Healing in Public

My story of healing is not an ideal one. Less than a month after I left the abortion industry, my face was on national news. It was like being shot out of a cannon. No time to grieve. No time to reflect. No time to just be alone. The only lucky break I got was that I had gotten amazing media training from Planned Parenthood. At least when I was on TV, I didn’t look like a bumbling idiot. My first moment of healing came on October 23, 2009. At 10pm, I went back to my old clinic. I stood out there and faced my egregious sin for the first time. It was then, out on that dark sidewalk, that I realized my brokenness, my wretchedness. But even as I fell to my knees, sobbing over this realization, I wasn’t alone. Two prolifers were there to pray also. After they learned who I was and why I was there, they were ecstatic, to say the least. And while they were literally dancing over their thanksgiving, I was face down on the ground…fingers gripping the freshly cut grass, my tears dripping down like rain.

Two weeks later, I was in court against Planned Parenthood. I watched my best friends take the stand and lie about me. I watched them cry as they were caught in their lies, over and over again, by my attorney. I saw the hurt on their faces. I knew they felt like they had no other choice. And in that moment of betrayal, I chose to forgive them. I have never spoken to them since.

One week after Planned Parenthood’s court case against me was dismissed, I was on dozens of national news shows. I told my story, I answered their questions, and I tried to be as raw and honest as possible. The media continued for several months. And because of that media, I was now being asked to give my testimony to prolife groups across the country.

A month after the media explosion, I spoke at my first event. And I spoke for two hours. I had so much to say, so much to get off my heart, so much to expose. Everyone had questions. And down in the warm basement of a church in New York, in front of over 100 people, I received a little more healing.

I continued to speak. And every time I spoke, more healing came. Sometimes I would speak and memories would pop into my mind when I was on stage. At times, those memories were so powerful it made it hard to finish my talk.

I had prayed that there would be someone out there like me. A former clinic worker who would want to mentor me, share their wisdom with me. There was one woman who was actually here in Texas. I wanted so badly for her to help me on my journey. But instead of embracing me, she saw me as competition and rejected me. I was so lost and overwhelmed by this media storm. And honestly, even though I knew the people around me were supportive and wanted to help how they could, I knew that they had no idea what it was like to be me.

Fifteen months after I left Planned Parenthood, my book was published. Writing is very healing. Publicly sharing those intimate memories and moments in my book was more healing than I ever could have imagined.

I realized that I needed to heal from my own abortions. So I went through just about every post abortion bible study known to man. And I healed a little bit more. I was at peace about my own abortions. I knew they were wrong. I regretted both of those decisions, but I knew I could move on from those memories…those two grievous mistakes.

About two and a half years after I had left the industry, I started an organization for people like me…workers who wanted to leave the abortion industry, but felt like they had nowhere to go. I didn’t know if it would be successful, but God continues to amaze me. Since starting And Then There Were None in June of 2012, one hundred thirty-nine abortion clinic workers have come through our ministry looking for support, healing and compassion. They have found a safe place in us. And hopefully, we have helped them find forgiveness in Christ. Every time we hold a healing retreat for the workers in our ministry, I am also healed just a little bit more. These men and women…these beautiful and courageous people have brought me more healing and comfort than they will ever know.

So, it’s been over five years since I walked out of Planned Parenthood. I can honestly say that I never looked back. I have never wondered if I made the right decision. I have never questioned my decision to leave. I know it was right. But in these past five years, many of you have walked with me. You have seen me heal. Many of you have seen me stand up on a stage and cry when I shared my story. And yes, you have seen me screw up…lots of times. Some people gave me grace when I messed up. Some people did not. You know what they say, right? Christians are often the worst at wounding our wounded.

In August 2013, my former Planned Parenthood clinic closed its doors. No more women would be harmed inside those clinic walls. No more babies would be killed there. And in September 2013, we held a “celebration” outside the clinic. It was a heavy day for me. Yes, there was some happiness, but I mostly felt sorrow. It was finally over. The struggle over that facility had ended. I’ll never know how many babies lost their lives inside that clinic, but I do know that one of them was my own child. I had aborted one of my own babies in that facility. I could only see one more piece to close that chapter of my life…I wanted to walk through that empty building just one more time. I wanted to hold my husband’s hand and relive those memories…only so I could finally put them at rest. I wanted to walk in each room and pray. I just wanted that closure.

I was so overcome with emotion when the local pregnancy center and another national prolife group who bought the building told me that I would be able to have that time to heal. I had been preparing my heart for that walk through. I knew it would be emotional. I was nervous because I honestly didn’t know what to expect. So you can imagine my devastation when my husband received a text message stating that we were no longer allowed to go and walk through. This was their media moment and it turns out they didn’t want me to take away any of their spotlight. I was crushed. These people who had stood beside me and pushed out my story when I left were now ripping this opportunity of healing from me.

My family now lives in Austin, but I had an appointment this past week in College Station. After I was finished, I thought that I would drive past my former clinic just to see if there had been any changes made to the building. I immediately noticed that the big heavy fencing had been taken down. The bars on the windows had also been removed.

You would drive by and just see a building. Maybe you would even look at that building and see a victory. But I look at that building and see so much sin…my sin. I look and see eight years of time away from God. I see so many years of loss. And yes, there is a small part of me that sees triumph.

I wanted to pull into that parking lot, but I couldn’t make myself do it at first. I drove by at least three times before I finally turned my wheel and pulled in. I instinctively pulled into that second to last parking spot…the spot I had parked in for eight years. I decided I should move my car closer to the building. I thought maybe I would be able to see in the windows. It felt strangely familiar to be in that parking lot. I didn’t like that, but I worked there longer than I have been out, so I figured that made sense.

I could see some light shining through one of the windows on the building. I knew that window. It was my old office window. And I knew that light. It was a light right outside one of our education offices that never turned off. I felt drawn to go look inside…from the outside.

I got out of my car and walked up to the building. I went to my office window and looked inside. It took my breath away to see my old desk still sitting there. I saw a note that was apparently left behind from Planned Parenthood. It had a woman’s name and phone number on it. In the memo it said that she was “calling about AB information.” We always abbreviated abortion with “AB.”

If you were to look in that window, you would see a pretty basic office. But that’s not what I see. I stood there and could see myself sitting at that desk, auditing charts, checking to make sure that the ultrasound pictures of the babies we killed were in every chart. I could see thousands of those ultrasound pictures flash in my head…the pictures of the perfectly round heads of these innocent babies. We would measure them to find out how far along the women were in their pregnancy. I look at those shelves in my office and I see the folders which held all of lab records for each woman who had an abortion. I see the folders of the “POC Examination” sheets…the papers that we signed when we had found all of the body parts after each abortion. I see the bowl of miraculous medals that sat on my shelf…all of those medals that had been left by the prolifers in our flowerbeds. I had picked them all up and kept them in that bowl for eight years. You would look in and see a large empty space next to my desk. I see a small conference table that sat there. It was where I had interviewed applicants. It’s where we sat as I would lie to them about our “mission” at Planned Parenthood. “We want to reduce the number of abortions,” is what I would say. But that was a lie. We didn’t care about those women who came to us. We just wanted their money. At that small table was my first opportunity to brainwash these potential employees about all of the “good” that we were doing at Planned Parenthood.

I slowly walked to the window to the right of me and looked in. You would see a small room with a kitchenette. You would realize that this room must have been a staff break room. But I look in and see all of us standing around a table, grabbing a bite to eat in between abortion procedures. I see us all laughing as the abortionist would tell us his greatest “abortion stories.” I remember us looking out that window and mocking the prolifers who were praying for all of us.

I continued to walk down that sidewalk and look into each window. I had been in every one of those rooms. I could see myself there, convincing women to have abortions, reassuring them that they wouldn’t feel regret after their procedure. I could only see the opening to our recovery room. I could see women sitting in large, leather recliners…all of them crying as they realized what they had done. I could see myself cleaning the blood off the floor of one of the exam rooms when one of my friends began to hemorrhage after the abortionist perforated her uterus. All of that blood. My friend lying on that exam table, white as a ghost. I was begging to call an ambulance. “No ambulance,” our doctor replied. I could see it. I could see all of those memories so clearly…things I hadn’t thought about in over five years. They were all rushing into my mind and I couldn’t control them. I was already sobbing and clinging to the stone wall when I reached one of the last windows and looked inside. From across the hall I could see the POC lab. So many babies. So many tiny faces. So much horror. I didn’t feel like my legs could support my weight anymore so I just sat on the ground and wept. I knew people driving by could see me, but I just couldn’t move. It felt like my heart was literally breaking in my chest. It was physically painful.

I have no idea how long I had been sitting there with my face in my hands, but I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up, feeling startled, to find a stranger standing there. It was an older man. I figured I needed to give some sort of explanation as to why I was sitting there sobbing like a crazy person, but the only thing I could get out was, “I used to work here.” He looked at me with such compassion and in a gentle voice said, “I know. I know who you are. Can I help you?” I was trying to get up, but felt kind of wobbly. He grabbed my arm and walked with me as I made my way to my car. He asked me if I wanted him to call someone for me, but I didn’t. I couldn’t think of anyone who would understand what was happening in my head and heart at that moment. I thanked this kind gentleman and assured him that I would be fine. As I watched him walk off, I went back to my office window just one more time. I saw a Bible verse written on the wall. It said something about evil. That was not the Bible verse that I had envisioned writing on that wall one day. I had always wanted to write 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

I walked back to my car and pulled out of the parking lot. I felt numb, but I knew that would eventually go away. I turned on my iPod and hit shuffle. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the song that came on was Matt Maher’s, “Alive Again.” The chorus says,

“You called and You shouted Broke through my deafness Now I'm breathing in and breathing out I'm alive again

You shattered my darkness Washed away my blindness Now I'm breathing in and breathing out I'm alive again”

I drove home thanking God that I am alive again, and that I am alive in Him. I don’t know why things happen like they do. But I know that I just have to keep moving forward, in forgiveness, in truth and with God.

My past will always be there. Those memories will always be a part of my mind. I don’t even mind that they are there. Those memories keep me motivated in this fight. I know I am forgiven. I know that God has cast my sin as far as the east is from the west. I know that. And I feel His redemption. I feel His mercy. I feel it every day of my life.

I share this part of my journey with all of you because many of you have been there since the very beginning. You heard that there was an unnamed abortion clinic director who had resigned from Planned Parenthood and was now prolife. You have shared your lives and your struggles with me, so I will continue to share mine with you. I show you my vulnerability and my weakness because I don’t know how to be something I’m not. And I hope over the past five years, you have seen changes in me that made you smile. I pray that I have saved more than I helped to kill. I pray that God continues to open doors as long as He wants me doing this work.

Healing in public has not been easy. It has not been ideal. But, in the end, it has been worth it. Thank you for being on this journey with me, even when it wasn’t pretty. Thank you for loving me in spite of my past sin. Thank you for embracing my ministry that reaches out to others who need healing. Thank you for looking past the victory of an abortion clinic worker who switched sides and just seeing ME…a broken sinner in need of grace, mercy and compassion. You will never know how much your prayers, your kind words and your hugs have healed my heart.

As I reflect on our last retreat for clinic workers, something really stands out to me. Yes, God heals us. But so does your faith in us. Your kindness heals us. You play a part in putting our hearts back together. Thank you for loving us.