Analysis

Former staff at Oregon’s oldest abortion facility recall ambivalent women and ‘fetus’ nightmares

abortion, sexual abuse, planned parenthood abortion clinic

Lovejoy Surgicenter, Oregon’s oldest abortion facility, recently closed. It is scheduled to re-open under different management in March. A book written in 1996, “Lovejoy: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic,” revealed some things about the workings of Lovejoy — and there are striking similarities to other abortion facilities operating today.

One problem Lovejoy experienced was that its head nurses kept quitting. Five head nurses quit within four years. The author wrote:

The job is a difficult one, at least partly because of the nature of the second-floor operation. On certain days as many as 25 first trimester abortions might be scheduled in one operating room… On hectic days nurses complain that the SurgiCenter is trying to squeeze in too many patients.

Former abortion workers have also spoken about this. With an eye towards profit, abortion facilities try to rush women through their abortions to fit in as many as many paying customers as possible.

Women were often late to their appointments:

Women coming in for abortions are often suffering great emotional stress; of those that appear, it is not unusual for half to be late for their appointments, some by as much as two or three hours.

The head nurse must keep the surgical area running efficiently in the face of such unpredictability. At one moment preop, the operating room, and postop can be functioning smoothly and on time. Then six, seven, or eight women will arrive simultaneously for their abortions.

That is when the upstairs stress levels skyrocket, and it helps explain why in spring of 1995 practically all the support personnel upstairs have worked at Lovejoy less than a year.

These women seemed to be ambivalent about getting an abortion. They may have had difficulty making up their minds. Unfortunately, the book reveals that Lovejoy, like many facilities, actively “counseled” women to have abortions. They didn’t send uncertain women home.

Other abortion workers have described the difficulties of retaining employees in the abortion industry.

READ: Former Planned Parenthood managers: We couldn’t find or keep good employees

The author wrote about how Allene Klass, at that time the owner and manager of Lovejoy, viewed the situation:

Allene thinks Lovejoy will inevitably suffer a transient staff … Over the years she has observed a pattern of behavior among [workers] that she calls a syndrome. It starts as a reaction to the patients. The stream of scared and needy women can seem endless, and after a while, the patients themselves become faceless.

The medical assistants, Allene has observed, become complacent, sometimes flippant. The patients wear them down. And when that happens, they lose sight of the one rule that Allene says must always govern their work: that each woman be treated with respect. Many of the assistants quit once they reach that level of exhaustion. Sometimes Allene dismisses them.

Abortion workers have been known to grow callous towards the women coming in for abortions. Women who had abortions have described being on the receiving end of callous behavior by abortion workers, and some former workers have addressed this as well.  Former abortion staff describe rushing women through their abortions like cattle being herded to slaughter.

Another abortion worker, Carye, reflected on staff burnout in the book:

And her thoughts turn to the people who work at Lovejoy, and the revolving door it has become for much of the staff and how little loyalty most of the employees feel toward the place…

Allene keeps such feelings at bay with her conviction that most of Lovejoy’s jobs incorporate an indefinite but very real burnout factor…

Carye experiences a nagging pull at her heart and she immediately recognizes its source. Burnout is not necessarily limited to the lower-level employees. For the first time she feels an inkling of doubt about staying at Lovejoy long-term.

There was another reason for burnout. Both Carye and Allene had nightmares about aborted babies:

A few days ago [Anneke] reported fetuses have begun to invade her dreams. The most consistent dream involves Anneke performing an ultrasound on a patient and seeing a baby bird rather than a fetus in the woman’s uterus. Anneke wondered if the dreams are a sign from her subconscious that she is failing to acknowledge something about her work that disturbs her.

Carye told Anneke that she has had similar recurring dreams for years. In the most vivid, she is walking downtown and spots a fetus on the sidewalk in front of Nordstrom’s. When she casually moves over to look at the fetus, she notices it is early in gestation, maybe 8 weeks, so she picks it up and calmly deposits it in a nearby trashcan.

Other abortion workers have also reported nightmares, as well as emotional breakdowns among the staff of abortion facilities. Abortion workers see the torn-apart body parts of aborted babies regularly. This has an emotional impact on them.

All in all, the book reveals that Lovejoy was a bad place to work and a bad place for women to go.

Source: Peter Korn Lovejoy: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic (New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996) 11-12, 202 – 203, 242 – 243

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