I REMEMBER THE FEELING AS I WALKED OUT OF MY JOB INTERVIEW at a women’s health clinic in Texas; that I was about to join a group of women committed to women’s health. There was an all-for-one feeling running through me and I loved it. Sure, my interviewer mentioned that the clinic did abortions. But she assured me they happened in an adjacent building and that my abilities as a medical assistant would be needed in the main building, only.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
There is a lot to occupy the mind when one starts a new job; getting oriented, learning names and procedures, getting used to the women you work alongside, but by the end of the first week, I recall a strange feeling coming over me that I couldn’t immediately identify. It would take a couple more days for the source of it to come to the fore of my mind. But in the meantime, it started becoming clear that abortion was really our only product. If a woman entered our doors, the clinic encouraged abortion one-hundred percent of the time with no appetite for pushing prevention. When I finally understood that, that is when I started getting clear about that strange feeling I was having. The women—often girls—would come to us with the weight of the world on their shoulders; I could see it in their posture and furled brows. I would try to talk to them; show them some compassion, even if it was just a moment or two to look in their eyes and speak to them like a person who needed help. But that was frowned upon at the clinic. There was no time and definitely no interest in that. “Let’s keep things moving, Claudia,” my manager would say as if I had just done a no-no. Sometimes I could see it in my co-workers’ body language. They were sending me a message. We’re not getting paid more to care and it only slows us down.
It was a cold slap in the face.
I can’t imagine they meant to move me as quickly as they did, but they graduated me from tech work and drawing blood, to prepping the girls with IVs, to turning over the rooms with new bedsheets after a procedure, to transporting the jars with baby parts, to preparing the post-op patients for entering the recovery room, to being the attending MA in the room during procedures…in just a few weeks. It was a lot for someone who had been promised that she was never going to see “that” room when she was hired.
As my eyes began to get clearer about what I was involved with, the truth was that we were in the business of abortion. We weren’t so much a smooth-running machine as we were a poorly running, mistake-addled group that stumbled toward our numbers each day.
In our haste to perform as many abortions as possible, the procedures were scheduled 10 minutes apart in three separate rooms with one doctor going back and forth to each room. The doctors typically had no bedside manner—there simply was no time. In the process, there were four incidents in just a few weeks while I was in the procedure room that I had to call the doctor back as parts of the babies had been left inside and the women were bleeding out. The doctor would run in to suction the patient with all the compassion of a person vacuuming under the cushions of a couch.
I saw things I never wanted to see and witnessed a culture of lying that made my hair stand on end. No matter how serious the girls’ complications, parents were told a party-line story about why it took so long to get the girls out. “We’re so sorry. We’re just really backed up right now.”
I would go home and break down nearly every night. I desperately wanted to go to church but felt that I had no right to be there—God knew the blood on my hands. I ached with guilt.
One day, I was sent the name of an organization that was instrumental in helping abortion workers “heal”—And Then There Were None. At first, I didn’t know why this person contacted me specifically. Looking back on it now, I think anyone who might have seen me could tell working there was taking a sledgehammer to my soul.
At about two months into my time there, I was working the procedure room when a problem arose: the doctor couldn’t find the sutures for a young girl’s ripped perineum. As we frantically searched, the doctor, elderly as he was, got tired of holding the clamps. He then called me to take them. For 20 minutes I held the clamps in place from between the young girl’s legs, a lovely 15-year-old girl who was 20 weeks pregnant and felt myself coming undone. I had wanted to take the job to care for women and draw their blood and smile and touch their hands and pat their shoulders, and now I was at ground zero lending the strength of my hand to yet another death.
I walked out of that room and called Kris at And Then There Were None and she was able to nudge me to a place where I felt strong enough to walk out that door and never look back.
In the weeks that followed, I was lost. The death that I was involved with was paralyzing but the betrayal hit just as hard. The women who hired me as well as those that I worked alongside looked in my eyes and lied to me. They knew where my heart was and what lines I would not cross, and they forced me past them for their own greed. I was suddenly a woman without another woman to trust. It was a terrible feeling.
But my client manager Karen and the team at And Then There Were None kept calling me back and finally got through to me that they wanted nothing from me, just the opportunity to love me into healing. They told me about the forgiveness found in Jesus and God’s never-ending grace. They even helped me financially and provided my family a wonderful Christmas.
And Then There Were None has restored my ability to trust. It feels so good. I’m still healing but I’m smiling freely now. After what I went through, that was never a given.