Just three months into my employment, they required that I observe abortion procedures for two days, placing me alongside the doctor to watch and learn so I would be better prepared to talk to patients about the process.
As someone who thought I was being hired for duties at the opposite end of the process, it was surreal to find myself sitting just a few feet from the violent destruction of these babies, their skulls crushed for easier extraction and bodies ripped apart. The babies were anywhere from eight weeks to 24 weeks and six days old in the womb. They had arms, hands, torsos, faces with eyes, noses, and lips. It was devastating.
The attitude of my coworkers before, during, and after the procedures made it so much worse. They joked and laughed and treated women under sedation roughly and with impunity, throwing them in chairs and onto the procedure table, even deriding them while they couldn’t hear anything. At the same time, I was jolted by the sight of flesh flying into a bucket, feeling like the world had turned upside down. There was nothing funny about it.
As I tried to deal with it, I began to reach for the bottle more, even taking a walk down to the liquor store on my breaks to dull the effects of what we were doing. The more I drank, the angrier and darker in mood I became, and the further into depression I fell.
A stray black cat had been found and brought in off the streets to be adopted as our “office pet,” and was set free to roam as it willed, licking our coffee cups, and walking across our keyboards. Superstition aside, not once were we asked if that dirty animal made anybody uncomfortable or was a problem for anyone with allergies. We were a medical facility. How did a filthy alley cat make any sense? Did we really care about who we were serving?
Adding to my growing list of grievances was our managerial staff who demanded that we memorize and use perfectly their specific, personal pronouns. Those who made mistakes got a stern lecture. We walked on eggshells to avoid any confrontation that felt like a personal attack on our character for getting it wrong.
I was miserable. But I think all of us paid in some way to work there, shown by the drinking or weed smoking at some point throughout the day by most of the staff, including management. Pot brownies were occasionally passed around.
Toward the end of my employment, we were all given specially designed bags that read “Make Pu**y Great Again.”They all thought it was hysterical. I thought it was repulsive. It was worse than bad taste; it seemed symptomatic of the disturbed nature of the staff and clinic itself. The nonchalant use of such vulgarity came from a very dark place, taking all that was good about nature and God’s creation and attacked it, turned it upside down, and destroyed it.
I was scrolling through YouTube one day and came across a video of Abby Johnson talking about the horrors she saw as a branch manager for Planned Parenthood. I called her and she got me in contact with a client manager from AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Mattie offered transitional financial aid and therapy. I was shocked by their legitimacy and credibility—they were going to take care of me and see me though an exit from the abortion industry. All I had to do was quit and take that blind leap of faith.
Twice I got right up to the point of walking out…and then backed down. I had four mouths to feed. I was so scared to let go.
When I finally walked away, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE did as they said, helping me pay rent and arranging for specialized counseling with licensed therapists, which was wonderful to have. But the best part was to come. At the healing retreat I attended at no cost to me, I walked in to find I was part of a sisterhood: women who were just like me, who had walked my path, and knew my life like they knew their own. They could finish my sentences. Where I ended, they began. I really did not know how to articulate my own story—I did not process what I had been through until I was free to express it. In fact, the story you have just read only became clear once I came into their presence.
Part of the oppression we experienced was how they controlled our speech, what we could and could not call a baby in the womb, and how we had to address the management and owners, and more. When I found my tribe at the healing retreats, it was like a door opened and a cool breeze flowed in. I could say anything I wanted to women who were eager to hear about every feeling I had and every tragedy I endured.
Just the healing from finding my tribe has changed my life.