Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Time At Planned Parenthood

I wasn’t always Pro-Life. Ten years ago I really hadn’t given the issue of abortion much thought.

When I went off to a small “Catholic” liberal arts college as a political science major, it was bound to come up.

The idea of killing an unborn child made me uncomfortable if I really thought about it, so I carefully skirted the issue by saying:

“ I don’t think it’s right, and I would never have an abortion… but I don’t think I have the right to tell another woman what she can or can’t do with her body.”

If I’d given it much more thought I would have had to ask myself why a woman’s right not to be inconvenienced trumped a child’s right to live and I very quickly would have realized the fallacy in the logic behind the argument that it’s a “woman’s right to do whatever she wants with her body.” After all, none of us have the right to do whatever we want. Our rights end when they begin to encroach on someone else’s rights and that becomes especially clear when we plan on physically harming another human being.

But it was much easier to give my quickly thought out answer and say that I was “pro-choice,” (an answer that pleased my very liberal poli sci professors to no end).

During the second semester of my freshman year we were assigned a “community service project” for my Social Justice class. I had to squeeze in forty hours of community service alongside my twenty five hours a week at Starbucks, karate, rugby practice, hundreds of pages each night in reading for collegiate seminar (Roman, Christian Mid-Evil Thought), my second semester of Japanese and my American Government class (I seriously began to wonder if my professors remembered what it was like to be a student).

We were given a list of places that would be suitable for volunteer work and I called the local battered woman’s shelter and rape crisis centers right away. After a week they finally informed me that they didn’t need any volunteers. I finally landed a volunteer position from one of the approved organizations (and by the time I did I was getting desperate and starting to worry about my grade): I went to work for Planned Parenthood.

My job was easy. I brought patients back to the exam room and went over their medical history, took their blood pressure and asked them if there was anything they wanted to talk with the doctor about. I did pregnancy tests and UTI tests in the little lab and cleaned up the rooms after they’d been used.

I passed by the protestors once in a while and I thought it was kind of odd, because I’d been assured over and over again that this particular Planned Parenthood did not perform abortions. They sent women over to a larger facility, since our office was very small and we weren’t allowed to perform them there. The young women I worked with brought up the fact that we didn’t do abortions frequently, which I had thought was odd. I wasn’t sure why they were so preoccupied with it. At the time I really didn’t even realize the relationship between Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, although I probably would have simply brushed the information away with a “I’m Pro-Choice” answer if I had been told.

However I was bothered by the responsibilities taken on by workers with no medical training. I knew that I wouldn’t want someone who had taken an afternoon class implanting or removing anything in my body. It just didn’t seem very safe.

I was also very bothered by the ages of the girls whose pregnancy tests I was running. I would only have a urine sample and a birthday, and I couldn’t help but notice that I was giving positive results for girls who were twelve years old. They didn’t come in with their parents and I knew that they would be offered abortions without their parents’ knowledge (or consent). How would I feel if that was my tiny beautiful ballerina cousin who was almost the same age?

One day I arrived at work to find an empty waiting room. The receptionist buzzed me in and I wandered back to see what needed to be done. Since there were no patients there would be no samples to test, so I wandered back to the exam rooms to see if everything was ready for the start of the second half of the day (I came in after lunch). There were people towards the back, one of the doctors was even there, and I walked up to the door of the room before I was hurried back to the front by an angry coworker.

But it was impossible to erase the image of what I had seen. There was blood everywhere. White sheets of paper had been ripped off to cover the counters and other surfaces and there was blood spattered across them (I was actually reminded of the examples we’d been given during my lifeguarding first aid classes of arterial spray, but it could have been from anything, taking unborn life is apparently very bloody work).

It was very clear, by the panicked reaction of everyone who was there, that I had seen something I shouldn’t have seen.

And there was only one reason that they would be panicked. There was only one thing that we most certainly weren’t supposed to be doing in that office: abortions.

The more I learn about abortion providers the more I come to realize that breaking the rules to provide abortions isn’t all that uncommon. I guess once you cross the line that keeps most of us from ending a human life, other lines, like legal rules, are easier to break.

I didn’t instantly become pro-life, but the idea that taking a life was wrong was reinforced. My own insecurities kept me from taking the next step though, that would have enabled me to say the simple truth that abortion is wrong. After all, I could ignore the entire problem by simply adding “…but who am I to say.”

I first had to free myself from the absurd chains of moral relativism that my poli-sci professors had been reinforcing and that our secular culture embraces. I had to realize that there is right and wrong, good and evil in this world and as a human it’s my responsibility to speak out when I see the rights of those who are weaker than me violated.

Every child has the right to life and it’s our responsibility to speak out and to defend that right. That is the most basic right that exists in this world and it’s a truth that we simply can’t forget or ignore.

(todays picture is from those same college days)


  1. What an eye-opening and inspiring true story with an excellent mesasge. I have never had that type of experience, but I have always known deep in my heart that abortion is the murder of an innocent human life. My mother volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center while growing I grew up so I am sure that helped to establish my morals or principles for my belief system.

  2. Wow Cam, that's a powerful story. Thanks for sharing it. I think it's good sometimes to share our less than ideal pasts. I think that it can help people make sense of an issue they're dealing with.

    For instance, I'm sure there are many other volunteers for PP who feel the same way you felt, and just don't know what to do.

  3. Wow, what a story. I think many young women are clueless about the extent of Planned Parenthood's "services." Personally, I didn't even realize they provided abortions until I became pro-life.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. It definitely needs to be told. It is so hard to fight against moral relativism, but the best weapon is the truth.

  5. What a great post, and powerful story.

  6. What an experience. Abortions are an industry for a reason: profit.

  7. How horrifying! Thank you for sharing this. I was also not always anti-abortion, and looking back, I feel like I hardly know who that pro-"choice" girl was! I think that many women can relate to the easy-going endorsement of Planned Parenthood without having been given the "gift" of what you eventually saw.

  8. I had to smile when I saw this mis-spelling: "Roman, Christian Mid-Evil Thought." I bet there were many of your professors who would agree, the Christian medieval times were indeed evil!
    God Bless. ~ Bonnie


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