For many of us, the former clinic workers and post-abortive women, the recent videos of Planned Parenthood executives are a nightmare. Reliving the horror of our abortions, reliving the gruesome work of the clinic, we feel alone. Who can understand our pain? We can’t even comprehend it. The callousness of those profiting from our pain is sickening, almost too much to bear. It is compounded when the media refuses to investigate the truth of what we see on those videos. It is compounded when the supporters of Planned Parenthood call us liars.
“…are we sure the Executive Council is going to be the decision making body about who gets the NH contract? Didn’t Planned Parenthood orchestrate a by-pass on the NH Executive Council vote against their NH contract during the construction of the previous NH budget?”
No, we’re not sure. And yes, PPNNE did an end run around a state family planning contract rejection in 2011 by somehow procuring funds directly from the federal government. Regarding that nimble move, the New Hampshire Commissioner of Health and Human Services remarked in 2013, “It’s not appropriate for me to know what they did.”
All we know about the current situation is that the New Hampshire Executive Council has no PP item on its agenda for next Wednesday’s meeting, and that the last PP contract approved by the Council was set to expire eighteen days ago. (What’s more, PPNNE isn’t complaining that “women are being denied health care.”) Late items may be added to the agenda, as the Council’s agenda page indicates. Anything about a future contract or grant is speculative at this point. But if we can’t see into the future, we can certainly look at the past.
Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide are feeling the heat from the video of a PP medical director chatting about procurement of intact fetal organs. PP’s public funding is under a spotlight, for now. Public dollars are not used for abortion, we’re told. Instead, tax money for “family planning” frees up other PP resources to use for abortions, and the harvesting of fetal organs, and salaries of medical personnel willing to consider changing an abortion method not for the health of the woman but for the better extraction of a child’s organs.
But a state contract or federal grant to PP doesn’t mean I’m paying for abortion itself – just so we’re clear on that. Whew.
As long as we’re seeking clarity, note this: New Hampshire Right to Life has been fighting for years to get information about how a federal grant materialized for PPNNE after three out of five Executive Councilors said “no” to PP’s Title X contract in 2011. (The Council the same day approved contracts with ten other providers, putting a crimp in attempts to cast Councilors as anti-woman.) In April of this year, NHRTL filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of a lower court decision that turned away in part an NHRTL Freedom of Information Act request about the federal grant. Bits and pieces of information have emerged, but the whole clear story of how the dollars got from the feds to PP is still not on the public record.
This doesn’t mean that history will repeat itself this month. It only means the precedent has been set.
This is as good a time as any to recall the time four years ago just after the Executive Council vote, when Planned Parenthood put enormous public pressure on the three Councilors who had denied them a contract. At that time, I was with New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Policy Research. We teamed up with the Susan B. Anthony List for a press conference to defend the Councilors. That was the day I met Catherine Adair, who spoke to the crowd about her experience as a PP employee. Here’s a reminder that the need to let taxpayers divest their funds from PP didn’t just spring up this week.
Students from a Massachusetts school took a trip to Boston recently. Nothing unusual in that. This wasn’t for the Freedom Trail or a museum visit, though. The students were making a short and provocative film about life and violence, about why some deaths seem more bothersome than others, about the response to the 2013 marathon bombing compared to the response to everyday deaths at a local business.
They were accompanied by Catherine Adair, whose daughter was on the trip. For Catherine, this was no ordinary drive into Boston. It was her first time back to the Planned Parenthood facility where she used to work. She came there to lend a voice to the film that no student could provide. Ironically, standing just behind her in the video is a facility “escort,” doing a job with which Catherine was once all too familiar.
“The horror that goes on here takes place behind closed doors. Nobody, except the workers, has to see the carnage….The world is silent, oblivious to what goes on here. But I know from firsthand experience. I used to work in this very building for two years.”
This ten-minute video by the students of Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Still River, Massachusetts makes comparisons that some may find troubling or even infuriating. Don’t let that keep you from watching. These are young women and men of courage, and I find in their work great cause for gratitude.
This is a fan letter. It’s my blog and I can rant or rave however I want. Today, it’s rave. It’s my thank-you to Catherine Adair. She has a life full of blessings; she and her husband are rearing five children. My husband and I brought up five children, too, and we know that’s a pro-life ministry in itself (and it never ends). Catherine, with support from her family, goes above and beyond. She has a story to tell about her own experiences and about women in crisis who didn’t get the help they needed. Her story is also about pro-life conversion.
Catherine came to pro-life commitment by a route different from mine. I’ve learned from that. She makes me think in fresh ways about what it means and takes to be pro-life.
About Catherine: New Hampshire Right to Life scored a coup this year by bringing Massachusetts neighbor Catherine to Concord for the state’s biggest annual outdoor pro-life rally and march. Catherine’s description of herself, from her blog The Harvest is Abundant: “I used to be pro-choice and worked for Planned Parenthood. Now I speak about the horror of working in an abortion clinic, and my personal experience with abortion. I hope to be able to bring more people to the truth.” She does that with charity and clarity, which can be hard to come by some days in the pro-life movement. She speaks out knowing that she could perfectly well say “enough already” to public witness. But she persists, bringing not just truth but also encouragement to her listeners.
How I met her: For a brief time a few years ago, a majority of New Hampshire Executive Councilors thought that with ten other Title X providers in the state, they could afford to say no to a contract with the eleventh provider – which happened to be Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, New Hampshire’s #1 abortion provider. All political hell broke loose. I helped organize a press conference to stand up for one of the Councilors who voted against the PP contract and who was being targeted for particular abuse by PP supporters. A colleague of mine, Shannon McGinley, called me up to discuss arrangements. She said, “You’re not going to believe this. There’s a woman from Massachusetts who used to work for PP and wants to come help.” It was Catherine. So how did Shannon meet her? “You’re not going to believe this” (again) – “I came across her on Facebook.” Well, God bless Facebook.
Catherine’s presence at the podium turned out to be the most powerful and memorable part of the press conference. Her words about her time at PP made the idea of “abortion provider” into something concrete. She spoke with authority about the primacy of abortion in PP’s work despite PP’s insistence that abortion is only 3% of its business. She spoke briefly about her own long-ago abortion. She had nothing whatsoever to gain from making the trip to Concord. She did it because the truth mattered and because she knew some good people were suffering for challenging PP’s access to public money.
We meet again: When the Obama Administration and the federal Department of Health and Human Services imposed their Obamacare contraceptive mandate, they did so knowing that some Americans have religiously-based objections to helping pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices. Too bad, said the President and his HHS Secretary. In over a hundred cities nationwide, Americans responded with religious freedom rallies to say “not so fast.” I was one of many New Hampshire residents who gathered outside the federal courthouse in Concord for a Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally. And who came to stand with us? None other than Catherine, with her family. Again, she had nothing to gain by doing this. She came anyway.
Taking it to D.C.: This year, Catherine traveled to the March for Life in Washington and did something extraordinary: with support from other post-abortive women and former abortion workers, she gave her testimony in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s hardly her natural habitat, but there she was. Abortion advocates are always on the sidewalk in front of the Court on the day of the March, as if to defend the judicial branch from exposure to pro-lifers. Catherine was speaking to the abortion advocates as well as to the marchers. Her message is for all.
All I can say about that is that while she’s hit the big time, New Hampshire saw her first. Well, maybe second, after Massachusetts.
Excerpts from her remarks at New Hampshire’s March for Life
As a former abortion worker, what does she recommend to pro-lifers who encounter workers at abortion facilities? “The worst thing we can do is be confrontational, antagonistic. I think the best thing we can do is smile, say hello – just be that peaceful, kind, loving presence they need. Please, pray for the people working in the clinic. Nobody is beyond redemption. Nobody is beyond conversion. Embrace every life there is, wherever it is.”
On her own abortion and its immediate aftermath: “If someone had been there [on the sidewalk] the day I was there, if I’d had the courage to talk to somebody, maybe I’d have made a different decision. You just never know how what you’ll say will affect somebody.”
On working at Planned Parenthood in Boston: “[At first] I thought ‘oh, that’s great. Planned Parenthood is really pro-woman.’ …All we did was abortions, all day every day, Monday through Saturday….The first thing – the first thing – that happens in an abortion clinic is the money changes hands. You’re not getting anywhere until you pay for that abortion….I would describe the abortion procedure to the woman: ‘the doctor will gently extract the contents of your uterus.’ That’s it, because in abortion clinics you never talk about the humanity of the child. It’s all about dehumanizing the child. We didn’t even say ’embryo.’ That’s too close to ‘fetus’ which is a little too close to ‘baby.'”
“…Nowhere in there did we ever talk about real options for her. What brought you into the clinic today? What’s making you think abortion is your best option? What’s going on in your life? How can we help you? Never, because my job was to sell that abortion.”
Assisting patients having first- and second-trimester abortions, and cleaning up “procedure rooms,” took a toll. “You know, I had counseled for second-trimester abortions. I had said ‘the doctor will gently extract the contents of your uterus.’ I didn’t know that he was going to go into her uterus with forceps and just grab at that baby….[I had] nightmares. Most people who work in abortion clinics do. You’d think I’d go running out of the clinic and say to the nearest person ‘D’you know what they’re doing in there? They’re killing babies!’ But I didn’t….My whole world was filled with people telling me that what I was doing was good, it was right, it was for the cause, it was pro-woman, and that all those crazy pro-lifers out there on the street wanted to kill me. And I believed it.”
Finally, she had enough of seeing abortion up close, and she left the clinic – “there’s a lot of turnover” – but becoming pro-life was a years-long process. What led to that conversion of heart and mind? “Basically, it was because I had children. I got married, I had children, and that really does change your perspective on things. My husband wanted to start going to church. He said ‘we really have to do something about the kids. I want the kids to go to Mass.’ So we went to church. And the first time we went, it was just like ‘I’m home.'”
“This wonderful priest said to me, ‘Catherine, don’t you know that God loves you?’ I just started to cry, because of course I didn’t believe that God loved me. I had murdered my own child. I had participated in the murder of thousands of children. But this priest, he told me to say the Rosary. As I prayed on the Mysteries, something just clicked for me. The grace that God can give, the forgiveness that He can give….One day at Mass, Jesus said to me, ‘Catherine, those are babies.’ Finally, the scales fell from my eyes. I was so afraid of going to that place of pain from my own abortion that I hadn’t been able to really think about it, how much each life is sacred and worth living. Finally, I was able to go to that place of pain and self-hatred and turn that into love. I look at my children, the children God has given me, and I am so grateful.”
It’s that love and gratitude of which Catherine speaks that really touches me. She gives me hope that even when I’m not feeling loving and grateful, even when I’m discouraged or angry over something politically life-related, even when I’m praying outside a facility and feeling very awkward, the choice to love and to be grateful is always there for me to make. Pro-life work is not about what I’m feeling. Anger isn’t final. Awkward isn’t forever. Spiritual exhaustion isn’t terminal.
Catherine has never scolded me for not being steadfast enough, although she could if she wanted to. She has never preached at me. She could (and possibly should) tell me to back away from the mic or the keyboard and just do something else. Instead, she’s set me an example of honesty and compassion. Rely on the grace of God, choose love, choose gratitude, even when it’s not easy: if she does it, maybe I can, too. Maybe.
Her final words in Concord echoed what she had said to us before the march. “Honestly, seeing everybody walking in front of the clinic with love in your heart really gives me strength and makes me realize that no person is beyond God’s love. No person is beyond redemption. Nobody. This is why they fear you – because you expose the lies. That’s why they have to say ‘oh, you hate women’ – because they don’t know what to do with that love.”
The temperature barely broke into double digits as people filled the State House plaza in Concord for a pro-life rally before the March for Life on January 17. This is January in New Hampshire, though, and more than 300 people had gathered by the time the rally began. Dozens more joined during the course of the march, and the post-march gathering at St. John the Evangelist church featured an overflow crowd.
The day’s events were organized by the New Hampshire Right to Life Committee, led by president Jane Cormier.