Thursday, December 24, 2009

Nursing and Abortion: Compatible?

I am currently a new graduate from Registered Nursing school. Nursing is considered one of the most compassionate careers to be a part of. Why? The reason is because nurses have great opportunities to heal and help patients physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Indeed, the nursing profession is consistently one of the highest respected professions in the United States (1).

Since many nurses do indeed assist in therapeutic/elective abortions throughout the United States, it is arguable whether the current nursing establishment would have anything against the practice. However, what is the intention of the profession? How does the foundation of nursing, which nurses continue to be encouraged to follow, relate to the topic of abortion? If there is any indication of what the framework of nursing is look no further than the Florence Nightingale Pledge. This pledge was written 1893 by Lystra Gretter in honor of Florence Nightingale and is considered to be a modification from the Hippocratic Oath that physicians recite, although their oath has been modified throughout the years.

The Florence Nightingale Pledge is what I recited at my graduation ceremony from vocational nursing school (the nursing pledge from registered nursing school was altered somewhat). What does this pledge mean to me and the nursing profession as a whole in relation to therapeutic/elective abortion? Should nurses be involved in therapeutic/elective abortion?

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug (2).


It is the responsibility of the nurse to not do anything harmful to patients. Who are patients? A patient is any "individual awaiting or under medical care and treatment" (3). Then, reason asks, who is an individual or human being? For many in the abortion debate, this has been a perplexing question. If highly subjective opinions were not considered then the word individual would include everyone from the moment of conception (refer to Abort73.com's article regarding the zygote).

Since "no harmful drug" can be administered knowingly then it matters if the unborn is a human being or individual. Since the word "individual" includes the zygote, embryo, and fetus then no drug should ever be administered that purposely kills these individuals. In today's practice, nurses do administer or aid in the administration of medications and agents that harm and, ultimately, kill the unborn individual.

Some surgical abortion procedures require administration of specific medications or fluids. Prostaglandin labor induction abortions (past 20 weeks gestation) can include the use of oxytocin, misoprostol, dinoprostone, among others (4)(5a). Saline abortion (past 20 weeks gestation, although today this form of abortion is rare) involves the use of injecting a fluid highly concentrated in sodium chloride into the amniotic sac thus killing the unborn individual (5a). Another method of later term abortion is "intra-amniotic or intrafetal digitalis" (a medication which can indeed be lethal to adults as well) (5b)(6). Mifepristone (RU-486), and methotrexate in combination with misoprostol are ways to accomplish a medical abortion (which is suggested to work "up to day 49 of pregnancy and regimens up to day 63 are effective as well") (5a).

I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care (2).


The standard of the profession is caring for ALL patients. Aiding the physician does not mean to do anything that the physician tells you to do. The care of patients come first and foremost. The unborn have consistently been considered patients in the medical field. "...fetal patients may well be considered the 'best' patients by medical workers" as written by Monica Casper in the book The Making of the Unborn Patient (7). In the past, the unborn have undeniably been considered patients by the medical establishment.

Thus, since it is established that the individual is a defined as a separate creature from other individuals, the unborn is certainly classified as one. Furthermore, nurses have an obligation to protect all patients, who are all individuals, from harm; this includes the unborn. The conclusion is that the unborn patient should not be harmed. Rather, the unborn patient should be aided so that he can be born and live a long and as prosperous of a life as possible. The same and equal consideration should be made to the mothers of these unborn patients. Indeed, both are patients and both must be showed love, compassion, and care that is necessary to be a true nurse. God is my witness; that is my goal as a nurse.

Thus, nursing and therapeutic/elective abortion are incompatible with each other.

Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter's or sculptor's work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God's spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts." --Florence Nightingale.


(1) Brandon E., "The Most (and Least) Prestigious Careers" published on August 2, 2007 by U.S. News and World Report. URL LINK
(2) American Nurses Association, accessed on December 24, 2009 by Nursing World. URL LINK
(3) Marriam-Webster Online Dictionary, accessed on December 24, 2009. URL LINK
(4) Goldberg, A, & Wing, D. "Induction of Labor: The Misoprostol Controversy" from J Midwifery Womens Health in 2003 as accessed on Medscape Today on December 24, 2009. URL LINK
(5a) Trupin, S. "Elective Abortion" from eMedicine, last updated on December 22, 2008 as accessed on December 24, 2009. URL LINK
(5b) Trupin, S. "Elective Abortion: Treatment and Medication" from eMedicine, last updated on December 22, 2008 as accessed on December 24, 2009. URL LINK
(6) Aggrawal, A. "Death by Digitalis" from The Poison Sleuths August 1999 issue as accessed on December 24, 2009. URL LINK
(7) Casper, M. The Making of the Unborn Patient: A Social Anatomy of Fetal Surgery, copyright 1998 published by Rutgers University Press. URL LINK

1 comment:

SegaMon said...

Just had to delete a spam post advertising for Dr. Pendergraft's abortion clinic in Orlando. Disgusting! Dr. Pendergraft is one who uses the the digitalis (Digoxin) injection into the fetal heart for later term abortions. I'm about ready to barf...