AbortionThu Jul 21, 2011 - 5:49 pm EST
Former abortion clinic worker breaks silence, speaks out for life
Note: One of the most powerful weapons in the pro-life arsenal is the authentic testimony of those who have advocated for and helped provide abortions, and later seen the light. People like Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Carol Everett, and Abby Johnson have information and insight that will help us win the fight against the abortion industry.
Allentown, Pennsylvania native and mother of three Jewels Green has made the courageous decision to finally speak up for life. In her first public pro-life testimony, she told Live Action about suffering the pain of abortion as a teenager and later spending several years working in an abortion clinic.
This is her story:
“My first baby would be 22 this week.
I was a 17-year-old drug-using high school drop-out, but when the lady wearing scrubs told me I was pregnant, I already thought of myself as a new mother.
Everyone wanted me to get an abortion… except me.
I actually stopped using drugs, went to the library and checked out a book called Under 18 and Pregnant and started to read it to prepare. I scheduled my first prenatal check-up. My boyfriend was relentless. I am deliberately omitting the details of the violence, both real and threatened, but I finally caved in to my boyfriend’s insistence to not have our baby.
On January 4, 1989, he took me to the abortion clinic, but I literally ran out in the hope of saving my baby.
Two days later, on January 6, 1989, at 9 1/2 weeks gestation, I had an abortion. It nearly killed me. No, not the surgical procedure, the psychological aftermath. I attempted suicide three times after my abortion and finally ended up in an adolescent psychiatric ward of a community hospital for a month to recover.
I was coerced into having an abortion and thought that by becoming a counselor at an abortion clinic, I could help others like me really talk out their feelings on the issue, truly explore their options, and help them make an honest, informed decision–or help them leave an abusive situation.
I worked at an abortion clinic for five years (from age 18 to 23)—not the same one where I had my abortion. I started out on the phone, then at the front desk checking in patients and accepting payments, then I learned medical assisting and helped in the laboratory, took vital signs in the recovery room, and did “dishes” in the autoclave area. (I’ll come back to this). Then, after two years working at the clinic and starting college as a psychology major, I was trained as a counselor.
The “counseling” experience was not what I had hoped. Nearly every pregnant woman coming to an abortion clinic for “options counseling” had already made up her mind, but just wanted to check out the facility and have her questions answered and perhaps her fears allayed. And most of the women coming in felt they had no other choice. A few were truly ambivalent.
This is where the pro-choice movement and clinics fail. Sure, we had a little notebook with the names and numbers of two local adoption agencies, but we were never trained or taught how the adoption process works so we could explain it to women. We had the phone number of the local WIC office, public assistance, etc., but again, knew nothing about the process should anyone ever ask for details. If a pregnant woman wanted to learn more about these other choices, the best the “options counselor” could offer was a post-it note with a phone number hastily scribbled on it.
During my time at the clinic, I was a staunch supporter of abortion rights, while all the time knowing in my heart that I felt that what I did was wrong, that I missed my baby, and that I wished things could be different for me. In hindsight, I can see that by surrounding myself with people who believed it was OK to abort babies, I was hoping that someday I would be OK with aborting my baby. This never happened…
I have marched twice in Washington, D.C., in support of abortion rights. I have lobbied inHarrisburg (the capital of Pennsylvania). I have joined David Gunn, Jr., in lobbying Congress for stronger sanctions against militant anti-abortion activists who harass pregnant women, bomb abortion clinics, intimidate clinic staff, and murder physicians (like David’s dad, Dr. David Gunn, who was killed by an anti-abortion “activist”) – but even then I never agreed with rallying cries such as “Abortion on demand and without apology!” chanted at such gatherings. It was–and is–so much more complicated than that.
After graduating from college with a degree in psychology I left my job at the clinic to work the overnight shift at a teen crisis hotline for a year before moving to New York City to attend graduate school. After earning my Master’s in psychology, I moved back to my hometown and worked part-time at the clinic through much of my next pregnancy.
I remember one Saturday morning (a big “procedure day” when more than 20 abortions were scheduled and at least a dozen protestors were outside, standing along the long driveway that led into the clinic parking lot) when I was about six months along and very visibly pregnant–much farther along than the 16 week abortion limit of the clinic–when a protestor shouted to me, “Your baby loves you!”
I smiled to myself. When I got inside and started to help the nurse set up the recovery room, I told her this, and she was angry and appalled. Even then–as an active employee at the clinic–telling a pregnant woman her baby loves her did not seem like such an objectionable thing to say, or even to shout, at an obviously pregnant woman.
Identifying myself as pro-life, though, did not come until many years later. After finally forgiving myself for aborting my first child I was able to see the world differently. After two failed marriages I was able to finally commit and my husband and I have been married for eleven years. After giving birth to three sons and feeling the life grow inside me and knowing the fierce overwhelming love a mother can feel for a child, I have been able to finally acknowledge that yes, life begins at conception.
But it wasn’t until stumbling upon links to Abby Johnson’s YouTube videos, and then reading her book Unplanned, that I could say out loud that I was pro-life. It was Abby’s amazing story, and her courageous and honest testimony, that helped me to openly join the ranks of the pro-life movement.
And although I now consider myself pro-life, I simply cannot abide by the extremists within the movement’s ranks who often act without censure by many of the position’s vocal leadership. I was at the front desk when the clinic was invaded on July 22, 1992, which we later dubbed “The Wednesday From Hell.” Six people ran into the waiting room with a huge metal contraption with multiple pipes attached that we all assumed was a bomb until they slid their arms inside of it and started singing. They were in the waiting room “attached” to that thing for seven hours while local and state police and FBI agents attempted to negotiate with and extract them from the device. They peed on the carpet. The clinic’s daily functions continued in other parts of the facility.
Not one woman changed her mind as a result of this invasion.
I was also working the front desk on the day two Boston clinics were attacked by an armed anti-abortion gunman who wounded five people and killed two. The gunman remained at large for many hours before being apprehended. Boston is a five-hour drive from where I worked and I remained at the front desk. (My uncle, a police sergeant, insisted I wear a bulletproof vest to work for a full week following that event, and I did.) One of the former directors of the clinic I worked for had her home broken into twice, another director routinely has her home picketed and has been followed home from work by suspicious vehicles on several occasions. There has to be a better way to further the cause of life.
Speaking of which: abortion ends life. Period. This is not in question nor should it be. This is a fundamental truth. I worked in the autoclave room where the “products of conception” (as so many pro-choice proponents—and abortion clinic counselors—call the fetus and placenta) were rearranged and counted to make sure “we got everything.” For early abortions, this meant floating the contents of the jar in water to visualize the chorionic villi. For abortions from about 8 1/2 – 12 weeks, this meant counting hands and feet, making sure the spine and ribcage and skull were present, you get the idea. For the abortions where the gestational age of the fetus was in question, especially if there was a chance it was an “oops,” meaning a pregnancy terminated beyond the clinic’s legal limit of 14 weeks LMP (from last menstrual period), the feet were measured to determine a more accurate gestational age.
Working in the autoclave room was never, ever easy. I saw my lost child in every jar of aborted baby parts. One night after working autoclave my nightmares about dead babies were so gruesome and terrifying and intense I met with the clinic’s director to talk about my feelings.
She was very understanding, open and honest, and painfully forthright when she told me, “What we do here is end a life. Pure and simple. There is no disputing this fact. You need to be OK with this to work here.” After a few days rotated out of the autoclave room, I felt I was OK with this, and God help me, I went back.
When in my fourth year at the clinic they won approval to do abortions up to 16 weeks LMP, one woman quit and two staff members—myself included— refused to work on the “late days.” My boss was very understanding and scheduled me to work with the non-pregnant GYN patients those days.
For myself, I know in my heart that I would never again terminate a pregnancy — EVER — nor would I ever work at an abortion clinic again. If someone I love was facing an unplanned pregnancy, I would do my very best to help her find a way to stay pregnant and give that baby a chance—whether it be by becoming a parent, or by offering up the child for adoption.
There are far too many innocent lives being snuffed out in our country before they have the opportunity to take their first breath, and as a nation we should be doing better. We need to do better. We need to provide real resources to pregnant mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. The women and babies of our country deserve better. After all, sometimes the best things in life aren’t planned.
Happy Nobirthday, Unbaby. I miss you every day. Love & tears, Mom.”
Reprinted with permission from the Live Action blog.