Annette is a homeschooling mother of five young children: four boys and one girl. She overflows with joy and laughs easily. She is serious about her roles as a wife and mother. Anyone who is fortunate enough to interact with Annette is uplifted and sees the love of God on display. Annette is also a former Planned Parenthood employee…five years of her life that she deeply regrets.
Annette started working for Planned Parenthood as a college intern, filing papers and doing basic office work. She heard that they had a community education program for Latina women.
“My sister got pregnant out of wedlock, as well as my niece and my friend,” she said. “I really thought that my community needs to know how to prevent this. I was also starting a sexual relationship at that time, so it emboldened me. I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this safely. Smartly.’”
After Annette graduated, she began to work in South L.A. at a Planned Parenthood teen center.
“My reasoning was that I wanted to help the teens in the community. Throughout my time at Planned Parenthood, I never really thought deeply about abortion,” she said. “My main goal was to teach them how to practice safe sex and keep these kids from getting pregnant. My focus was always on the girl, never the baby.”
While Annette grew up Catholic, her faith was not something that was deeply ingrained into her. Her family would attend Mass occasionally, she was baptized, confirmed, and would take the sacraments, but it was not a part of her everyday life or something she put much thought into or saw lived out.
“I was the youngest of four and I was always at my mom’s skirts,” she said. “I heard conversations that made me realize that if you got pregnant, there were things you could do to get rid of it. Abortion was never really talked about, but special teas would be mentioned. It made me feel that getting pregnant was getting in trouble. All of this played into my misconceptions about abortion. I know it sounds crazy to me, but the life of the baby never really occurred to me.”
Annette’s program was community-based and had many ways to target teens and make sure that they knew that should they “get in trouble,” Planned Parenthood was the place for them to go.
“We had a program called Peer Advocates. I would recruit kids from the schools to be the go-to person within each school,” she said. “We would send them into their schools to hand out condoms. In the classroom we would demonstrate with condoms and sex toys. I did always try to teach abstinence, but by the time I left I noticed the strong push by Planned Parenthood staff to encourage kids not to talk to or listen to their parents.”
Initially, Annette’s work was focused mainly on talking about gender, sex, birth control.
“Later, they added more about sexual communication and in-depth topics such as anal sex and all different types of things,” she said. “Most importantly, if a kid were to get pregnant, they needed to go to Planned Parenthood. The goal was to get the kids to trust us over their parents.”
At that time, Annete had met the man who would later become her husband. She started working with the teens at her church and her faith was growing, and started to realize that her heart was not in her work.
“My boyfriend was so kind and gentle with me at the time,” she said. “He explained to me that he didn’t understand how I could be so wonderful with all my nieces and nephews and loved children, but then work for a place that profited from killing them. I had literally never thought about it like that. I started to realize that I needed to get out.”
It was still hard for Annette. She was so invested in her community, and she cared about the teens she worked for. She felt conflicted and still had not made her mind up about where she stood on things. Her boyfriend and future husband invited her to a Catholic family conference. Eduardo Verástegui, Latino heartthrob and outspoken Catholic, was speaking there. Annette was so excited to see him as she was a huge fan and watched his telenovelas.
“When I heard him start speaking against Planned Parenthood and abortion, all these emotions came up in me. I became angry,” she said. All Planned Parenthood’s talking points that had been drilled into me started swarming through my mind. My boyfriend could tell that I was upset.”
After the conference, Annette continued to be conflicted about her work as an educator talking to teens about all types of sexual situations and directing them to Planned Parenthood. However, she did start to think more critically about the things she had been taught.
“We would talk to the kids, sometimes using crass language about all kinds of things including touching yourself and all diverse types of sexualities. We talked to them about literally anything and everything. I often did not feel right about it given their ages and that their parents had no idea,” she said.
There came a point where there was talk of cutting the education program down.
“They asked me if I wanted to start working at the clinic. I thought, why not?”
Annette started on a Monday.
“Very quickly, I started to see that it was all a lie,” she said.
Annette was in training and witnessed a young girl who came in for a pregnancy test. She went in with her trainer, and they told the girl she was pregnant. The trainer asked her what she wanted to do.
“The girl had no time to process,” Annette said. “It was clear that she was scared. The only thing that she could say was, ‘I can’t have a baby.’”
That was that. Annette remembers looking over at the chart. The woman scratched off adoption and circled abortion, although that was never even discussed. The girl was given options about medication abortion vs. surgical abortion, both of which she qualified for at her stage of pregnancy.
“The staff was trained to push toward surgical abortion because that is more lucrative for them,” she said. “I felt nauseous. I felt scared. My heart was hurting for her and the decision she was making.”
It occurred to Annette that all this time, she had been telling teens that this place was so great. They would go to Planned Parenthood and get the best care available. They would be treated with respect. That is not what she was seeing.
“The supervisor was so cold and couldn’t care less for the patients. I realized everything I had taught those young, vulnerable teens about sex and Planned Parenthood was wrong,” she said.
Annette started praying fervently and listening to Catholic radio. There was another pro-life conference featuring Eduardo, and she decided to go.
“I was driving to the conference and praying that God would just show me what to do. I told Him that I had an open heart and an open mind to what He wanted,” she said.
What Annette didn’t know was that Eduardo was not the only pro-life speaker scheduled for that conference. Abby Johnson was also speaking.
“When Abby started speaking, I just started crying. I knew God was showing me. This is what He had for me,” she said. “I told my boyfriend that I MUST talk to her. I walked all the way around. She had security around her, but I was either going around, under or over them. I was going to get to her,” Annette laughs.
She screamed Abby’s name. She screamed that she was also a Planned Parenthood worker, and she wanted out. Abby came to her at once and the two embraced.
“Abby embraced me and assured me that I didn’t have to worry. She said that she would help,” Annette said. “I told Luis that I never wanted to go back there again, and he was incredibly supportive of that. I gave my notice and they tried to keep me, but I resisted.”
“After talking to Abby, I had the strength I needed to resist them and had moral support. I had everything I needed to support my family financially. Abby encouraged me so much.”
Abby connected Annette to a pro-life resource center in L.A. At first, Annette was not fully comfortable saying that she was pro-life, but they were so kind to her regardless. She trained, and a few weeks before her wedding, when her finances were down to almost nothing, the resource center called and offered her a job.
As Annette has had time to process and heal, she has started to realize how much each abortion worker’s life impacts others.
“I recruited my niece to be a peer advocate at Planned Parenthood, and later she had an abortion,” she said. “I know she needs healing. I feel guilty for recruiting her. I constantly pray for all the teens that I encouraged to go to Planned Parenthood. That guilt will always be a consequence for me, but I know that I am forgiven.”
Annette knew her calling was to be a homemaker for her husband and a mother for their children. Four months after she started at the pro-life center, she became pregnant.
“The center was so flexible with me,” she said. “They could not have been more understanding. I had the privilege of walking a young woman through the process of dealing with her own pregnancy. I told her I was also pregnant. We formed a friendship and still keep in touch. It was beautiful.”
On Annette’s last day at the center before she would leave to be a full-time mom, she had a very abortion minded woman come in. The boyfriend was open to keeping the baby, but the girl was so hardened.
“It was like looking in a mirror and seeing myself and how I used to be,” she said. “Later I got a call that she chose life for her baby, and I had an opportunity to speak with her and celebrate her choice. What a gift!”
Today, Annette is a busy woman as she homeschools and is intentional about instilling her faith into her kids and growing in her own faith and relationship with her husband.
“I had an idea about motherhood that was totally skewed. God has taught me so much through being a mother,” she said. “To be humble, to trust Him, to be patient. They are their own people. Sometimes I will blow up at my kids and I have to step back and ask God for help. Now I have no doubts that God will give me that peace and joy, even if it is little by little. Now I know I don’t have to be perfect. My kids don’t have to be perfect. I just want them to trust God and love Him.”
“If you are an abortion worker and on the fence about calling for help,” Annette said, “Their [ATTWN’s] love is unconditional. It is life changing. They will help you.”
The fruits of the spirit are clearly evident in Annette’s life and walk with Jesus. As the founding client of And Then There Were None, it has been a joy and a humbling experience to walk with her, love her, and have her love reciprocated. As her family is her sole focus, she has not been able to attend many retreats, but she does love meeting and forming relationships with other Quitters and being recognized at our “Quitters Ball” as our very first Quitter, the one who inspired Abby to start an entire movement of former abortion workers by founding And Then There Were None.