Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Facing the Brutal Reality

How many women did I counsel for second-trimester abortions? I can't even remember. Second-trimester abortions at the clinic where I worked were common place, usually a few were done every two weeks. Abortions were performed up until 23 weeks 6 days. (First-trimester abortions up until 13w6d were done daily.) My training as a counselor consisted of shadowing a more experienced counselor for one session. I assumed it would be lengthy, as I was sure we would be talking to the woman about options. I was wrong. The counseling for the two-day procedure was exactly the same as for earlier abortions.

We went over her medical history form, we took her blood pressure and pulse. We described the abortion procedure:

Today the doctor will insert some laminaria into your cervix to expand it overnight. You may feel some cramping tonight as it expands. Tomorrow you will come in and the doctor will remove the laminaria and then gently extract the contents of the uterus. You will go to the recovery room for awhile and then you'll be fine to go home. You'll need to follow yo with your doctor in six weeks.

That was it. And I believed it. I was also working as a medical assistant, so I thought that it would happen exactly as a first-trimester abortion. The doctor would use a curette to scrape the uterus. A cannula would be inserted and the baby would be sucked out of the womb. As horrific as that is, I had psychologically become numb to it.

The options counseling was also exactly what we offered in a first-trimester abortion. "You know you could continue the pregnancy or have an adoption plan, right?"
That was it.

The long counseling session I expected was very much the same as every counseling session I had been doing for months. The only reason I had to be "trained" was so that I used the correct wording and terminology. We didn't talk about fetal development. We didn't ask why she washaving the abortion. We didn't care. "My body, my choice." It was none of our business why she was having the abortion.

There were two medical assistants who would work the second-trimester abortions. Just like in a first-trimester abortion, they were there to bring the patient into the procedure room, get her on the table, feet in stirrups, and hold her hand and soothe her during the abortion. After the abortion was over, they would bring her to the recovery room and head back to the procedure room to clean it up.

On one particularly busy day at the clinic, I was asked to clean up after a second-trimester abortion because one of the assistants was out sick. I was one of the senior assistants at this point so the job fell to me. I walked back toward the procedure room - it was in the back of the clinic past the abortion rooms, the nurses station and the recovery room. It seemed to me that it got very quiet as I got closer. As I entered the room, I glanced around trying to get my bearings. I looked at the table next to me and I saw a glass jar. In a sickening moment I realized that inside the jar were the arms and legs of a baby. For what seemed like an eternity, I stared at them, marveling in their beautiful perfection and repelled by the gruesome reality that they had been torn from the body of an unborn baby just moments before. I backed out of the room, shocked and dazed by what I had seen.

I don't know why this shocked me. I had seen the parts of babies hundreds of times after first- trimester abortions and it hadn't affected me in this way. Maybe it was the large size. Maybe it was God removing the scales from my eyes. I don't know. I began having terrible nightmares. I was anxious, and I was depressed. I finally left the clinic a few months later. I didn't tell anyone what I had seen in that room for over 10 years.

I always wondered why the arms and legs had been left behind in the room that day. I thought maybe the nurse had just forgotten them. But now I think I know. The rest of the baby must have been more useful than the arms and legs. Perhaps they were able to get an intact calvarium. Perhaps they had managed to extract the whole liver. Perhaps there was a special procedure for harvesting the organs directly after the abortion.

For many of us, the former clinic workers and post-abortive women, the recent videos of Planned Parenthood executives are a nightmare. Reliving the horror of our abortions, reliving the gruesome work of the clinic, we feel alone. Who can understand our pain? We can't even comprehend it. The callousness of those profiting from our pain is sickening, almost too much to bear. It is compounded when the media refuses to investigate the truth of what we see on those videos. It is compounded when the supporters of Planned Parenthood call us liars.

I don't know what will become of Planned Parenthood after the publication of these sordid videos. Protected by the mainstream media and in bed with the White House, I am not particularly optimistic. What I do know is that we never told women what to expect during their abortion and we never followed up with them afterwards. Planned Parenthood carefully lies to women to convince them to abort their babies. They have crafted a wonderful pro-woman fascade that many people support. They are friends with powerful people.

The only thing that helps is being able to proclaim the truth. Abortion hurts women. Abortion kills children. The abortion industry is profit-driven. I pray that more people will have their eyes opened to the sordid truth of a Planned Parenthood. Because as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people to not kill each other? Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

Friday, January 30, 2015


  1. feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).
  1. a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done.

"I regret my abortion" is a sign you will see at many March for Life rallies. The brainchild of the Silent No More Awareness campaign, the signs do more for post-abortive women than just being a soundbite. Post-abortive women are given dignity, a voice, a means to participate in the public sphere, negatiing the popular notion that women don't regret their abortions. I have always admired their courage as they put their pain out in public, vulnerable but refusing to be silenced.

I could easily hold one of those signs, having aborted my child when I was much younger, but I haven't. I haven't been able to bring myself to join those brave women, not wanting to put myself, a former clinic worker, in their circle. Who was I to be amongst them, a reminder of those who caused them so much pain? I regret my abortion deeply, but what about the thousands of children I helped to their deaths? What about the thousands of mothers I had lied to?

This year God intervened. I was asked to hold a sign saying "I regret providing abortions." I can do that, I thought. Public repentance is a good path to healing. I would march with several friends carrying their "I regret my abortion" signs, and the thought of being with them brought me great comfort. (I also was marching with a wonderful friend, Jewels Green, who is also a former clinic worker.) I didn't know that these women would be the ones to help me to overcome a huge barrier to my own healing. The night before the March I picked up my sign and met several post-abortive women who would be marching. They asked me about my sign and as I told them my story, several of them began to cry. They asked about my own child, and I explained to them I didn't like to talk about it with them because I didn't want to be an obstacle to their healing. One of them hugged me and said, "Catherine, you don't have to take that on for us. You have the right to grieve your abortion." In that moment, that moment of tenderness and compassion, I felt grace. I felt God's love for me working through this woman. A huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders.

My beautiful and brave friend, Brice Griffin, with her daughter, giving their testimony about how painful Brice's past abortion has been for both of them.

I knew that part of the problem was also that I was angry at the people involved in my abortion. I was angry at the counselor, the nurse, and especially the doctor...even though I pray for clinic workers everyday, even though I was one of them, I was still angry.

Even working in the clinic, I felt uncomfortable around the doctors. They were so cold, so impersonable, so....mechanical in their work. I dreaded having to work in the procedure room with them. I've tried hard to pray for the doctors working in the abortion industry over the past few years and the best I could do was to pray for EVERYBODY working in abortion clinics. I couldn't bring myself to pray for the doctors specifically.

At my side at the March was a former abortion doctor, Dr. Anthony Levatino. I had met Dr. Levatino at a conference we had both spoken at two years ago, but I still felt apart from him - not willing to get past what he had done to babies. This time, we were positioned next to one another at the start of the March. Our group was slated to slide into the March right after the first group started moving - (if you have ever been to a march with 650,000 you know how intense it is as everyone behind you surges forward - it is very easy to get pushed back in the crowd and lose your group). I asked Dr. Levatino if I could hold the edge of his coat so as not to get lost. He offered his arm and we started the March arm in arm. In that moment of taking his arm, God showed me the human connection. He gave me the grace to know this man was redeemed, as I am, and forgiven. He gave me the grace to feel love for this man, a man of incredible courage holding a sign "I regret performing abortions" in a sea of dedicated prolifers. I had to hold back the tears as we marched, so grateful that God had given me the opportunity to make a human connection with such a grace-filled man.
Dr. Levatino with Janet Morana of Silent No More at the Supreme Court steps.

Saying that I "regret" my abortion and providing abortions does not mean that I do not know I am forgiven by God. To the contrary, it is the courage that God has given me to let go of shame and self-loathing that allows me to tell the world how much I regret what I did. Do I feel sad at times? Yes. Do I feel disappointed? Yes. Do I feel repentance? YES. At the same time, I feel the mercy of God. His divine and tender love for me has set me free to tell the truth. I am grateful to everybody at Silent No More and Priests for Life for giving me this opportunity. Along the March, many people came up to me and hugged me, thanked me for being there and encouraging me. I even had one person stop me and say "me too" before continuing on her way.

Giving my testimony with Fr. Frank Pavone after the March.

At the steps of the Supreme Court, I was able to give a brief testimony to all of those gathered at the place where abortion was legalized in our country 42 years ago. I was able to speak to prolifers and proabortion protestors alike, speaking the truth about working in the clinic and about my regret for having provided abortions. I left the March knowing that my life was forever changed. Even though I have been speaking about my story for several years, God sent me a few workers in the vineyard to touch my heart and let me know He is always with me. I am truly grateful to everyone who has supported me and given me so much love.

With my dear friend, Jewels Green, after the March.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There is a video making the rounds of a young woman who filmed her abortion so that people can see there is such a thing as a "positive abortion experience." I am not going to repost it because it is an utter fabrication of the woman's actual experience. Did it really happen? Possibly. Does it depict her actual experience? Partly. Does it show the reality of the aborted baby? Of course not.

This video is heavily edited, obviously, and all the players knew they were being videotaped. The video is only of the young woman's face, shot from above and behind her, so we never actually see her expression while the abortion is happening. We don't see what is actually happening during the abortion as the camera is aimed steady on her face.

But I think what is missing is the woman seeing the "pregnancy" after the abortion. She doesn't have to look at the pieces of her child floating around in the bloody mess, somebody else will do that for her. She doesn't have to pour the baby parts into the bag afterward, someone else will do that for her. Someone else will have nightmares for her, while she goes on pretending she didn't kill her own child.

For now, she will revel in the applause from the proabortion world she lives in, she will absorb the admiration she receives for pushing the boundaries and upholding the party-line. She has surrounded herself with people who believe what she is doing is good and noble, and she will believe it.

But when she is alone, she won't be able to escape the reality that she killed that baby she saw on the sonogram. The "what if's?" will creep in, and she will push them away. She will never say anything because she will not allow herself to grieve. She will be in pain, and she will suffer - alone. She will never betray the mantra that there are no feelings after abortion other than relief. To betray that would be to betray her deepest held beliefs.

When the day comes when she can no longer hold in the pain and needs to grieve, I hope she knows there are people to help her. We have been there too, and we want to help. She is no different than any other woman who has been deceived that abortion is the answer to a problem. She doesn't know it, but her problems are just beginning. Please pray for this woman and her baby.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

        "This adoption is irrevocable." With those words the judge pounded his desk and declared to the world that we were now the legal parents of a girl we had taken into our hearts and home almost two years prior. Nothing could have prepared us for the joy that we felt at that moment, as we became parents for the fifth time, this time by way of adoption.
        I am the last person I ever thought would adopt a child. I didn't even want children after my abortion over 20 years ago. I felt unworthy of being a mother. After working in an abortion clinic, where I participated in thousands of first and second trimester abortions, I was determined not to have children. But here I was, married with children, being asked to help a young mother and her baby, and I knew God wanted us to say "yes" to this child.
         We became involved in Ava's life simply to help her parents, who were struggling to care for her. She was only seven weeks old. An acquaintance's daughter was going to be entering drug treatment and we were asked to take the baby for 90 days. DCF was already involved as the baby had been born early and drug-addicted. We had no idea we would be adopting her almost two years later.      I cried the first time I saw Ava. She had been neglected and was so tiny, she still looked like a newborn. She cried a lot and was difficult to comfort. My usual ways of calming babies didn't seem to comfort her. She screamed hideously and thrashed in her crib. She was more easily startled than any baby I had cared for. This went on for months. Her intense screaming during the night left us frazzled and stressed out, wondering why she couldn't settle.
        Visits from social workers became part of our regular schedule, while visits with her Mom and Dad were sporadic. We hoped that her mother would take advantage of the help being offered to her, but the difficulties in her life seemed to make it impossible. She loved her daughter, but deep down inside I think she knew she couldn't parent her.
        After about 18 months, the courts decided that they would terminate the parental rights of Ava's birth parents. The plan then shifted from reunification to adoption, and the choice to adopt Ava was an easy one. By then she was calling us Mama and Dada, we thought of her as our daughter, and our four other children and extended family were besotted with her. We couldn't imagine life without her. It took another six months, but just after her second birthday, on National Adoption Day a few weeks ago, we were officially a family of seven.
        I know that we would not have adopted our daughter if we were not prolife. Being prolife has shown us that we are to do everything God asks of us, even taking in the children of others. Since joining the prolife movement about four years ago, I have been astonished by the lengths people go to in order to hep mothers and children. Adoption, fostering, and helping mothers in need is much more prevalent amongst my prolife friends than in my former prochoice world. When I worked at Planned Parenthood, there was no empathy for the child and no kindness toward a mother wanting to give birth to her child. Abortion was seen as the responsible choice for poor women, drug addicted women and victims of abuse.
       Forced birthers, fetus fetishers, women haters - all prolifers have had these words slung at them at some point. "You don't care about babies after they are born," the claim, "you only want to control women and force them to have babies." This rhetoric from proabortionists is a common refrain. I believed all of it when I worked for Planned Parenthood. I believed the lie of "every child a wanted child." I thought abortion was a responsible choice. I didn't understand that a child's worth wasn't determined by a mother's choice. I now understand that every life, every child in the womb, has inherent worth and dignity that comes from God. I am grateful and humbled that He chose our family as Ava's forever family.

We are now a family of seven.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dear Cinic Escort

Dear Clinic Escort,

Today I saw you, with your bright orange vest emblazoned with ESCORT on the front and back. You refused to make eye contact with me. I saw your gritty determination as you grabbed arms with that young woman and whispered in her ear, "Ignore them," you said, "Don't look at them, they are here to intimidate you, to scare you. I'll keep you safe, don't worry." You walked quickly, head up, steel in your eyes, never letting up your grip on her arm. Her head was down, following your lead, mutely keeping up with your fast trot to the abortionist.

You ushered her in through the doors and soon emerged, alone, smiling at us triumphantly, a glimmer of malice in your eye, a smirk of arrogance and joy at having bested us - another woman you saved from the anti-choice fanatics. You rejoin the other escorts, laughing and joking, until the next car pulls up, and your face resumes the mask of the militant soldier, ready to do battle for women's reproductive rights.

As I watched you I wondered, have you ever been inside the clinic? Have you ever been in the waiting room, filled with the silence of trepidation and fear? Have you listened to the stifled tears?

Have you ever been in the counseling room? This place, where instead of asking questions and listening, the worker masks the truth, or outright lies about the third life in the room, the life growing inside the woman's womb? Have you seen her sad and scared eyes? Have you asked her why she is there? Do you know if she is being pressured or forced into this abortion, if she is safe at home...all the questions she won't be asked inside the clinic? Does she know about all of the help available to her if she keeps the baby? Does she know how many couples would love to adopt her baby?

My dear Clinic Escort, have you been there for the ultrasound, where you can see the fully formed baby kicking its arms and legs? Have you heard the worker tell her it is just a bunch of cells? A blob? A product of conception? Have you been with her, holding her hand as she screams in pain, ignored by a doctor who doesn't even know her name? Have you heard the suction machine, watch as the blood, tissue, and body parts flow from her body into a cold jar? Have you heard the sound of the currette scraping her uterus? Have you seen the body parts - an arm, a leg, a piece of a rib cage, poured into a baggie as though it were scraps of meat?

Have you sat with her in the recovery room as she stares off into space, desperate to get away from this place so she never has to think of it again? Have you been with her through the depression and the anxiety that plague her after the abortion? The breakup of her relationship? Have you helped her through her drug addiction, her binge drinking? Have you been there when she is unable to bond with her children? When her marriage falls apart? Will you be there when she attempts suicide? Will you be at her funeral when she succeeds?

Dear Clinic Escort, look into my eyes. They have seen things you could never imagine. Things that have made me scream in the middle of the night. Things that are never discussed in the intellectualized, feminist world of abortion rights. Because while you see a job well done when you usher her through those doors, her nightmare is just beginning.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Novus Ordo

Being so blessed as to be able to attend the Latin Mass every Sunday, there are times that we are forced to attend the Novus Ordo Mass. Now, lest anyone think otherwise, I am not one of those who believes the N.O. is not a legitimate Mass. But every time I attend one, there are so many things that make me profoundly sad. The lack of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, the chatter during the Eucharist, the lack of opportunity for personal prayer - all of these truly break my heart. But there are a few things that I hope change very soon.

1. Please put the tabernacle back where it belongs - front and center of the altar.
Why is Jesus, our Lord and Savior, relegated to the corner of the altar? In some parishes, it is almost impossible to find. Why are we genuflecting to the altar if He is not present? I venture to guess that many Catholics don't even know what the tabernacle is or what it contains.
 In other words, notice the difference?

2. The sign of peace.

This part of the Mass is completely at the discretion of the priest, and I hope it will gradually fade away. Why you ask? Because contrary to popular belief, the Mass is not where we go to feel good about ourselves. We adore the Lord, we thank Him, we ask Him forgiveness and mercy, we worship Him, and we receive Him in the most Blessed Sacrament. The sign of peace is an unnecessary act designed to make us feel part of the Mass, but all it does is create great disruption and take away the focus from the fact that the Lord is on the altar, where we will go to receive Him with great reverence and awe. This should be a time of deep prayer and personal contemplation, not handshakes, backslaps and small talk. I always try to sit in the back row of a Novus Ordo mass because I refuse to turn my back on my Lord, present on the altar.

3. Bring back the altar rail!

I honestly can't say enough about the importance of bringing back the reverence for the Eucharist. How terrible it is to see people talking and laughing their way up the aisle, taking our Lord in their hands, and then rushing out the back of the Church. What a sacrilege! I have even seen people reach in to grab a host and then shove it in their mouth like last night's cupcake. Why do the bishops not put a stop to this? The altar rail forces one to receive kneeling, and on the tongue, and perhaps can bring some dignity back to the free-for-all one sees at so many masses.

4. Get the band off the altar.

Folk music, guitar music, praise and worship bands - I've seen and heard it all. This unfortunate custom also comes out of the "entertain me so I feel a part of it all" mentality that has pervaded many parishes. It doesn't matter how lovely the music is, it doesn't belong on the altar. Ever. It belongs in the choir loft.

I certainly don't expect N.O. parishes to start incorporating Gregorian chant, although I hope someday they do, but certainly a sense of the sacred should be maintained with all music chosen for the Mass.

5. Quiet prayer at the end of mass? I don't think so.

I've yet to attend a N.O. mass where it is at all possible to pray after the recessional hymn. It seems as though as soon as the priest leaves the Church, that is the cue to either stampede out or start talking loudly. Why is that? Why not wait until you leave the Church to start chatting and laughing? Or even better, eliminate the recessional altogether. That way those who would like to pray after mass can pray, and those that want to chat can head out of the Church.

I hope I don't sound picky or snobby, in this day and age of generations of poorly catechized Catholics, I believe a return to the sense of the sacredness of the Mass will bring many people back to their faith, and will lead others to want to learn more about it. And let's face it, Jesus deserves the best of us, especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where I am encouraged to sterilize myself.

Here is where I make my big announcement- we're having a baby! Our due date is February 3rd and we couldn't be happier. Of course, we know to expect the usual reactions - Are you crazy? Another one? Aren't you done yet? Can you afford another one? Was this an oops? Are you crazy?

Needless to say, we've had all these reactions and born them patiently. We are fully aware we are out of the mainstream in our thinking. Our culture is one that believes one plans children, you decide how many to have, and then you're done. Two children is perfect, three is okay, four is unconventional to say the least, and any more than that is just plain weird.

But we just smile, secure in our faith and the teachings of the Church. We have not always been open to life, hence the gaps in our children's ages, but since our conversion to the Church, we understand and embrace the beauty of God's plan for marriage. We do not use NFP, as we have no reason to do so, and we embrace this new life with whole-hearted love.

Of course, in our society we are the crazy ones. We are told that contraception frees women from the enslavement of motherhood, allows her a baby-free sex life, and grants her equality with men. But at what price? From what I can see, contraception has enslaved women. Never before have we been so objectified and demeaned. Instead of equality, we have been used and discarded. Our feminine uniqueness, our life-giving power, has been sneered at and diminished As though it were worthless.

So here I am, 43 years old, naked under a paper johnny, excited for my first appointment with my OB. She comes in, we talk a bit about my health history. She mentions that she would recommend a C-section, which I am fine with, and then she goes on to say that she can do a tubal ligation while she is in there, if this is the last baby I want to have. I was shocked and horrified. No, I mumbled, I wouldn't be interested in that. She then proceeds to mention my age and the fact that pregnancy is more dangerous with age, and since I won't use artificial contraception I should really figure something out.

What do you say to something like that? Do you quote from Theology of the Body? Refer her to Humanae Vitae? No, you mumble something resembling agreement and inwardly try not to be filled with sadness and disappointment that this joyful moment has been ruined for you.

A good friend mentioned that the doctor was just trying to help, as it is a lot better to have oneself sterilized during a C-section than separately. She is right, of course. It would make sense to have it done then, and in our fertility-fixing crazed medical community, I wouldn't expect the doctor to think differently. But it made me profoundly sad and I couldn't put my finger on why. But when I posted about my experience on a Catholic women's online group, the outpouring of emotion from other women made it obvious. The pressure on these women to abort, to contracept and to render themselves infertile through tubal ligations is OVERWHELMING, is CONSISTENT, and is the NORM. It is not isolated! And under the new healthcare mandates it will only get worse.<\P>

I feel most sorry for women who don't have the conviction of faith to withstand the pressure. I can't imagine being deprived of my natural fertility. Nature will take care of that in time. Until then, I will embrace the gift God has given me.

Needless to say, I switched doctors. I went to an amazing it turns out there is a Catholic doctor practicing in the same building! I have an appointment next week. I am so happy I can see a doctor who will celebrate his new life and this old lady! I just wish there were more like him.