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November 24, 2008

’How pro-choice are you?’

Pp_instruments Sunday's Washington Post Magazine may have done the pro-life movement an inadvertent favor by exploring the mind and experiences of a young medical student trying to decide whether to become an abortion provider. While her pro-choice stance never wavers, she has to face questions like "How pro-choice are you? What does it mean for you?" And she has to watch abortions being performed.

This time, the procedure took 10 minutes instead of five. The dilator was bigger; there was more tissue to remove; and the patient, although sedated, was awake and moving with discomfort. Lesley watched as the doctor counted the parts of the fetus, and, to her surprise, she didn't find it jarring. To her, the parts appeared doll-like.

"It was definitely gruesome," she said. "You could make out what a fetus could look like, tiny feet, lungs, but it didn't look like a person." She knew this abortion was an act that her friend Litty considered tantamount to murder. She herself expected to be very upset. She'd felt that way at her first autopsy, that of a teenage boy who'd shot himself in the head. For weeks, she could not shake the image of the boy. But this was different. She didn't regard the fetus as a person yet. She said she was happy to help the woman: "I feel like I was giving [her] a new lease" on life.

Later that morning, though, while conducting a pelvic exam, Lesley noted that she wasn't her usual slow, gentle self. That evening, discussing the second-term abortion with her mother, Lesley described a process that she found disturbingly brutal, especially the stretching of the vagina.

"It's a lot more invasive than I thought," she said. "A papaya [on which she'd practiced the procedure] doesn't bleed and scream." Women do.

Lesley didn't want to have to steel herself emotionally to perform abortions, and she was coming to realize that that's what she'd have to do.

Lesley Wojcik and author Patricia Meisol will be conducting an online discussion about the Post article at 12 p.m. ET today. Submit questions or just follow the discussion here.

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Joe Dalfonzo

I submitted - they ignored! It is inconceivable that someone who can so callously rationalize a partial birth abortion could ever become a physician. I certainly wouldn't want her at my bedside - she'd probably be auctioning off my parts.

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