The beating heart of someone she’d never seen yet loved with all her being was Imani’s constant companion and comfort. The heartbeat was slow and steady today. Her mother was relaxed. Maybe she’d even sing. Imani clinched a tiny fist, stuck out a thumb, and lifted her hand to her face. Her lips found the thumb, and Imani was happy.
On happy days filled with song, Imani dreamed of things she’d never seen before. Somehow she knew there was more than darkness. Other people as real and alive as her existed outside the warm embrace of her refuge. She heard them. One voice, deep and strong, especially intrigued her. She felt the pressure of a firm yet gentle hand press inward on the wall of her safe place, a hand just as real as her own only much bigger, and Imani leaned into it. One day she’d hold that hand. She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew.
There was a little one awaiting Imani’s arrival, too. His voice was smaller than the other voices. His touch was soft as he traced the contour of their mother’s enlarged stomach. He must be pretty great. His voice was excitement and hope and all things bright. Imani couldn’t wait to meet him.
There were stressful days, too. On the days her mother didn’t sing, Imani heard her arguing with the deeper voice. Their arugements were inevitably followed by uncontrollable crying. Her mother’s heartbeat would quicken. Imani would feel the rush of her mother’s emotion as if it were her own. If only she could somehow reach out and squeeze her mother like her mother would squeeze Imani through her own belly.
One day, she told herself.
Imani wondered what they were arguing about. They walked born and free in the land of unfiltered sound. Even with the sad days, she couldn’t wait to be with them there. She’d comfort her mother, she’d grease the wheels of her parents’ sometimes rocky relationship, and she would learn to play with her big brother. And they would be happy together.
One day the yelling was especially loud, and the crying lasted especially long. Imani’s heart raced inside her delicate chest, and pure, previously unfelt emotion pricked her like a thousand needles with every piercing word. It was serious today, as if a line had been crossed and there was no going back. But Imani could only guess what it meant. One day maybe she’d see with her own eyes and finally understand. Until then, she chose to trust her mother.
One thing was for sure: Whatever dangers might lurk there on the outside, Imani knew she would never confront them alone. Her mother’s heart told her so, promising her love and protection with every beat, and Imani believed it.
One morning her mother got out of bed earlier than usual.
Where are you going, Mama? Imani wondered.
Maybe back to the same place she’d been just a few days ago. It had been uncomfortable. Her mother had lain on a table, and there’d been movement down below Imani. But it had all stopped, whatever it was. And her mother’s heartbeat had returned to normal. And the two of them had gone back home together.
Soon her mother was closing the door to the house and then the door to the car, and Imani heard the familiar rumble of an engine. If only Imani could see what was going on outside.
One day, she thought.
They drove in silence that morning.
If Imani were on the outside, she’d get her mom to make some of the music she liked come on.
After a short drive, all movement stopped and the rumble died. Her mom’s heartbeat increased, but that didn’t make sense to Imani given the quiet. What did her mother know? All Imani sensed was fear and sadness. Whatever was causing it, Imani could trust her mama. If only she could squeeze her hand.
Finally her mother got out of the car. After a short walk, Imani heard voices similar to the ones she’d heard a few days ago. Uncertainty remained, but like she’d always done, she found comfort in her mother’s beating heart.
There was talking followed by waiting in silence. Then more talking. Her mother stood and walked somewhere. Then Imani felt her lie back like she’d done a few days before. Her mother’s heart beat faster than Imani had ever felt it.
It’s OK, Mama, she wanted to tell her. We’re together.
A deep, soothing voice, though not her father’s, made its way to Imani’s tiny eardrums. She didn’t understand the words, but she wanted her mother to believe the nice sounding words so much.
Imani jerked at a loud sucking sound below her. Suddenly the liquid that had always surrounded her like a warm blanket drained away, and for the first time she felt cold. A light flashed over her tightly shut eyes. Was today the day she’d finally get to see Mama, the one who’d carried her all these months and fed her and kept her warm, the one whose voice she knew so well and whose embrace she constantly felt around her? Would she finally meet the owner of the great big heart that had beat over her since day one?
Something metallic and cold slipped past Imani’s tiny toes. She didn’t like it, and fear welled up within her fragile frame.
If only Mama would sing me a song.
The thing, a sopher clamp, opened and then bit down around her left shoulder.
Too hard! Too hard! Imani screamed without being able to make a sound.
Surely her mother would do something—anything at whatever cost—to protect her. She had to. Imani just had to wait.
The teeth of the sopher clamp tore into her soft flesh, twisted, and pulled violently downward, tearing Imani’s arm from its socket. Lightning lit up Imani’s untested but fully operational nervous system. It was all fire and confusion and anguish and hatred. The needles she’d felt when her parents had argued—was this the outcome of that day?
Mama! Mama! Mama!
Her mother’s heartbeat redlined.
Why can’t she help?
The deep voice continued speaking in soft, soothing tones. Her mother remained silent. Imani’s arm disappeared, and the now-empty sopher clamp returned, this time snapping shut on her graceful left leg midway between her pelvis and knee. Imani instinctively tried to jerk away, but the man controlling the clamp was too fast, too practiced. In one seamless action, the leg was crushed, twisted completely backward, and ripped away from Imani’s body. More indescribable fire.
Help me, Mama! Please! Someone! Anyone!
Wasn’t this her safe place?
Again, the clamp disappeared, taking her leg along with it.
But Imani couldn’t cry out. And even if she could, no one, it seemed, was listening.
Light poured in as the sopher clamp entered Imani’s refuge yet again. She had long dreamed of seeing such beautiful light. She had known there was more out there beyond the darkness, but never had she imagined things and people capable of this. If this was what they were doing to her, what must they must be doing to her mother?
If only she could reach her mother’s hand, feel it just one time.
Surgical steel found Imani’s skull.
Mama, I’m so sorry I’ll never get to—
But before Imani could finish the thought, the man controlling the sopher clamp finished Imani. And one more small light was snuffed out in a world gripped by darkness.
The procedure depicted above is called a dilation (dilatation) and evacuation procedure, or D&E, and is most commonly performed during a woman’s second trimester of pregnancy on children between 13 and 24 weeks of development (Live Action). This procedure accounts for 96% of the more than 140,000 abortions that annually take place in the United States during the second trimester (Abort73).