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Desensitization to Rationalization

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

This is an adapted excerpt from “The Scalpel and the Soul: Our Radical Transformation as Husband and Wife Abortion Doctors (Kolbe & Anthony).

“This morning we’ll start abortion training,” said our instructor, a third-year resident. I stood outside the operating room doors in a semicircle with my fellow first-year residents at Martin Luther King Jr./Charles R. Drew Medical Center (hereafter called King/Drew) “If you don’t want to participate in this you don’t have to.” That was followed by mostly silence and some nervous shuffling around.


We’d all known ahead of time that today would be the day. Our chief resident had announced it a few days ago with almost identical words to give us all a few days to think about our willingness to participate. In the next few awkward moments, I noticed everyone else, like me, looking around at the group, to see if anyone would back out. I wondered if some were secretly hoping someone else would back out, because maybe that would give others the courage to do the same. I suspect that almost every doctor-in-training is at least a little uncomfortable at the beginning with the idea of learning to perform abortions.

For a few moments, silence hung heavily in the air. Then Eloise stepped forward and said loudly, “There’s no way I’m goin’ into that room to kill little babies! Y’all can go if you want. This isn’t why signed up for medical school.”

All heads snapped toward her. Eyes grew wide. Feet shuffled. One resident softly snickered, while another let out a tiny involuntary gasp. But no one said a word.

If anyone was going to decline this part of the training, it made sense that it would be Eloise, I thought. She had a reputation for being a bit eccentric. Her actions and comments often stood out.

All eyes flew back to our instructor. How would she respond?

Unruffled, she soundlessly nodded at Eloise, indicating that she was free to leave, then pushed open the OR door. Everybody else, including me, followed her into the room. I had no idea, of course, as I stepped over that threshold, what impact doing so would have on my soul.


Eloise was left standing alone, a sad yet determined look on her face. She had strength—I’ll give her that—and far more wisdom that I gave her credit for at the time.

That first day of abortion training, all we did was observe. We didn’t pick up any instruments, we didn’t assist in any way. What I didn’t realize at the time is that once you allow yourself to watch, you are already sucked in. Your desensitization has begun.

Initially, in your abortion training, you learn the first trimester procedures. These, of course, are the very early ones, so in the tissue removed, you really don’t see any recognizable fetal parts. Everything has been so macerated in the suction process that it really does just look like a blob of tissue.

The strategy of those who are teaching abortion is to ease students into what, for many, is a troubling procedure. When you come back for your next session, they’ll introduce you to abortions of fetuses slightly more advanced in development. At that point you’re instructed to inspect everything that comes out of the suction tubing, to make sure that you’re not leaving anything in the uterus that might cause problems for the patient later. So—the first week, you got somewhat acclimated to the idea of abortion because you didn’t really see anything come out that looked human. Now, though, you start seeing the little fingers, a foot, an arm, a little piece of skull—and it starts to bother you more. The fetus has always been human, but now it starts to look human.

Something strange happens at this point, and I remember it very clearly from my training. At first, seeing those little identifiably human parts really bothered me—it was disturbing, even disgusting. But then, in very little time, it wasn’t disturbing anymore. I could touch those little parts, move them around, count them—it was just part of the business of medicine. In a matter of only a few days, I went from thinking, Oh, how disgusting, to being completely desensitized to the fact that these are human parts. Until a few moments before, they were part of a unique and living human being, with DNA unlike any other person who’s ever lived.


That gradual desensitization leads to rationalization, when you start to turn the morality of abortion on its head in your mind. Eventually, you begin to see it not as terminating a human life, but rather as doing a service for women who need you. You’re offering them compassion in their time of despair. You’re providing for them a crucial service—one, in fact, that others are trying to prevent them from obtaining. You begin to see yourself—and you truly believe this—as their godsend. So, obviously, once you’ve reached that stage, what do you think of those who oppose abortion? They, like Eloise, are the oddballs. They are the enemy. Not just your enemy, but the enemy of your patients.

We believe the lie that these women we sell abortions to just get over it. Nothing is further from the truth. They are damaged for life. How is it that we accept that a woman grieves with a miscarriage—which is medically referred to as a spontaneous abortion—and say that there is no grief or remorse when a woman pays to have her baby killed. That’s just totally inconsistent. Abortion is murder. That’s why in 2004 Scott Peterson was convicted of two murders, not just one. (He was the California man who murdered his pregnant wife.) Sometimes society recognizes the preborn as a precious human life, but in abortion, not so. Haywood and I often refer to this as the abortion distortion.

Dr. Noreen Johnson hailed from Trinidad and Tobago and graduated from the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. She was a pioneer, bringing laparoscopic surgery to Tobago and robotic surgery to College Station, Texas. On August 28, 2021, she passed away due to complications from COVID-19. Her favorite verse: 2 Timothy 1:7—For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.



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