Yes, I agreed to perform the abortion.
The girl was under unusual strain.
I formed the opinion that for personal reasons
and home circumstances her health would suffer
if pregnancy was not terminated.
She was unmarried and the father was unknown.
She had important exams to sit,
her career would be jeopardized, and in any case
she went in mortal fear of her father
(who is himself, as it happens, a doctor)
and believed he would throw her out of the house.
These factors left me in no doubt.
Accordingly I delivered her seven months baby
without complications. It was limp and motionless.
I was satisfied there was no life in it.
Normal practice was followed: it was placed
in a paper disposal bag and sent
to the incinerator. Later to my surprise
I was told it was alive. It was then returned
and I massaged its chest and kept it warm.
It moved and breathed about eight hours.
Could it have lived? I hardly think so.
You call it a disturbing case? Disturbing
is a more emotive word than I would choose
but I take the point. However, the child
as far as I was concerned was dead
on delivery, and my disposal instructions
were straight and without melodrama.
There is, as sheriff and jury will agree,
an irony for students of the human condition
(and in this case who is not?)
in the fact that the baby was resuscitated
by the jogging of the bag on its way to the incinerator.
I hope that everything I have said is clear.
Ay well, the porter brought this bag doon
(he’d come fae the operatin theatre like)
an he sayed it wis fur burnin.
Ah tellt him it would have tae wait,
ah had tae clean the fire oot first,
say hauf an oor, then it could go in.
So he goes away an leaves the bag,
it wis on a big pile of bags, like, all ready
fur tae go in. Anyway, ah gote the fire up,
ah starts throwin bags in the incinerator,
an ah’m luftin this wee bag an
ah hear a sorta whimperin-cryin like-
an ah can feel somethin breathin
through the paper. Whit did ah dae?
Ah pit it on a binch, near the hote pipes.
An ah goes up thae sterrs fur the porter.
Asks him, What wis in that bag?
He says, A foetus. Ah says, What’s that?
A kiddy, he says. D’ye ken it’s alive? ah says.
He says, Yes. Ah says, It’s a bluidy shame,
is it no? He says, Ay it’s a bluidy shame.
But the sleekit bugger never let dab
when he brought the bag. All he sayed wis burn it
and that’s the God’s truth. It’s bad enough
whit the doctors dae, but he’d have been a murderer
if I hadny heard the wean cryin-
Christ, it wis hingin ower the fire-
may-be a quick death in thae degrees,
but ah couldny sleep fur nights
thinkin aboot it, couldny sleep,
an och, ah still think what’s the use,
ah didny save the kiddy’s life.
It canny have been meant tae live.
An yet ye’d wonder, wid ye no?