Teaching abortion techniques with papayas
The latest effort to recruit abortionists relies on stealth and fresh fruit. Using a papaya as a uterus, medical students learn abortion techniques under the guise of “miscarriage management.”
One activist group boasts that the “papaya workshop” is now part of resident training at a Catholic hospital that prohibits abortion. A group of pro-abortion doctors in the UK declared 2013 “the year of the papaya” in response to the recent growth in popularity of this training exercise that has existed for several years.
Originally developed as a way to demonstrate an abortion technique called manual vacuum aspiration, the papaya is also used to demonstrate the manual scraping of tissue from the uterine walls and the placement of IUDs after abortion.
In a video series demonstrating the papaya workshop, Dr. Jody Steinauer acknowledged the controversial nature of the techniques she teaches: “Depending on my learners and the environment in which I’m teaching it, I sometimes frame it as a miscarriage case and sometimes as an abortion case.”
Dr. Philip Darney, chief obstetrician at San Francisco General Hospital, fondly recalls going on missions for US in the early 1970s taking manual abortion kits to other countries, such as Indonesia, to enable clandestine abortions. According to Darney, the abortion kits provide “a way to both treat women who have had unsafe abortions and accomplish safe abortion.”
Darney describes portable abortion kits as safe and said that the manual syringe is preferable in places where electricity is unreliable. What about cleanliness in places without electricity? The papaya videos don’t deal with it.
While the videos do not address cleaning the instruments or other infection precautions, Steinauer did find time to offer a full demonstration of scraping uterine walls. “The papaya, especially when it’s not very ripe, when (scraped), feels exactly like an empty uterus,” she said.
While a papaya may bear similarities to a human uterus, there are key differences. After attending one of the workshops, one medical student was uneasy. “It’s a lot more invasive than I thought,” she said. “A papaya doesn’t bleed and scream.”
Many training programs that use manual vacuum aspiration as miscarriage treatment receive funding from groups that promote abortion. Teaching materials specifically target doctors and support staff who express reluctance because of the close association with induced abortion. One nurse raised concerns about her ability “to emotionally disconnect those two because I have such strong feelings about abortion.”
Promoters of “miscarriage management” training are calling for research showing whether exposure to their workshops can shift attitudes about performing abortions.
In some places, the relationship between papayas and pregnant women has long been an uneasy one. In some regions of Asia, it was commonly believed that papayas were dangerous for expectant mothers, and modern research has shed light on the reason: unripe papayas contain a type of fruit latex that can induce uterine contractions and potentially cause a miscarriage.
Rebecca Oas PhD writes for C-FAM.
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