Former occupation: Abortionist
Place: Denver, Colorado, USA
Dr. McArthur Hill grew up in Mississippi and Arizona. He graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1968 and enlisted in the Air Force. After a tour in Vietnam as a Flight Surgeon, Dr. Hill received obstetrics training at David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center in California and then served at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. He currently practices in Colorado.
Dr. Hill told his story at the second Meet the Abortion Providers conference in February 1989.
"As I begin, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. I was born in Bolivar County, Mississippi in 1942. My family moved to Arizona in 1955, where I attended high school and college. I entered the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1965, and graduated in 1968. During my senior year in medical school I enlisted in the Air Force. I interned in Texas, and then went to Vietnam in 1970 where I served as a flight surgeon. Upon coming back from Vietnam I was sent to California where I began my training in obstetrics and gynaecology at David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Centre. Upon completing my O.B. training, I went to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. And from Arizona to Wheat Ridge, Colorado where I currently practice.
This is how I got involved. I began my residency in July 1971, and on July 7, 1971, one and one-half years before Roe v. Wade, I went into the operating room where my chief resident sat down on a stool, he performed an abortion, and then he said that I could do the next one, there were several lined up for that day.
After I performed my first abortion, these are the words I dictated:
The patient was prepped and draped in a sterile fashion in the dorsal lithotomy position with an IV with 15 units of pitocin and 1,000 ccs of dehydrogenase lactate running. Under satisfactory general anaesthesia, the cervix was grasped with a thyroid clamp and dilated to a #10 hanks dilator. After sounding to a depth of 4 inches, a #10 curved curette was introduced into the uterine cavity and utilised to empty the uterine contents. Five units of pitocin were given through IV at this time. A large, sharp curette was then introduced into the uterine cavity and the small amount of remaining tissue was curetted from the anterior uterine wall.
The total fluid and tissue obtained was 125 ccs. Estimated blood loss for the procedure was 50 ccs with 200 ccs of dehydrogenase replacement. After insuring that there was adequate hemostatsis on the cervix at the site of the thyroid clamp application, the anaesthesia was terminated and the patient taken to the recovery room in satisfactory condition.
In about as little time as it took to read this operative report, I had become a murderer. And as I read years later, cursed. For Deuteronomy 27:25 clearly applied to me, Cursed is the man who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person. I did not consciously select the words I used in dictating the operative report, but my subconscious mind was obviously at work trying to protect my conscience mind through denial. As you were listening to what I said, you heard me say the words "uterine contents," you heard me say the word "tissue," "fluid and tissue," and "procedure." They are all words which denied what really happened that day.
The pathology specimen that we sent down was labeled, "Products of Conception." The operation performed was called a vacuum curettage. But on the operation request and report, under special circumstances, were found the words "living foetus." The gymnastics which my mind performed in dictating that report could not totally erase the fact that something living was killed that day.
When I was in medical school, abortion was illegal; it was criminal; it was regarded as murder. I graduated from medical school in 1968, and we already had in 1968, however, the beginnings of the erosion of that Pro-Life ethic. In 1967, the state of Colorado passed a law which made it legal to perform an abortion under some circumstances. New York and California followed, and since I was in California during my training, abortion was legal under conditions which threatened the mother's health, mental health and her life. In our institution there was actually some confusion about what steps we should take to justify the abortions, since we clearly had not come to the point of legally, at least, abortion on demand.
So we sent some patients to the psychiatrist before they had the abortion; some we did not. But we finally settled on the terminology which we put in the chart, and it went something like this:
Continuation of this pregnancy would be detrimental to the physical and emotional well being of this patient.
In spite of these words, it was clear that most, if not all, of the abortions which we performed were done so that the patient's life would not be interrupted by the pregnancy and delivery of a baby.
Early in my training I also had an experience in which I became acutely aware of the fact that there were a lot of patients who came in holding stuffed animals. I began to refer to this as the "teddy bear sign." As these active-duty officers, active-duty enlisted, dependent wives and dependent daughters would arrive at our hospital, not just a few of them, but many of them, would be carrying a stuffed animal with them.
It was not difficult for me to associate this with insecurity and immaturity on the part of these patients. This was in sharp contrast to the patients who were coming to the hospital for other types of surgery.
Another observation was that many of them came back for their second and their third abortions. I can stand here and tell you that during my time in training I never did encounter a true therapeutic abortion situation. I do recall a patient who had a "therapeutic abortion" for kidney disease at 32 weeks. The baby weighed over 3 lbs. and even in that day would have had about a 70% chance for survival if the labor had simply been induced and abortion not performed.
In my training programme we really made no attempt to counsel the patients concerning their abortions. Most of them had spent many hours and, in some cases, days being transported to the hospital. We limited our discussion with them to the medical aspects of the abortion procedure itself in order to obtain their consent. I recall one patient, however, who decided against having her abortion after she came. Somebody had talked her into having the abortion, and as we got her into surgery and the pentothal was injected, I was standing at the end of the table, and she raised her arm as she was going to sleep and waved it several times, and stated, I protest! At that point I ripped my gloves off, walked out of the room, and told them to wake her up.
I wish I could stand here today and tell you that I decided to stop doing abortions in a single instant. But it didn't happen that way. As you will see, my decision was, and perhaps still is, an evolving one. I did not feel right about doing abortions, but I made no effort to distinguish legal from moral at that time. My justification was that it was legal, the patients wanted it done, and they came from all over the world to Travis Air Force Base in California to have it done.
It was easy for us to do the first trimester abortion because we were using the same procedure that you use if you remove the placental tissue after a woman has a miscarriage. The vacuum machine is used, and the vacuum tubing empties all of the products of conception into a tidy little cheesecloth sack. We then sent those sacks down to pathology.
In my second year of residency I spent two months on a pathology rotation, which is an interesting thing, and I had to come face-to-face with the contents of those sacks. We were studying the embryology of the ovary. I personally had to search through the jumbled-up mass of tissue. The jumbled-up mass of tissue was easily identifiable as the torn and shredded body of a tiny human being.
Even though these discoveries made me uncomfortable, I continued to do abortions. There were times when I personally sat there and opened up containers, five, six, seven at a time, and would stand there and look at the contents inside them. There isn't any way that you can say that there isn't a human body inside of those containers when you can look and see the little arms, feet, and faces.
Travis Air Force Base became the abortion capital of the Air Force because it was the only hospital in the Air Force system which allowed abortions. We received patients from Vietnam, the Philippines, Europe, and throughout the United States. Many of these patients were more than 12 weeks pregnant. At that time, we were using the technique of injection of hypertonic saline when they were over 12 weeks. Actually, we had to wait until they were 15 weeks to be able to easily get into the amniotic sac. The gruesome technique of D&E had not yet been perfected when I was in my training.
The patients that we cared for after injecting the hypertonic saline, we actually took to the labour and delivery unit. It was there that I had the beginnings of what I call my emotional turmoil. It was there that I treated patients in premature labour. We used medications to try to stop the labour so that the pregnancy could progress to term. Sometimes the aborted babies were bigger than the premature ones which we took to the nursery.
It was at this point that I began to have nightmares. This nightmare is a recurring nightmare and I'll share it with you. In my nightmares I would deliver a healthy newborn baby and I would take that healthy newborn baby and I would hold it up, and I would face a jury of faceless people and ask them to tell me what to do with this baby. They would go thumbs-up or thumbs-down and if they made a thumbs-down indication then I was to drop the baby into a bucket of water which was present. I never did reach the point of dropping the baby into the bucket because I'd always wake up at that point. But it was clear to me that there was something subconsciously going on in my mind.
I actually stopped doing the second trimester abortions at that time. There was no great clamour about my refusing to do the abortions, but it was interesting to me that there was a subtle understanding that my actions were causing the other residents to do more than their share.
The number of abortions which I performed was sharply reduced by two circumstances which arose at this time. The first was the Supreme Court ruling which we now know as Roe v. Wade. The United States Supreme Court in one bold stroke made abortion on demand a reality.
The other circumstance accounting for my doing fewer abortions was a temporal one. By that time I was far enough along in my training that the vacuum abortions were done by the junior residents. However, after I completed my residency and moved to Arizona, there were no junior residents around, and so I once again began doing abortions. As a feeble protest (and I say feeble), I started coding them out as voluntary abortions which upset the medical record people because there was no such code. There were codes for spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, and for therapeutic abortion, but none for voluntary abortion.
Jeannie, my wife, was uncomfortable with my doing abortions, so I eventually stopped doing them in the Air Force, but I did refer them to regional Air Force Training Centres, like Travis. And when I began practice in Colorado I did not consider doing abortions, but I did continue to refer patients to those who did.
After my salvation, I began to examine my attitude about abortion. I suppose, for lack of better term, I was a Christian but still pro-choice. Like many physicians I know, I didn't want to do them, but it was still legal and it was a woman's right, and I encountered many patients in my practice who had unplanned pregnancies and who requested them. I also began to notice that about a third of my patients had had abortions and many of them expressed regret about having had them.
I discovered an interesting thing, too, at that time because I would ask them for the year of their abortion, and I discovered that when they gave me the date that many of them did not give me merely the year, they gave me the exact date of their abortions as easily as most women recall the birthdates of their babies.
Though I understood that when I accepted Christ I had been forgiven for all of my past sins, including abortion, I began to wonder about the fate of the babies that I'd aborted, and in a near panic one day I asked our pastor where these babies were. He reassured me that they were with Christ and that one day I would be able to enjoy fellowship with them. This gave me some comfort, but it also brought me under more conviction that the evil of abortion had to be stopped, and I had to do something to help that. At that time I had no idea what that might be. But as time passed, the Lord made it clear to me that my ministry would be one of education."