[Today’s blog post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, a board member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and the force behind ClinicQuotes.com.]
Nurse Brenda Pratt-Shafer worked for three days at a late-term abortion center that did partial-birth abortions. Although pro-choice when she was hired, she was so horrified by the graphic nature of the abortion procedures she witnessed that she went on to testify before Congress in favor of the partial-birth abortion ban. Partial-birth abortions were banned nationwide in 2003; the Supreme Court initially struck down the ban, only to reverse itself in 2007.
The procedure consisted of first delivering a late second trimester or early third trimester preborn baby partially out of the mother’s womb. Then, when only the head was left inside, the abortionist punctured the skull and drained out the brain matter, finally removing the dead child with a crushed head from the woman’s body.
Witnessing several of these abortions was enough to turn Brenda-Pratt Shafer into a pro-lifer. In her book, What the Nurse Saw, she describes in detail both partial-birth abortions and D&E (dismemberment) abortions that she saw.
But another thing Pratt-Shafer discussed in her book was the way abortion clinic workers were told to interact with women coming in for abortions. They were supposed to validate the woman’s reasons for wanting an abortion, regardless of what they were. The abortion facility wanted everything to run smoothly; the abortionist did not want women to change their minds at the last minute. Therefore, he instructed Pratt-Shafer and his other clinic workers to emphasize the choice of abortion and encourage women to go through with it.
I was told in no uncertain terms to always validate the mother’s reasons for having the abortion.
If the mother was still in school, we’d tell her she didn’t need to be a mother right now; rather she needed to finish school and then start her family. If she was having financial problems, we would not offer her other solutions; we would just tell her that she could not afford a baby and that she was doing the best thing. If she was young, we would tell her she was too young to have a baby and it would probably ruin her life. Having this abortion was the right thing to do; then she could get on with the rest of her life. We also told the women that abortion was a simple procedure, and it was the answer to their problems and that they would be relieved afterward. After all, this abortion clinic was in the business to make money from abortions, not to offer solutions for crisis pregnancies. Any excuse the mother had to want an abortion, we were in agreement and supportive of that reason.
The clinic workers were also under strict orders not to promote abortion alternatives or tell women the details of the abortion procedures:
Options like adoption or even carrying the baby to full-term were never discussed. … I was told if they asked me if it was a baby to tell them no, that it was just a mass of tissue and at this stage, it was not a baby. Many women that came in those three days were already showing at the time. But we still continued to tell these lies the entire time I was there. It was just part of how business was conducted.
Women who did not already know the facts of fetal development would not learn them at the abortion facility. Rather, they would be encouraged to abort, and told that their preborn baby was not developed. Those running the abortion center knew that if women were told their babies had arms, legs, fingers and toes, and that by the late second trimester babies reacted to pain, some of them would back out. This would decrease clinic revenue and slow things down.
A woman who was having an abortion out of fear would have her fear reinforced. Even if the woman was reluctant to go through with her abortion, the clinic workers would not offer her other options. While some women no doubt came to the clinic with their minds firmly made up, dedicated to having an abortion, others may not have been so sure.
David Reardon conducted a study where he interviewed women who regretted their abortions. He determined that 44% of the women he interviewed had been “actively hoping to find an option other than abortion” when they arrived at the clinic. 66% of these women said that their abortion counselor was biased in favor of abortion, and 90% said they did not receive enough information to make an informed decision.
If such a large of the women in David Reardon’s sample came to abortion clinics hoping for a better answer, the fact that abortion counselors do not explore options and give unbiased information could definitely sway them towards having an abortion.
Of course, the 44% statistic comes from a group of women who regretted their abortions, and might not be representative of all women seeking abortion. But other abortion workers have revealed that some women change their minds about having abortions, even at the last minute. For example, in a May 2000 piece for the Ottawa Star, Leonard Stern interviewed an abortion center director who stated that 20% of women scheduled for abortions at her location did not show up for their appointments. Another abortion counselor told an interviewer:
Maybe 30 percent [of the women] are kind of talking through doubts, maybe 5 percent go away.
Another abortionist, who complained about having to give women state-mandated information about fetal development and abortion’s risks, told the New York Times in that one in 10 women left the clinic without aborting after receiving the information. And in yet another article, in the Christian Science Monitor, an abortionist also discussed the phenomenon of women turning away from abortion after watching an educational video that the abortion clinic was forced to show by law.
So some women do change their minds. Even if women willing to change their minds and consider options are in the minority, lives could’ve been saved if the abortion workers had told the truth. Of course, this would work against the clinic’s bottom line.
As more abortion workers come forward with their stories, there are more examples of biased or dishonest abortion counseling. There are many similar stories from abortion workers, as well as testimonies from women about this that can be found here. Until abortion workers are willing to be honest, pro-lifers need to spread the truth about abortion so that women know exactly what will happen to them and their preborn babies if they abort. The abortion businesses cannot be relied upon to tell the truth, and pro-lifers need to step into the gap and educate the public about abortion.