political efforts, the events of recent weeks should make it abundantly clear to the optimist that his hope is futile. The veto of the so called partial birth abortion bill illustrates their unwillingness to give ground on even the most blatant, gruesome abuse of a baby, let alone issues of informed consent and waiting periods.

I think it is fair to ask the question "What are our goals and purposes in the pro-life movement?" Is our goal to ban abortion through legislation or court action? Whereas that might reduce abortions, I think it is obvious from all that I have said that prohibiting abortions would not end them. It has been truthfully said that "You can not legislate morality". Shouldn't our goal be that no one would desire an abortion?

As Christians, I believe our goals include living our lives in accordance with Scripture and glorifying God. Certainly, this must be the case with Christian activism. Whatever action I take, I must ask "Does it glorify God?" "Will it lead others to Christ?"

As I've grown as a Christian, I've been involved in the pro-life movement for about 14 years. In that time I've learned above all else that abortion is a spiritual battle. We're fighting for hearts and minds of our fellow men.

Our enemies are not the abortionists, the clinic directors, the feminists, the politicians, the women who are having abortions. These people are victims just as the babies are victims. They are spiritually blind. They are instilled in darkness just as I was in darkness. We need to love these people in spite of their sins. We need to show them love not hatred. Yes, we hate the evil that they are doing, but we still love the sinners. Rom. 5:8 -- But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)

Our real battle is against the powers and principalities of darkness -- Satan and his fallen angels, The battle has to be fought with spiritual weapons -- prayer above all else. Before entering battle, we must first put on the full armor of God, as the apostle Paul detailed in the 6th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

13 Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV)

The scripture is clear who is equipped to fight in a spiritual battle. It is the Christian, who knows the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is declared righteousness in the sight of God and who knows and uses the Word of God. His life must be pure and holy. But if his life contradicts the message he is bringing, there is no point in his preaching and speaking,

You will notice that the armor described is defensive. It is for our protection in the battle to deflect the spiritual attacks which are sure to come. The only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Therefore, we should know the scriptures. It is all we have to fight back against spiritual attacks. For the same reason, I find no scriptural basis for the use of violence in Christian warfare.

…I know a little about the flaming arrows that the evil one sends. One night before I was to speak at a church, we got obscene phone calls all night from a young man who mistakenly thought my son was interested in his girlfriend. Another night before a speech, our house was attacked by teenagers with toilet paper and eggs. That was harmless enough until my son had the bright idea to shoot one of them in the buttocks with his BB gun. That precipitated threatening phone calls, smoke bombs, and a protective visit by the sheriffs department.

In February, 1990, the day before I had agreed to speak before the state legislature on behalf of a pro-life bill, an arsonist set fire to our house, destroying three bedrooms. My family escaped unhurt. Even though we were forced out of our home that night, I was able to testify the next day.

However, two months later while we were on spring vacation, a different arsonist burned the whole house down. Ultimately, God turned that into a blessing, as we got a brand new brick house by the end of the year which was big enough for our 12 member family.

I don't tell you these stories to glorify myself, or to magnify my role. I tell you to illustrate my point of the spiritual nature of the battle. None of these individuals who were persecuting us before these pro-life events had any connection with the pro-choice forces. They were simply ignorant puppets in the hands of a greater demonic enemy who pulls the strings for his own purposes.

How then do we achieve a goal of ending abortions? How do we defeat an enemy that we can't even see? --The answer is nothing less than a mighty revival of the Spirit of God.

Historically, following times of revival there has been a tremendous uplift of the morality of the culture. Taverns have closed. Policemen have been laid off for lack of criminal activity. Revival is the answer not only to the problem of abortion, but to drugs, gangs, political corruption, and all the other ills of our world at the end of the millennium.

But how can we bring on revival, which is the work of the Spirit of God? --The Spirit of God works only through clean vessels. It is the need of the hour for massive repentance on the part of Christians. It is not the need for the non-Christian world to repent. The Spirit of God will bring that about when the world in darkness sees the light of the world, Jesus Christ, shining in our lives.

There are other duties that we have. --Fasting and prayer. Dr. Bill Bright has written a new book called Revival in which he calls for thousands of Christians to fast as they are led by the Spirit of God. I would encourage you to get a copy and read it.

Prayer is the last command we were given in the Ephesians passage I read earlier. There is a saying I like: When we work ... we work. When we pray... God works. Pray for God to reveal your own sins to you so that you may be cleansed of them. Pray for His will to be done in your life. Pray His will be done for the abortionists, the nurses, the clinic directors, the patients, the media, the legislators, and the judges, Pray for this coming election.

Abortion is an attack on God himself, since man is made in His image. Fortunately, God is a merciful God and not willing that any should perish. He gave me a chance to repent as He will anyone else who will confess his sin, confess Jesus as his savior from that sin, and change his wicked ways.

Pray for this nation. As merciful as God is and slow to judge individuals, he is quick to judge nations. With the blood of over 25 million babies crying out from the soil, this nation is ripe for judgement.

The responsibility is ours as Christians to humble ourselves and pray. Pray for repentance and pray for revival. May God guide each of us as we seek His will and seek to glorify Him.

Priests for Life
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