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.