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"Genetic terminations"

National | For some nurses in Canada, pro-choice means no choice

Issue: "Not-so-smart bombs," April 24, 1999

Nurses at Calgary Foothills Hospital in Western Canada are being forced against their moral convictions to be involved in abortions, according to an article published this month in Alberta Report, a Canadian news journal. That's not all: When babies survive the late-term abortion procedure known as "genetic termination," Foothills nurses are faced with holding the infants and watching them die outside the womb.

"These so-called genetic terminations are babies," said "Catherine," a Foothills nurse who contacted the magazine, but whose name has been withheld to protect her job. "If you were holding their head in the palm of your hand, their little feet would reach your elbow.... We're crossing the line."

According to an internal Foothills Hospital memo obtained by Alberta Report, postpartum nurses were told last month that for the first time they would have to begin working with abortive women-including inducing labor and completing delivery-regardless of their own moral qualms. Some staff at other Canadian hospitals have already been fired for defying a union-originated mandate to provide abortion care, the magazine reported.

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"Genetic termination" is being carried out by Foothills staff as late as five weeks before the mother's due date. But several children aborted at Foothills have survived. Nurses were then allowed to comfort, but not feed, the babies until they died.

The nurse said Foothills protocol is designed to desensitize nurses by referring to women seeking abortions not as "mothers," but as "patients terminating their pregnancies," and by calling the late-term killing of babies not abortions, but "induction."

"But that's just semantics," the nurse said. "The baby still dies no matter what it's called."

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