*Note: The stories shared by And Then There Were None about the courageous Quitters of the abortion industry are deep, personal, and sometimes very raw testimonials of the lives of those who have worked behind the scenes of abortion and have come out on the other side, often wounded, but nevertheless triumphant. We begin this year with a diversion from the norm by honoring Sue Thayer.
Sue would be the first to say that the hero of her story isn’t Sue, that she wasn’t even a hero at all. After working for Planned Parenthood for 18 years, she would straightforwardly state her culpability in the loss of thousands of lives. It would be enough to bring anyone to their knees and slink back in shame. The plain-spoken admission of sin was not wrought from pride, however; her forthcoming nature magnified the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the hero of Sue’s story, and she wouldn’t want it any other way.
Sue’s experience of home and family growing up was less than idyllic, and while raised in the church the distractions of family dysfunction did not foster an understanding of fatherly love from a seemingly distant God.
The vacancy left room for questions unanswered, but Sue continued searching and found a home in a nondenominational Christian church. She began building a life and a family with her husband. They loved their lakeside home and raising their two beautiful daughters.
When interviewed for an entry-level position in 1991 with Planned Parenthood at a facility that did not perform abortions, she accepted the position with the understanding that she would never be directly involved with abortion procedures but would just work in family planning. After all, surgical abortions were being performed over an hour away. The only time she would ever have to see the procedures was at a shadow training to understand how they are done, and once that was over, she could go back to her own clinic and work on making abortion safe, legal, and RARE. Sue wanted to help women.
Sue’s professionalism and work ethic quickly advanced her to the position of center manager at her clinic in Storm Lake, Iowa—after only a few months of employment. Conflicting feelings about her company’s increasing demand for higher abortion numbers begged the question, though. Sue wondered if they were really helping women if constantly being asked to increase her clinic’s abortion referrals.
Sue took these questions about the ethics and morality of abortion (and whether or not God approved) to her church leadership. The response was a mixed message about supporting a woman’s right to choose and not on the target of the procedures. Abortion was simply a necessary solution for insurmountable circumstances.
Planned Parenthood also trained Sue and her staff to never use the words ‘baby’ or ‘fetus’. The baby in question was simply tissue or cells. Perhaps that made it easier to focus on helping women improve their lives, and if abortion was part of that equation, so be it. Far from here. Hands washed clean of guilt and move on. Nothing more to see or to say.
Thus, Sue carried on in this fashion during her 17-year tenure with Planned Parenthood, allowing a layer of scale to build over her eyes and mute any prodding in her heart about abortion. While some things didn’t add up, like the double dipping of funds by buying contraceptives in bulk, marking up the price,
and billing Medicaid would raise an eyebrow, Sue had to look the other way. The pay was excellent, and the benefits were unbeatable. These assets would become especially vital to her and her girls and foster children when the peace in her home was broken by a betrayal that ended her marriage and disrupted relationships within her church.
Not to be defeated, Sue marched on with the remnant of her family with the courage of a newly single mother to a new church. Upon learning of her involvement with the abortion industry, the reaction was a cold, slamming door in her face.
Work tensions also began to increase in 2008 when it was announced that her clinic was to begin medication abortions. There would be no doctor present for these procedures. There would be no licensed medical staff on-site to perform the required transvaginal ultrasounds prior to the dispensation of the medication. A one-day training was supposed to be legally sufficient to train her staff to use the invasive ultrasound probes on vulnerable, trusting women. After scanning the sonogram images to the off-site doctor who would determine the gestational age of the ‘tissue’, the doctor would briefly provide instructions virtually over a webcam, press a button, and a drawer would open before the woman with two sets of pills. The first series would be swallowed right there in the clinic, and the second set would be taken at home. No further action or follow-up needed; the woman’s uterus would naturally empty in the comfort of her home.
Sue immediately recognized a number of problems with this new protocol imposed on her family planning clinic. First of all, abortion had been presented by the lobbyists to be “a decision between a woman and her doctor.” Where was the doctor?! Secondly, a one-day training was not enough to certify an ultrasound technician to recognize any possible dangers to the patient before, during, or after the medication was taken. Perhaps most importantly, women from all over rural Iowa came to their clinic for services. What would happen if they hemorrhaged at home, far from emergency care or ambulance services? Not to mention the lack of screenings for Rh factor or bleeding disorders. No. Planned Parenthood had gone too far. There was no way that this could be good for women.
But the bottom line was just too tempting for Planned Parenthood—with such a low overhead cost for webcam medication abortions, women were cash cows. Let them get pregnant and herd them in.
The women might have been fooled into taking this supposedly “natural, safe” medication procedure, but they were furious when they returned to the clinic with a plastic bag in hand containing their fully intact babies. “You didn’t tell us it was a baby. You didn’t tell us we would see it,” they would say.
Unknown psychological assault was being committed without any historical data in the rushed approval of medication abortion regimen. It was too much.
Sue blew the whistle internally and was not thanked for it by the abortion industry. She was fired from Planned Parenthood in 2008.
This time, Sue looked for love in all the right places. She was welcomed into a church who recognized a fellow sinner in need of a Savior. They welcomed her with open arms and loving hearts who gently encouraged her to listen to the still, small voice she had ignored for so long. She met a new friend and ally named Jenifer Bowen, the director of Iowa Right to Life, who walked alongside Sue and introduced her to Alliance Defending Freedom.
In 2009, Abby Johnson spoke at an event at the Iowa State Capitol, and it was there that someone pulled her aside, handed her a phone, and told her there was someone she needed to speak with. The voice on the other line was Sue’s, and she told Abby her story. She was the first former abortion worker Abby had ever talked to, and their camaraderie was instant. Sue attended the first healing retreat that And Then There Were None hosted. She bonded instantly with other Quitters and a tribe was formed.
With her admission of participation in grave sin and acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, Sue was a new creation. Yet she bantered back and forth with God—settling in peaceful resolve to lead a 40 Days for Life campaign in front of the very clinic she managed for almost 18 years. Once that decision was made in communication with the Lord, she donned the spiritual armor of God and never looked back.
That clinic closed the following year in 2012.
Repentance for the commoditization of thousands of unborn children prompted Sue even further. Changing her mind about abortion wasn’t enough. There were wrongs that needed to be made right. Knowing that there would be hell to pay and possible self-incrimination, Sue resolved to bring the darkness of Planned Parenthood to light. It was time to expose Planned Parenthood for fraudulent Medicaid billing with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom. Whatever happened, the Lord would take care of her and her children. It was the right thing to do.
In the years that followed, Sue was an unstoppable force in the prolife movement. Described by friends as having an internal nuclear power plant, she drew her energy and strength from Jesus Christ. She never stopped to pass blame on those who hurt her; she accepted responsibility for her own decisions and let the Lord fill the void in every empty space left by wounds and broken relationships. He was more than enough, and she overflowed with His love.
Unfettered by Christ, she fostered over 130 children and adopted three of them as her own. She served as the Director of Outreach for 40 Days for Life, encouraging vigil leaders and participants all over the world to be conduits of love on the sidewalk in front of abortion facilities. She traveled all over the world speaking about her experiences and the bottomless mercy of God, while taking many of these excursions on the road in order to bring her children along as much as possible for the adventure. Sue never paused motherhood for her fatherless children—their heavenly Father stood in the gap.
In the latter half of 2021, Sue battled an aggressive form of kidney cancer, all the while continuing to work and pray to see an end to the unnecessary end of innocent lives and onslaught of motherhood. With her children surrounding her, she passed peacefully into the arms of Christ in her home on December 21, 2021.
And Then There Were None and our tribe of Quitters will miss Sue’s physical presence, but as Sue said in her own words: “This isn’t goodbye; this is ‘see you in a little bit’ as long as you love the Lord.”
If you haven’t met Him yet, don’t walk; RUN to the foot of the cross. We’ll be here waiting for you, cheering you on every step of the way.
A few words from fellow Quitters about Sue Thayer:
“Sue was a treasure, and still is, I’ll wager. She is likely organizing all the little souls up there into Her List and My list and explaining to them how much they are loved down here.
I met Sue at the very first retreat Abby held, at a retreat in Texas. I was very uneasy. My husband knew where I was going, but I had not yet been able to tell my three teen daughters about my sorry past. Father Frank Pavone was one of the facilitators, along with Father Terry Gensemer. I used to listen to Father Frank’s prolife “minutes” on the radio and was awestruck to see him there. It was scary and depressing to be there. Just five of us. All were, and are, precious to me, but Sue and I formed a bond pretty quickly…close in age, both originally from the Midwest. I could count on one hand the number of people who knew my sordid past. It was a relief, but also painful to know there were others like me. Abby was a rockstar of course, but I just felt like a fraud. I certainly did not feel I deserved this roundtrip flight and weekend at this beautiful place. I had asked forgiveness from Jesus but couldn’t really ACCEPT it. Sue was a good guide for me, very matter of fact about her salvation. I didn’t realize that retreat was helping me build a castle of security, a group of women who truly “got it” even though I still struggle with forgiving myself. My friendship with her was a priceless gift. Sue didn’t just talk the talk about the prolife cause, she walked it. First fostered, then adopted three kids, besides her own two adult daughters. Four years ago, all of Bill and my daughters decided to get married within 6 months. The last one to be married wanted a good videographer for her wedding, and Sue told me her son had started a business. They drove all the way down from Iowa to OKC to film it. It was so fun to see Sue. After she started working for 40 Days, she occasionally would come to Oklahoma for a rally, and we always tried to get together. We walked together at one of the March for Life events. I will miss her dearly. A life well lived. I love you, Sue!” – Julie Wilkinson
“I first met Sue at my Phase 2 healing retreat, which would have been her third to attend, I believe. And I felt an instant bond with her because she had such an ease about her. A softness. There was something about her tenderness that reminded me of my maternal grandmother, with the exception of working inside an abortion clinic. My grandmother was as close to God as you could be and I could see that in Sue. The next year at a healing retreat I had a lot going on in my life and felt that I hit rock bottom. But I was too embarrassed to talk about during our retreat. On the Sunday that we were leaving we had a last-minute circle and I broke down. Sue came over to me where I was just bawling my eyes out and she looked at me directly and said, “It’s going to be okay.” I was so embarrassed about things and mistakes I made but there she was loving on me. She wrote down her phone number with a note and Bible verse. I have kept it all these years; it’s still on my fridge:
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!”
We built a deeper friendship and freely talked about struggles in life and the greatness of God. She came to my area and spoke with 40 Days for Life and brought her daughter with her. I got to see Sue speak at three events and, being her authentic self, spoke the truth boldly about Planned Parenthood. I was so proud to see her in her element and meeting some amazing people along the way.
To sum up Sue; she is a treasure, a gift. I am a better person today because of her and with that I will pay it forward. I think most people will feel like I do—that she made you feel special. That you were the only one that mattered right there in that God-given moment. That you were important to her.
Thank you, Sue. I love you, girl, and I will continue to pray for your kids.” – Sarah Eubanks
“Sue has been a force in the prolife movement. She was an amazing speaker. She worked tirelessly to expose Planned Parenthood. But that’s not why I loved her.
Sue was an amazing friend. She was the one who would always call or text at just the right time. She was a constant encourager. She was the friend that you could call and ask, “Will you pray for me?” and you knew that she would drop everything and pray for you at that moment.
A world without Sue feels almost unbearable, but I’m encouraged to know that I WILL see her again. I think Sue would want everyone to know just how much she loved her Savior. She would want you to know Him. If you have questions about who He is, please ask. Because trust me, you won’t have the joy and the freedom that Sue had and that so many of us have without that saving relationship with Christ.
I imagine Sue’s entrance into heaven being surrounded by children. I imagine Christ looking at her and saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I pray I can live my life as well as she did. She will be greatly missed by many.” – Abby Johnson