Former abortion worker: Every woman just ‘a line item on our budget sheet’

abortion, surgery, spina bifida

In October of 2015, former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson shared the story of an abortion worker who quit. The worker decided to leave her job when she realized that the abortion facility was not helping women, but betraying them. The worker contacted Johnson’s organization And Then There Were None, which reaches out to abortion workers and offers them support when they leave the industry.

“We didn’t see her as a person.”

The worker gave her testimony:

I remember our abortionist joking about how ‘stupid’ the women were who came into our clinic. He would tell us to make sure and ‘shut them up’ during the abortion. He said that he didn’t want to hear the ‘stupid things that came out of their mouths.’ One day, he was talking about these women in a particularly vile way and I sat there listening to him realizing that I was no better than he was. I wasn’t standing up for these women. I wasn’t defending them. In fact, I had become a traitor to women by not defending their dignity. I knew from that day forward that I would begin to stand up for women in crisis. But I knew that I couldn’t just care for a woman without also caring for her unborn baby.

When I told my coworkers that I was leaving, one of them actually called me a ‘traitor.’ She said that by not advocating for abortion, I was standing against women. I told her that it was the abortion industry who was betraying women…every single woman that came in for our ‘services’ was being betrayed by us. We didn’t see her as a person. We saw her as a line item…a tally on our budget sheet.

Although the abortion industry claims to “empower women,” this worker’s facility does not sound like a very feminist place. The staff, and particularly the doctor, were dehumanizing women, not helping them. The abortionist clearly had great contempt for the women coming to see him. He is no champion of women’s rights.

“I remember feeling like I was on an assembly line.”

Many women have reported negative experiences in abortion facilities. They tell of workers who were cold and uncaring, abortionists who were rude, and facilities that rushed them through their abortions with little concern for their well-being.

One example is that of Annie. She describes her abortion experience:

I remember feeling like I was on an assembly line. The doctor whooshed in and whooshed out. The procedure was pretty quick, and it hurt a little bit. I felt like I was going to throw up afterward and I told the nurse and she gave me a little tray but I really needed just a few minutes in that room just to calm my stomach and calm myself and I felt like they really just wanted me out of there to get the next person in.

Afterward I was sent to the recovery area… There was this woman on my left who was just sobbing and sobbing… I wish I could have talked to the women in the recovery area and all the people who worked there would just disappear. We were going through the same experience but we were totally isolated. They are giving you cookies and water and dealing with you on a physical level, but every woman in the room was going through an emotional experience, and none of us is going to turn to the person next to us and talk about it.

The abortion was rushed and the staff was indifferent, essentially treating women “like cattle,” as some former Planned Parenthood managers have phrased it. There was no real care from any of the abortion facility employees. Instead, the women were left feeling isolated in the recovery room, each locked in her own private pain.

Another woman who had an abortion gave her testimony. When she aborted her baby, she was only 16. She said, “I felt like a piece of meat at a slaughterhouse. They had it arranged that it would be like an assembly line.”

This woman kept her abortion a secret from almost everyone in her life. She shared her testimony anonymously. Only her husband and sister know. She now deals with trauma and grief for her aborted baby. None of the staff seemed to care about this woman’s welfare or even her personal health and safety as they rushed her through the facility.

“No counselors spoke to me.”

Another woman described the lack of counseling at a Planned Parenthood abortion facility:

Inside, I signed in and paid the fee. No counselors spoke to me and soon I was ushered into a cold, stark room with bare walls. I was lying on a table that was so cold I shivered. A nurse told me it would be over quickly and I could return to work the next day. She said it wouldn’t hurt.

She was absolutely wrong!

Sadly, it is not unusual for abortion facilities to offer no counseling. (And, all too often, the counseling they do offer is biased and deceptive) No one took the time to ask this woman if she was sure she wanted an abortion or stopped to assess her mental state. She suffered tremendous guilt, grief, and despair after her abortion.

“I was made to feel so degraded and humiliated.”

Another woman left a Yelp review for A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, and spoke of a shocking lack of compassion among the workers there:

The staff is cold, unemotional, unresponsive to the emotional feelings of the women who are going there….

The nurse administering the shots was preparing the bandaids to be applied by opening the wrapper and then attaching the sticky side on to the counter, which was then put on to my skin after the shot (in hind sight, I should have said something but was too traumatized then). At the end of the shots, she wished me, in a very happy tone “have a great rest of the week”. Umm…excuse me – I just made the most difficult decision of my life, and you just have [sic] me a shot that I had authorized, and you can see I am crying…and you are still wishing me a great day???”

She also noted the lack of respect for patients’ privacy:

The staff was dismal. Obviously, the HIPAA law does not matter to this clinic. All the patients are made to sit in this row of chairs in the hallway, with others sitting there. Staff will sit next to you and ask questions that they fill out, in normal tones so that everyone else sitting there can hear – I knew the women sitting next to me were 9 weeks, 7 weeks pregnant, whether they had STDs or not, when their last periods were and other details like that. There was one woman who was being asked the questions by the ultrasound tech, and she said ” I am so scared”. The ultrasound tech, in a very dismissive tone, told her “you will be all right” and continued right on with the questions. The tone was not soft, complete apathy was displayed with some brusqueness.

During the ultrasound, I was asked to “drop your underwear and pants and lie down”. There was no wrap to put over me. I have never been examined in such a manner, where I was made to feel so degraded and humiliated…

The HIPAA law prevents medical facilities from revealing personal information about patients to others. The lack of privacy meant that the personal details of the woman’s situation were apparent to all of the other women and workers.

It is obvious that the workers at this facility had no concern for the woman as a person. They did not care about her well-being in any way. Like the facility employees in the former abortion worker’s testimony, they had no concerns for her personhood or dignity as a human being. They did not acknowledge her humanity, or her right to be treated with respect and compassion. We don’t know that those in the abortion facility saw this woman as “a tally on a budget sheet,” but they treated her as if they did.

“The abortion experience was like a cattle drive.”

Another post-abortive woman writes about her time in the abortion facility and the pain she felt afterwards:

At the clinic they were so cold; the doctor didn’t even tell me his name, but I thought, “This is what I deserve.” I just felt so boxed in, like I had no other choice. Every step I took, I took to function, to survive. So after that I shut down for 10 years, except for anniversary reactions… And I refused to hold a baby.”

In this case, the woman felt so guilty for having an abortion that she did not protest the shoddy treatment she got at the facility. With so many women reporting negative experiences when getting abortions, one might wonder if guilt of this nature allows these facilities to continue to function while dehumanizing women. If women feel too guilty to complain, or assert their right to be treated with dignity and respect, it allows the abortion workers to treat them in a dehumanizing manner.

Another woman remarked that she and other women were treated like “cattle”:

The abortion experience was like a cattle drive. The other women and I were herded together from room to room. The only thing I remember about the abortion counselor was that she asked me if I would like a prescription for the birth control pill. She gave me a starter pack of pills and an antibiotic to take after the procedure. We were then ushered into separate rooms where we waited for the doctor. It was a cold and humiliating experience. The worst part was the “recovery room.” All the women were put together into a large dark room where we were placed on cold vinyl beds to wait for the Valium to wear off. I’ll never forget the sickening feeling of lying in that room, listening to the moaning of other women and just wanting to escape as quickly as possible.

“The ‘counselor’ told me I was smart for taking ‘power’ and ‘control’ of my life.”

Another woman, who was pressured into an abortion, also remembers the cruel way abortion workers treated her:

In desperation and anger, I made the decision to have an abortion. through the efforts and advice of my division officer (I was in the military), friends, and even my father, “I would rather you have an abortion than place my grandson for adoption,” I was lead to believe it was the best “choice” for everyone. I thought it was even the best decision for my son, who had no chance to voice an opinion. I fell for the planned parenthood lies about adoption. I didn’t want to give my baby away. The “counselor” at the clinic told me I was smart for taking “power” and “control” of my life. They never told me how  [sic] any of the risks about abortion by dilation and extraction. they never mentioned that I may have complications in later pregnancies, or become sterile altogether. They never told how much abortion would hurt me, emotionally and physically. And, of course, they never once mentioned what was going to be done to my unborn son. By taking “power” and “control” of my life and having an abortion, I lost control. Upon waking up in the clinic, I realized the horrid mistake I had made and the finality of what I had done. I immediately wanted to feel my baby inside me and felt instead only a sick emptiness in my gut. The room was full of crying, hysterical girls. There was no comforting reassurance from the cold nurses who, only the day before, had been smiling and cheerful, only a “hurry up and get out of here” attitude. I felt abused and used and dirty.

This woman’s experience was far from empowering. Although the abortion workers told her she was expressing “power” and “control” over her life, she knew immediately after the abortion that she had made a terrible mistake. In the original testimony, the woman goes on to detail years of postabortion trauma. The procedure that was supposed to give her “control” over her own life led to depression and mourning. She ended her testimony with the words “abortion destroys lives.” She means it destroys the lives of babies, but also the lives of women who suffer guilt and grief after their abortions.

There are so many testimonies of terrible experiences in abortion facilities. In fact, the Silent No More website has over 2000 testimonies from post-abortive women who came to their site seeking healing.

Too many women have learned since Roe v. Wade how callous abortion workers can be. Too many women have experienced abortions that were dehumanizing, degrading, and humiliating.

There is hope, though – the abortion worker in this article realized the impact abortion was having on women and left her job. And Then There Were None has helped 430 abortion workers leave the abortion industry so far. There is hope both for the workers and for the women who suffer from post-abortion trauma. Groups like Project Rachel offer post-abortion support and healing for women, and many pregnancy resource centers have support groups where women can find comfort among people who understand what they’re going through.

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