For years, Dr. Kathi Aultman, an OB-GYN, performed abortions, believing she was helping women. Then, a trio of abortions she performed after having her first child left her unsettled–and put her on a different path. Now she is an advocate for giving medical care to abortion survivors, and a pro-life speaker. Read our interview with her, posted below, or listen on the podcast:
We also cover these stories:
- National Security Adviser John Bolton is out at the White House.
- The NRA is suing San Francisco over labelling the group as a terrorist organization.
- The first gay credit union is set to open soon.
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Katrina Trinko: Joining me today is Dr. Kathi Aultman, a retired OB-GYN, former March for Life speaker, and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Dr. Aultman, thanks for joining us.
Kathi Aultman: Thank you for inviting me.
Trinko: OK, so, you just testified in a hearing, the “End Infanticide: Examining the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” hearing. What was that hearing about, and why did you decide to speak there?
Aultman: Well, the hearing is about the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would protect babies that are born after abortions and require that they be given the same care as any other baby of the same gestational age.
It also requires that medical personnel report if there are violations of the act, which in a way protects people, protects nurses and techs, from being forced to watch babies that are born alive just die and not be able to do anything for them.
The reason that I wanted to come was because I feel this is so critical. People have said that this law is unnecessary because in 2002, they passed a similar law, but all it did was say that once a baby is born, it should be afforded the full benefits of the law—that in fact, they’re a human being, and they deserve to be protected.
It did not do anything to prevent a doctor from just allowing a baby to die from exposure or to passively die, and it didn’t require medical personnel to do anything special for that baby.
It just basically said, “Yes, it’s a human being, and if you overtly kill it, it’s murder.”
Trinko: You’re an OB-GYN, so obviously, you understand what you’re talking about when it comes to medicine. One of the contentions we’re hearing a lot from the left is babies don’t survive abortions. Is that true?
Aultman: That’s not true. And now that a few states have been required to report abortions, the numbers are coming in, and they are surviving, and we’ve got living, breathing examples of this in Melissa Odin and a large number of other people who’ve actually survived abortions.
In the hearing today, one of the representatives related an experience when he was a resident and was called down to the emergency room to attend a woman who was bleeding to death after an abortion. And in the other room was this baby that looked completely healthy, except its one arm was limp.
Well, apparently, the doctor was intending to do a dismemberment abortion and grabbed ahold of the arm, and the whole baby came out. And so that’s how that particular baby survived.
But if the cervix is over-dilated, even in dismemberment abortions, you can have live babies.
There was a baby in Florida where the woman had the laminaria inserted to dilate her cervix, and then she was given some Cytotec to cause contractions.
Well, she delivered before the doctor got there, and basically, this happened in the waiting room. They tossed the baby on the floor, cut its cord, and threw it in a “bio” bag, and she later filed suit because the baby had not been cared for, and it was sort of horrendous reading through the suit to look at all the violations in that clinic.
Trinko: I would think that at least some of these babies who survive abortion would be considered born premature. What do we know from modern medicine about the survival rate of premature babies?
Aultman: Well, they did an interesting study where they looked at the differences between hospitals and whether the babies were actively cared for or whether they were just left with no care.
And in the cases where the babies were actively cared for, they actually had good results. And the neonatologist who testified today testified that the youngest baby she’s had survive was 22 weeks.
Aultman: But medicine has come so far that these babies are surviving …
You want to have babies that survive and can function, but that can happen if the babies are treated appropriately, and that’s what’s so important about this bill, is that we give these babies a chance. They’ve survived abortion.
There are those that say, “Well, this is a very private decision that should be made by the doctor and his patient.” Well, these are the people that just tried to kill this baby.
Why are we going to let them make the decision? It should not be in their hands.
And that’s what this bill is about, is providing a definite structure so that if the baby’s born, and it’s alive, then they have to involve someone else. Somebody else has to take care of this baby.
Trinko: OK. To switch gears a little bit, you yourself are a former abortionist. What changed your mind on this issue?
Aultman: Well, when I went to my residency program, I was extremely pro-abortion. I’d had an abortion, and I think that probably colored my thinking, but I felt that it was a matter of women’s rights, and it had nothing to do with the baby.
And so, I was trained in first-trimester [dilation & curettage] suction abortions, but I was so gung ho, I went and did a preceptorship with one of our attendings, and learned how to do dismemberment abortions or [dilation & evacuation], which are later-term abortions.
And I felt that I was a woman’s advocate, and I was helping women, so I felt I was doing everything right. I felt that I was doing everything right, and I love taking care of women.
I moonlighted doing abortions at a clinic and continued to do that even when I was pregnant, and I saw no incongruity with that. My baby was wanted. Theirs was not, and that was the difference.
After my delivery, however, when I came back to work in the clinic, something had changed in my mind, because I felt a little different all of a sudden, and I was confronted with three patients that basically changed my mind.
The first one, I had personally done three abortions on before, and I hadn’t been doing them that long, and I was not the only abortionist at that clinic.
I went to the clinic staff and said, “Hey, I don’t want to do this. She’s using it as birth control. This is ridiculous.”
They said, “Well, it isn’t your call. It’s her right. You need to do the procedure,” so I did the procedure, and afterwards tried to get her to use birth control, and she refused.
The second patient came in with a girlfriend, and sometimes they would ask to see the tissue, and this girlfriend said, “Do you want to see the tissue?” And she said, “No, I just want to kill it.”
And I thought, “What did this baby ever do to you?” Now, that’s the clue. I don’t think I ever thought of them as babies before.
The third patient came in, and she had three other children, and she and her husband felt that they could not afford another baby.
Well, she cried the entire time she was there, and after that, I couldn’t do abortions anymore.
The fact that they were unwanted was no longer enough justification for me to kill them.
The sad thing is that I still referred for abortion. I still believed abortion was a woman’s right. I just sort of thought it was the lesser of two evils, and it took God a long time to completely change my mind.
Trinko: What did, in the end, completely change your mind?
Aultman: Well, this is politically incorrect.
Trinko: Go for it.
Aultman: One thing, some changes began as I was in practice, and I saw young girls who got pregnant, and they actually did extremely well.
Well, that did not [jibe] with the feminist propaganda that I believed. I believed that if you got pregnant when you were young, it would just ruin your life.
Then, I also started seeing women who came in who’d had abortions and who were struggling psychologically.
As a matter of fact, this one woman came in, and this goes to show how babies can survive abortions. I saw this woman who’d had an abortion at 20-plus weeks, and she was given an induction abortion, where you just start labor.
At the appropriate time, she was told to sit on the toilet and push, and she delivered this 20-plus-week living baby into the toilet, where he drowned.
Don’t tell me they don’t survive. And we had heard multiple examples of babies surviving, at the hearing today.
I had those kinds of experiences, and then eventually what made the difference was my father, [who] was with the unit during World War II who liberated the first concentration camp. And so, I grew up with all those stories and pictures of things that had gone on.
And when I became a doctor, I couldn’t understand how the Germans could do what they did, and specifically, the doctors. How could the doctors do those horrible experiments?
I read an article that compared abortion to the Holocaust, and it was the big “a-ha” moment for me when I realized that here I was killing all these people because I didn’t consider them to be human beings.
And that’s how the Germans were. They did not consider the Jews and the Russians and the other people that they exterminated to be human beings.
And from that point on, I became pro-life and actually answered an email that I got asking if there would be anyone willing to go to Congress and testify.
And I said yes, and didn’t end up going at that point, but then began testifying in favor of the partial-birth abortion ban 20 years ago.
Trinko: And as you look back on that, I think, obviously, we engage in debates here at The Daily Signal, and it seems more and more in modern life that people’s viewpoints are so hardened, and they’re afraid to rethink things. Why do you think you were open to rethinking this?
Aultman: Well, I think God had a lot to do with it. It’s interesting that when I first became a Christian, I still believed in abortion. And it was several years later that He was able to, I guess, finally get my attention.
I think it’s a series of things. There’s usually some event, like with [another doctor], it was the death of his daughter.
I’ve spoken to other OB-GYNs, and oftentimes, it was the birth of their own child that made a difference. It’s usually something that has to jar you, I think, and open your eyes so that you can see the truth.
And I think the big problem in the United States today is the media [have] been so biased that they have not reported the truth, especially not with this particular act.
People say, “Oh, well, that never happens. This isn’t necessary. It’s just one more roadblock to abortion.”
This bill has nothing to do with abortion. This has to do with rescuing babies who have survived and should have the full protection of the law on their side, and they don’t.
And they should not be discriminated against just because they’re unwanted or because they were slated to die by abortion and didn’t.
Trinko: How would you recommend that if people have someone in their life who either works in the abortion industry or is adamantly pro-choice–how would you recommend discussing this issue with them?
Aultman: I think it’s difficult. My own family is pro-choice.
Trinko: I think a lot of us have family divisions on this issue.
Aultman: Yeah. I think you have to just lovingly try to sprinkle your own life and conversation with stories of things that have happened.
I did not change my mind because people yelled at me or screamed at me or berated me.
It was Christian friends who loved me. Even though they didn’t agree with my opinions, they loved me enough to be my friends, but then they also loved me enough after they got to know me well enough to give me that pamphlet.
And really, what the one guy said was, “I know you feel strongly on this issue, but would you be willing to read this?” And I said, “OK,” because I trusted him.
Trinko: That’s so interesting.
Well, to switch gears again a little bit, so, we often hear that if you believe in science, you should be pro-choice, you should be pro-abortion. What do the medical facts actually show on this issue?
Aultman: That’s crazy, because science is really on the pro-life side.
There actually is no other place that we can define the beginning of life other than when a sperm and an egg meet.
We know that these babies develop quickly, and that they feel pain, and yet the media never [report] that kind of stuff.
It’s always pooh-poohed or told it’s a blatant lie so that people aren’t aware.
So many times when I have spoken to people, they are absolutely appalled when babies beyond five months are being aborted. They think, “Well, that doesn’t happen. Oh, it’s only in the first trimester.”
And I think the vast majority of Americans do not approve of abortions past the first trimester, especially when you’re dismembering them to get them out.
Trinko: Right. I think the Knights of Columbus commissioned a poll that’s usually released in January that … . As you can tell, I can’t remember it exactly, but I believe it’s around 75% of Americans would be OK with no abortions past the first trimester, which as you say, is not a fact the media ever [report]. It’s always abortion up until the point of birth.
OK, so how do you think women are affected when they have an abortion, and how can we support women who have had an abortion?
Aultman: I don’t think any woman can have an abortion and remain unscathed. You can’t kill your child and not have it affect you.
We don’t have good data on it because most women who have had abortions don’t talk about it. And oftentimes, it’s not until later that they regret what they’ve done, or they may not understand that their substance abuse, their depression, their failed marriages can be related back to the trauma from their abortion.
We really don’t know how much it affects women, because most women don’t report. We do know that it does occur, and there have been some studies that have shown that they do have problems after abortion, not just physical problems, but emotional problems afterwards.
They need to be supported. They need to be loved. They need to understand that we have a forgiving God who can forgive even that, and I think that’s a hard thing for many women to understand.
On a very deep level, they feel that if they’ve killed their child, that they can’t ever approach God again, and that’s untrue. If God can forgive me, He can certainly forgive them.
I think the biggest problem is, it’s such a secret, so that women are out there, but nobody knows who they are or that they’re suffering.
There are groups out there for counseling. It does take counseling and healing and prayer. I had to go through a lot of healing and prayer to be able to forgive myself.
Trinko: OK. Did you ever have any qualms, any concerns about doing abortions yourself?
Aultman: There was only one time that I had any qualms about doing abortions, and that was when I had my neonatal intensive-care rotation, and I realized that I was doing abortions on the same size babies as the babies I was aborting.
But we’re very good in medicine about compartmentalizing, and I just kind of tucked that to the back of my mind, because otherwise, I really did not see a fetus as any different than a chick embryo.
And so, I could get rid of them without any conscience. My concern was for the patient, the woman. We actually have two patients as OBs, but I didn’t consider the baby as a patient if they were unwanted.
Trinko: And if you don’t mind me asking, when you said we’re good [in] medicine [about] compartmentalizing, what did you mean by that?
Aultman: It means that we can kind of put things in different boxes. And so, we take an oath that we are only going to help and not harm, but we take this little exception, abortion, and we stick it over in the corner.
We, again … don’t do any harm, but so often in medicine, we have to hurt our patients in order to make them better.
So, again, we just kind of compartmentalize that and look at it a different way: “OK, this is OK, because it’s going to eventually help them. Abortion is OK, because look at the life this poor girl would have if she couldn’t have her abortion,” and “Oh, she might go have a back-alley abortion or something.”
It’s interesting that it wasn’t Roe v. Wade that really decreased the mortality of abortion. That started long before. And if you look at it graphed out, it was a pretty steep decline after the introduction of antibiotics and other medical procedures, so that it was just kind of the same downhill trend.
There were actually apparently more deaths from abortion right after Roe v. Wade than there were right before, and unlike the … I think the number that was thrown around was something like 5,000 deaths from abortion.
Actually, I can’t remember the exact number, but maybe it was in the 30s, the number of abortions that had occurred I think the year before Roe v. Wade. … I’m sorry, abortions that resulted in death, maternal deaths, maternal deaths from abortion.
Trinko: OK, Dr. Kathi Aultman with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, thanks so much for joining us today.
Aultman: Thank you for bringing me here. I really feel honored.