Ex-PP managers on what it’s like inside

Sixth in the Voices to Trust series.

“You are saying things to yourself and others that you will never be able to get out of your head.”

Two women who spent years working for Planned Parenthood are now in the forefront of PP’s challengers. Abby Johnson and Sue Thayer started at Planned Parenthood believing that women’s health care would be the priority there; both eventually realized that it wasn’t.

Abby Johnson wrote Unplanned in 2011 to give her account of being an award-winning manager of a Texas Planned Parenthood facility and how she decided to leave the industry in 2009. She didn’t stop there. She founded And Then There Were None (abortionworker.com), seeking “to end abortion from the inside out” by assisting anyone seeking an exit from abortion work.

Sue Thayer worked for 17 years at Planned Parenthood in Iowa, eventually becoming a center’s manager. When PP began promoting telemed (webcam) abortions, she saw that making money had taken precedence over women’s health. Thayer began speaking about her PP experience, and she is a plaintiff in a multimillion-dollar Medicaid fraud case against her former employer. She recently joined the staff of Iowa Right to Life as lead strategist.

Johnson has written an open letter to abortion facility workers, saying “No one grows up wanting to work in an abortion clinic.” An excerpt:

“I thought that Planned Parenthood really believed in reducing the amount of unintended pregnancies; and therefore reducing the amount of abortions. I thought I was doing the right thing….I was rising up the Planned Parenthood corporate ladder. I was the Planned Parenthood 2008 “Employee of the Year.” This was my life. I loved my job. I loved the patients we served. I thought I was helping them. I know you do, too.

“Did I help women? Sure.…the woman who hadn’t had an exam in ten years, the woman who needed testing because her husband had been unfaithful, the woman who had never been checked for diabetes but was then diagnosed because we finally ran the test. I remember all of these women. I remember all of their stories…. I helped them receive the healthcare they needed, the healthcare they deserved. You know what else I remember? I remember the day I watched a 13-week old fetus fight for its life during an abortion procedure.

“I remember looking at the bodies of aborted babies while I accounted for their arms, legs, and head. I remember being able to determine if the baby was a boy or girl. How did I justify my work for so long? How are you doing it? I think I tried to really believe that I was doing the right thing…the right thing for those women. But what about those babies? …Didn’t they matter? Was it really ALL about the woman and her rights?

“I have learned now what I didn’t realize then. It is NOT just about the woman. Abortion is something that affects many people. Yes, it affects the woman; but it also affects the man involved, the extended family, and of course, the child growing in her womb. I saw abortion as something that was very one-sided…now I am able to see it as an issue that affects multiple people; multiple lives. It also affects your life as a clinic worker. You are witnessing things that are permanently damaging your mind. You are saying things to yourself and others that you will never be able to get out of your head.”

Thayer wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times in 2012 summarizing her concern over telemed abortions. An excerpt:

“In my mind, Planned Parenthood was the ‘trusted friend’ it claimed to be, educating and providing women with effective contraceptives so that abortion could be avoided….

“This all changed in 2008, when Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa (now known as Planned Parenthood of the Heartland) required our clinic to begin ‘telemed abortions.’ Telemed abortion is the practice by which an abortion doctor from a remote location simply presses a button, which opens a drawer containing the dangerous abortion pill, after a brief teleconference call with the woman.

“Telemed abortion doesn’t only result in the death of an unborn child; it strips women of their dignity by denying them the courtesy of an in-person visit from a doctor concerned for their health and well-being. It risks their lives by sending them away with no support and a drug that has led to massive bleeding and hemorrhaging, infection and even death.

“So what does Planned Parenthood, the ‘trusted friend of women,’ love so much about telemed abortions? Low overhead costs.

“My superiors justified telemed abortions, lauding the financial benefits of not having to worry about or pay for specialized equipment, staff and a traveling physician – all required with surgical abortions.

“When I expressed my concerns, I was ‘let go,’ supposedly because of ‘downsizing.’

“The final veil had been lifted and Planned Parenthood’s big lie was exposed: Planned Parenthood is not about helping women access health care. Instead, it is about making money. And abortion is its moneymaker. Telemed abortion is its mega moneymaker.”

Johnson and Thayer eventually participated in 40 Days for Life campaigns outside their respective former facilities. Both of those PP facilities have since closed down.

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