Former worker: A busy abortion center has ‘no time to sterilize instruments’

late-term abortion, abortionist

At a conference called “Abortion: The Inside Story” sponsored by The Pro-Life Action League, former abortion worker Hellen Pendley spoke about her time in the abortion industry. Pendley worked for an abortion chain in Georgia, which had 12 different abortion facilities located throughout the United States. When Pendley applied for a job at the abortion facility, she was asked two questions. The first was, “Are you pro-choice?” Pendley answered in the affirmative.  The second was, “Can you handle the fact that this is a business?” The second question would set the tone for Pendley’s time at the abortion facility. She soon became aware that the facility put profit over patient safety and comfort. She learned that the facility’s single-minded focus on making money endangered the safety and even the lives of the women who came to them.

Pendley, who had a medical background, was initially shocked by the lack of life support equipment and emergency care supplies in the facility. She says the facility…

had absolutely no life support equipment, we had no crash cart. We didn’t have any of those things in the clinic, and the state of Georgia where I’m from and where I operated this particular clinic, we were regulated by the state [but] the state didn’t require that we had any life support, [they] didn’t require that we had any recovery room equipment though we did perform abortions under general anesthesia.

The abortion facility, like many others, tried to rush as many women as possible through abortion procedures each day. The more patients they had, the more money they made. Because there was so little time between abortions, basic sanitation was often neglected. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Aspiration cannulas, which were supposed to be used only once, were reused.

READ: Women at risk: Former abortion workers speak out about failed inspections

In a first trimester aspiration abortion, described by former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino in the video below, an instrument called a cannula is attached to a long suction tube. The other end of the tube is attached to a suction machine. After the cervix (lower opening of the womb) is dilated and the cannula inserted, the suction is turned on and the preborn child is pulled from the womb in pieces. The baby parts are collected in a jar:

Pendley explains how cannulas were reused in her facility and instruments were not sterilized:

If you reuse a vacuum aspiration cannula, you’re going to infect the next person. But when you get busy in a clinic, there is no time to sterilize instruments. I’m sorry. You wash them, you repack them, and you reuse them. And then, when the state comes in to look at your logbook, they have these nice little strips that you just stick on the autoclave and you put a date on there and you put a time, and we stick them in by the handful, and then we take them out and we show that we ran fifteen loads that day. When we didn’t.

The reuse of instruments that were supposed to be disposable and the abortion facility’s practice of not sterilizing instruments put women at risk for life-threatening infections. Pendley’s facility clearly did not care about the safety or well-being of the women who came to them for abortions.

Other former industry workers have written about similar practices in their own facilities. In an interview with, former Planned Parenthood worker Catherine Adair wrote about how her abortion facility rushed abortions so much that workers didn’t even have time to clean up blood stains:

One of my jobs as a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood was to clean the room in between abortions. I clearly remember how quickly we were required to work so that the doctors didn’t have to wait for the next abortion. I was never trained on OSHA regulations -speed was more important than being thorough. Blood spatter was often in the wall, floor and table when the next woman came in for her abortion. It disgusted me, and I always wondered what the woman coming in thought and if she noticed it. Abortion clinics are ONLY interested in money, they don’t care about the safety and well-being of women.

Abortion facility inspection reports also show that failing to sterilize instruments is a common violation. A Woman’s World Medical Center, in Fort Pierce, Florida, was cited for 68 pages of health violations, including “failing to maintain sterilized, functioning instruments.”

READ: Long history of health violations at abortion chain suing over pro-life law

The abortion chain Whole Woman’s Health successfully argued a case before the Supreme Court that invalidated laws requiring abortion facilities to meet basic health and safety standards. Yet Whole Woman’s Health itself was cited numerous times for not sterilizing instruments as well as other violations.

A report listing abortion facility health code violations has many examples of facilities failing to maintain sterile environments, including not sterilizing instruments.

Hellen Pendley’s facility is only one of many that endangered — and still endanger — women.

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