Adrienne with Dave Franco
PERHAPS YOU’VE HEARD THE FABLE: If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out; but if you put a frog in a pot of tepid water and gradually heat it, the frog will complacently let itself be boiled to death.
That is the only way I can make sense of my time working for Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor serving a life sentence plus 30 years for atrocities done to late-term infants. The dark cloud that rose up over all that I did as I assisted him moved gradually—so gradually that I couldn’t quite see it for what it was and couldn’t feel the weight or the horror of my actions.
I had been grafted into the Gosnell family. I was good pals with his niece in high school, and together we did small jobs in “Uncle Kermit’s” medical office. When my life started breaking down, the doctor and his wife, Pearl, let me come live with them. Years later when I was divorced, broke, broken, and facing homelessness, they came to my rescue by giving me a job (all payment to me was under the table) in their medical practice. For someone with only a high school diploma and very few options in life, I was beyond grateful to the Gosnells. In my book, they could do no wrong.
At first, the job that I had been given included administrative duties plus the cleaning and sterilization of medical instruments. After doing that for some time, Dr. Gosnell asked me if I wanted to make more money by working the ultrasound machine—without formal training—while he performed first trimester abortions through 12 weeks gestation. I thought, well, as long as it’s just the first trimester.
After doing that for a while, he then asked me to assist him with aborting babies in the second trimester. Dr. Gosnell had been so good to me I thought I should give it a try. The first few babies that he aborted while I worked the ultrasound machine were just 13 weeks old—hardly noticeably larger.
Soon, however, I was being asked to be in the procedure room for later and later term abortions, and that is where most people might start to question how I came to allow myself to do it. But the doctor, besides being my mentor, my de facto family, and the savior of my daughter, knew what he was doing. He knew the more he gradually changed the picture and upped the ante, the less I would notice—the less I would feel.
That is why when Dr. Gosnell, who I trusted with my life, started aborting babies 24 weeks old and up, I followed his lead and assisted him, even if he was doing something to them that was unspeakable. As I tried to keep my job, provide for my daughter, and be good to the one person who had been so good to me, at least part of my spirit was able to look away.
That was, until I walked briskly into the procedure room one day to begin prepping for an ultrasound, and as I did, I came face to face with a 29-week old baby (at least that is what was written down; he looked more like 36 weeks) who was all alone. The baby had miscarried from the womb of a 17-year-old girl after we induced her with Cytotec. My two co-workers had left the baby boy there in a dish for which he was too big. His large hands, feet and shoulders were extending out over the edges of the dish. He made me gasp. I looked at his serene little face; he seemed to be asleep. His large, fully formed body caused me to feel something I hadn’t before—sorrow. I took a picture, laid a cloth over him, and prayed for him. I knew what was going to happen to him next, just as soon as Dr. Gosnell entered the room. A gallon jug in the freezer awaited him and the doctor never put complete, whole babies in jugs.
Horrified and suddenly with new eyes that could see what was being done—and what I was a part of—I ran out of there. I was trying to get away, but that was ridiculous. The baby in the dish simply wouldn’t leave me.
After that day, my personality went dark. I lost something…or I was filled with something; I don’t know which. I found myself not wanting to talk to anybody. I was particularly guarded, as if my soul had finally seen too much. It made all chit chat seem preposterous. And it was my darkened personality that ultimately got me into trouble. Pearl Gosnell, who came into the office frequently, was used to being treated with a certain reverence. But whereas I used to be the first one to give it to her for all she had done for me, I could no longer. And she did not like that.
Drama ensued and it got so thick and ugly that I saw it as my opportunity to get out of there. Without a backup plan and feeling like my heart was coming apart, I simply walked out one day.
While it may sound as though I was free of Dr. Gosnell, I knew I wasn’t. Guilt from what I had done and confusion over how a good girl raised in the church could let herself be a part of it crushed me and broke me down daily. Two years later, Dr. Gosnell’s office was raided by the FBI and he was taken into custody. I knew I was next.
When the FBI came to my home, it wasn’t a frenetic, panicky situation. I was actually quite calm. I actually had a bit of eagerness to be taken in; I was ready to get this pressure off my chest. As soon as I had the chance, I confessed to everything.
Convicted of multiple murders in the first degree and manslaughter of a patient, Dr. Gosnell, who had performed 16,000 abortions including many late-term, got life without parole plus 30 years and has become known as the worst serial killer in American history. In the organizational chart of the practice, I was listed as his number two. I was convicted of third-degree murder and was facing 140 years in prison, but was given a sentence of time served (28 months) plus three years of probation. It was enough time for some of the fog to clear away and for me to see the evil of my own actions.
When I was released, I was set free, but only from the prison walls. I was still reeling from what I had done. I called a prolife organization to get some help, but when they heard my story, they felt I was a little too much to handle. They gave me the number of Abby Johnson at AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.
She talked to me so kindly and compassionately it almost seemed like I was immediately loved and accepted. It turned out that I was.
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE took me in and loved me, with Abby making it clear that she didn’t see much difference between their lives and mine, according to Scripture. All sin is redeemable by the work of Jesus on the cross, she said. It was the most powerful thing I had ever heard.
In addition, Abby knew that people who did what I did and saw what I saw rarely survive it. So, for the last two and half years, I have worked closely with Amanda, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE’S on-staff licensed clinical therapist. I have been given financial and spiritual help and the blessing of hours and hours of prayer time for and with me. I can’t imagine trying to heal without it.
Just as importantly, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE has led me back into that room to look at that little boy’s face and body again, to take him under my wing, as it were, and care for him as a symbol of penance to all the children whose deaths I contributed to. I have had to write letters to him and have made and keep a memorial to him in my home. After all this time, he is still with me.
I am different today. I have a good job. I am in school studying to be a pastoral counselor. I am devoted to Jesus and sing in the choir at my church. I speak about my story to groups and pray that it can bring women out of the abortion industry and find hope and healing. While I am happy for where I am now, my sin has left scars that still make me erupt in tears on a regular basis. But I know I am on the path to healing and finding my purpose in all of this. It, too, is gradual.