A former Planned Parenthood manager in her own words: Ramona Trevino speaks out
August 31, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When Ramona Trevino was 11 years old, she felt God was calling her to serve Him in a special way – so much so that she told her mother she wanted to become a nun one day.
But less than 20 years later, Ramona found herself managing perhaps one of the least convent-like places you could think of – a Planned Parenthood clinic.
During a lengthy interview with LifeSiteNews.com last week, the 33-year-old mother of four (including the unborn child expected early next year) confessed that her childhood desire to be a nun is only one of many ways that she made for an unusual Planned Parenthood manager.
She says that when she began working for the abortion giant over three years ago, she didn’t believe in abortion, and, even more surprisingly, didn’t even believe in contraception – for herself, that is.
“I had always been personally pro-life,” she says, pointing out that when she became pregnant at the age of 16, the thought of getting an abortion didn’t even cross her mind. Instead she dropped out of school to take care of her child full time.
When it comes to contraception, Ramona says her views were shaped by a CD she picked up during the marriage prep course required by her Catholic diocese – “Contraception: Why Not?” by theologian Janet Smith.
That CD “opened my eyes a lot about contraception,” she says, “because previously before that I didn’t really know or understand or really know a whole lot about the Catholic teaching on contraception.”
Catholic, anti-abortion, and a Planned Parenthood manager?
So how does a Catholic mother who is personally against both abortion and contraception start working as a manger at a Planned Parenthood clinic?
In some ways, says Ramona, it was as simple as any job search. Planned Parenthood offered a great job at face value: not only did it have a great salary, but the job was only three days a week, which would allow her to ease back into the workplace after an extended stint as stay-at-home mom.
And even though she didn’t believe in abortion or contraception for herself, she says her attitude at the time was “each to their own.” “I’ve always been kind of confused in the way that I thought,” she admits, “because I felt like if I was ‘pro-life,’ then I was passing judgment.”
She also says that she feels like she was “jaded” by some of her past experiences and that she justified what she did, because “it was almost like I would rather [Planned Parenthood clients] be on birth control then go abort their baby,” or have a child they wouldn’t take care of.
As well, the friend who recommended the job (who would later undergo her own pro-life conversion and leave her Planned Parenthood post) repeatedly emphasized that the Sherman clinic did not do abortions.
But Ramona soon found out that just because her clinic didn’t do abortions, she couldn’t avoid her employer’s dirty secret altogether: she was still required to counsel and refer abortion-seeking women to an abortion clinic.
“The very first time I did my first abortion counseling I went to my office and I cried. It was very hard, very, very hard,” she says. “And I felt so guilty.”
In her approach to counseling, however, Ramona proved once again that she did not fit the Planned Parenthood mold: she insists she never steered any woman towards abortion, and in fact, would regularly refer women to the pro-life pregnancy resource center in town – at least until Planned Parenthood caught on, and told her to stop.
At the same time, however, she admits with regret that she never tried to stop a woman from getting an abortion, and would give abortion-bound women the referral they sought.
The turning point, and Lila Rose
In looking back over her years at Planned Parenthood, Ramona at times seemed perplexed that it took her so long to pick up and leave (she quit in May of this year).
One of the things that kept her going, she says, is that she often did feel as if she was doing something worthwhile: on several occasions she and her staff literally saved women’s lives, she says, after they detected nascent and potentially life threatening cancers.
She also confesses, however, that she was simply “comfortable” with her lifestyle. “And that’s sometimes how the Evil One fools us. He tries to paint a picture of, well, this is good for you, this is a pretty picture, this is all perfect right now. Why do you want to mess with a good thing?”
But eventually, Ramona could no longer ignore the guilt that plagued her. She also says began to question Planned Parenthood’s dedication to its purported mission of helping women after she was continually urged to increase the number of patients her clinic saw, and to increase revenue.
“That was one of those things where I began to see that they don’t care about these women, they care about money,” she says. “The more women they can pack in the schedule, the more money they can bring in, the more people they can put on birth control and sell birth control to, whatever services we can sell, that’s what they care about.”
Ramona’s complaints about her former employer’s financial priorities have been echoed by Abby Johnson, the director of a Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood who left to become a pro-life activist in 2009. “Planned Parenthood’s bottom line is numbers,” said Johnson, who called abortion the group’s “primary money-maker.”
This discomfort reached a higher pitch earlier this year, when Lila Rose and Live Action released undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood managers helping purported child sex traffickers get abortions and other services for their underage prostitutes.
After those videos were released, a meeting for all the regional Planned Parenthood managers was called. Ramona says she expected the meeting to be about how to spot situations of abuse or sex trafficking – but instead it was all about how to detect if you are being recorded, or are the victim of a sting operation.
After that meeting, she says, “I kind of remember coming back and telling my co-worker, ‘I’m done. This is it. I’ve got to find something else.’”
But the straw that broke the camel’s back didn’t come until later in the year, during the Christian season of Lent, as well as the first ever 40 Days for Life campaign outside Ramona’s clinic.
As Lent approached, Ramona decided to make a renewed effort to go weekly to church, where her attendance had grown spotty, and to read scripture and pray the rosary every day.
“Just three days into praying the rosary - that was it,” she says. “The blinders came off.”
For months already, Ramona had been listening to Catholic radio, even hearing the first interview with Abby Johnson after she left Planned Parenthood. At around this time Ramona heard that the 40 Days for Life vigil was coming to Sherman.
“I thought, this will be a perfect opportunity to go out … talk with one of the protesters and ask them to pray for me,” she says. “Tell them what’s going on with me. Because at that point I was reaching out for someone - prayers, some kind of guidance, some kind of support.”
And that’s exactly what she did. She spoke with the man who lead the local 40 Days for Life campaign, Gerry, who gave her a copy of Abby Johnson’s book “Unplanned.” He also put her in touch with the national 40 Days for Life campaign team, who offered to pray for her and to give her the support she needed to leave.
And yet, Ramona continued to hesitate, pushing the date for her departure further and further off, scared to give up half her family’s income, and scared to launch out into unknown waters.
But finally, on May 1 of this year, when Catholics celebrated both the feast of Divine Mercy and the beatification of Pope John Paul II, Ramona was sitting in church, and remembers singing the hymn “Lord, when You Came to the Seashore.”
“And for me the lyrics of that song gave me the answer that I needed - basically, you know, leave everything on the seashore and just come follow Me, and I will take care of you. And that’s what I needed - to just remember that I need to trust God.”
The next day, Ramona called Lauren at the national 40 Days for Life office and told her she was leaving that week.
“That Friday, May 6, I left my letter of resignation on the desk, I made sure everything was in order. Left my keys on the table, and that was it.
“I never looked back.”
The desire to serve God returns
When asked what her plans are now, Ramona says simply that she has no idea – at least when it comes to the details. She does know, however, that she wants to serve God.
She says she now looks back on her childhood desire to become a nun as “a whisper” of things to come.
“God was calling me and maybe telling me that there were things ahead of me that were going to be wonderful, and I just didn’t know how to discern that, or didn’t have anybody to really nurture that,” says the Catholic mom. “So, now I feel like God is calling me again, and this time I don’t want to ignore it.”
She doesn’t know exactly what she’s being called to, but believes it’s somewhere in ministry - probably in pro-life ministry, perhaps promoting abstinence and chastity or natural family planning.
The first step, however, is simply to come forward and to tell her story courageously – not to talk about herself, she says, but to tell the mercy of God, and the valuable work of pro-life activists.
Her story, she says, is about all the people “that are out there fighting for life, the people that are out there that are spending their time and all of their efforts and energy for pro-life, and the people that are at the vigils. I want them to know that their prayers are heard.”
“That’s why I feel that my story is so important,” she concludes, “not because it’s my story, but because it’s their story.
“If anything it’s their story, it’s what they’ve done. And that’s what I really want to share, so that I can glorify God.”