"That was fascinating," I said, "Could I observe you this afternoon as well?"
"Of course" replied the Consultant Anaesthetist "We're doing STOP's"
So began the strangest afternoon of my life. After spending the morning observing reconstructive surgery I was going to observe, indeed assist, the Anaesthetist during Surgical Termination of Pregnancy, or STOP, procedures.
So I spent four hours holding open these women's airways and doing their breathing for them, one hand holding the mask to their face and the other one squeezing the air bag...squeeze...1, 2, 3...squeeze...meanwhile the consultant in family planning gowned up and proceeded with the abortion...squeeze...1, 2, 3...squeeze...then, 4 minutes later the patient was rolled on to her side and wheeled down to the recovery room. Done.
There were seven women due for terminations that afternoon. Some were nonchalant, some were quiet and a couple were clearly upset. The last woman came in and was quietly crying, and as I held her head as she went under the general anaesthetic I sent a quick prayer up, it seemed all that I could do.
There are stories in the media of doctors who have been attacked because they perform abortions, invariably by right wing Christian groups, but when my day comes and I stand up on the day of judgment I will proudly say that I was there with those women helping in the only two ways I could: Holding their airways open and asking the only person whose opinion counts to be with them.
If you want a sure fire way to get Christians fired up then all you have to do is mention one of two words: Homosexuality and Abortion. I don't know what your opinion is on the issue of abortion - is it killing one of God's children or is it the absolute right of a woman to be able to determine what happens to her body? - and to be honest I don't really care. When you’re standing right next to one of these women it couldn’t really matter less.