Catherine Anthony Adair worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic that performed abortions. In an interview I did with her, she spoke about what she witnessed there.
Getting started at Planned Parenthood
I asked Adair how she felt about abortion before she took the job at Planned Parenthood, and what led her to enter the abortion industry. She said:
I really didn’t have any feelings on it [abortion], I was much more concerned about feminism and women’s rights, and I felt that abortion, as a politic issue, was part of the feminist framework of forwarding women’s rights. I didn’t have any understanding that abortion could/did have any negative implications for women, and I certainly didn’t consider the baby involved. Looking back, I can see that my own abortion I had several years before working at Planned Parenthood greatly affected my views on abortion. I had found it highly traumatizing, and my way of dealing with the emotional aftermath was to bury it and not deal with my emotions. Instead, I turned to radical feminism.
On March 20 of 2013, And Then There Were None, a pro-life group that works with former clinic workers and reaches out to those still in the industry, posted a statement that 70% of clinic workers have had abortions.
Perhaps sometimes women who are struggling with guilt over their past abortion decisions surround themselves with people who will validate the choices they made. According to David Reardon, in his book Aborted Women: Silent No More:
For many women who have been deeply disturbed by their own abortion experiences, working as an abortion counselors is a way of hardening themselves …By “returning to the scene of the crime,” some women seek to reenact their own abortion decisions through the decisions of others. In this sense, the aborted counselor has a high stake in the final decision of her clients. By watching others choose abortion for the same reasons that she did, she is able to reaffirm the “rightness” of her own decision… Two … [postabortion] women who had worked in counseling or hospital situations that brought them into contact with women seeking abortions have described how immersion in abortion can be soothing to a troubled conscience. According to one, “I found that in talking to other women about abortion, their decisions to abort satisfied something in me. It made me feel better about what I had done… [It] strengthened my own decisions to abort.”
Another woman found comfort in being surrounded by people constantly repeating pro-abortion rhetoric as justification for their work: “there’s safety in numbers. I didn’t really feel awful about my abortion as long as everyone where I worked was patting me on the back.”
I then asked Adair about the counseling that women received when they came into Planned Parenthood considering abortion:
The clinic where I worked was almost exclusively an abortion clinic. Abortions were performed all day, every day. The counseling occurred after the woman had paid for her abortion. The counseling was not meant to be an opportunity to discuss the woman’s decision to abort. It was merely a pre-operative screening. We went over her health questionnaire she ﬁlled out in the waiting room, I took her blood pressure and pulse, described the abortion procedure, and made sure she chose a birth control method to use when she left the clinic. I never once asked what had led the woman to choose abortion – the attitude was that she was already there so she must be sure. We did have to ask her if she was aware she could continue her pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption, but we didn’t get into any options counseling.
Planned Parenthood did not provide any information about fetal development:
We never discussed fetal development. The baby was referred to as the “contents of the uterus” or a “clump of cells.” on the rare occasion a woman asked about the size of the baby, I would tell her it was about the size of the tip of my pencil, regardless of how many weeks into her pregnancy she was.
Ultrasounds were only done occasionally, but:
Women were not given the option of viewing the ultrasound.
The gruesome reality
The abortion procedure itself, which Adair witnessed on many occasions, was far more involved than simply removing “the contents of the uterus.” The baby was often developed enough to look recognizably human:
I was a medical assistant in the room for hundreds of abortions. I witnessed the baby being suctioned out of the uterus and watched blood and tissue work it’s way through the tube into a metal bowl. The baby was dismembered during the process. The nurse would account for the baby parts and put it into a baggy, which I then put in a box with the other aborted babies. We then had to count them at the end of the day to ensure we had all of them to go to the lab.
When I saw a second trimester abortion, I saw dismembered arms and legs, with perfect feet and hands.
The clinic did not offer any post-abortion counseling.
We did not offer any post-abortive services, except for the occasional patient who chose to have her 6 week follow-up at the clinic. Most women saw their own doctor. There was absolutely no talk of any kind of mental health help or counseling, because that would have been tantamount to admitting that women suffer emotionally after abortion and Planned Parenthood is always going to deny that.
So Planned Parenthood took the woman’s money, lied about the baby, performed the abortion, and send women home to cope with the aftermath on their own.
What led to Adair leaving the clinic?
I left the clinic for several reasons. First, I had become very disillusioned. I realized that Planned Parenthood was not the feminist place I thought it was. I realized it was racist, classist, and demeaning for women. I also was having terrible nightmares and anxiety attacks. One of my recurring nightmares was me ﬂoating through space in a sea of baby limbs torn from their bodies. In the dream I couldn’t breathe or escape – I would wake up screaming. I couldn’t deal with it emotionally, so I left and I didn’t talk about my experience for over a decade.
Other abortion clinic workers have reported similar nightmares of aborted children. For example, clinic worker Sallie Tisdale, who wrote an article in Harper’s Magazine about abortion work and, to my knowledge, never converted to the pro-life cause, describe nightmares that she had after assisting with abortions:
I have fetus dreams, we all do here: dreams of abortions one after the other; of buckets of blood splashed on the walls; trees full of crawling fetuses. I dreamed that two men grabbed me and began to drag me away, ‘Let’s do an abortion,’ they said with a sickening leer, and I began to scream, plunged into a vision of sucking, scraping pain, of being spread and torn by impartial instruments that do only what they are bidden …
The author of an article profiling abortionist Dr. William Rashbaum (now deceased) who performed over 20,000 abortions in his career, said:
… although Rashbaum felt he was performing a necessary service, it weighed heavily on his conscience. He was troubled by a recurring dream of a fetus trying to hold onto the walls of a uterus by its tiny fingernails. Raised to believe that abortion was wrong, he reasons, “What kind of dreams do you think you are going to have?”
Former clinic worker Jewels Green also described being tormented by nightmares.
It was a decade before Adair would be ready to publicly talk about her experiences working at the clinic. In an article in the National Catholic Register, she describes how Live Action’s investigations were one of the things that prompted her to speak out:
I was present when young girls came in with their abusers and Planned Parenthood performed their abortions. When Live Action came out with their videos, I felt vindicated. I knew it to be true, and they showed it to be true. That allowed me, for the first time, to tell others what I had experienced.
The testimonies of former clinic workers give a glimpse into the workings of abortion clinics and reveal their gruesome realities. As more clinic workers leave, hopefully more will come forward with their stories and their first-hand accounts will encourage people to oppose abortion.
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