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.”