Many people who used to be abortion workers are no longer, but most of them are totally uninterested in discussing the matter any more. It's truly remarkable that there are a good portion of such workers who aren't merely out of the business, but taking their stories to the opposition.

This is extraordinary because in order to join the pro-life movement, these people must do much more than people who simply change philosophy on almost any other matter. They have to admit to having participated in numerous murders. That would be exceedingly difficult for any self-respecting person to do.

It's also noteworthy that they can actually do so with a fair degree of comfort. In spite of the stereotype of prolifers as intolerant and dogmatic, the fact is that they welcome former abortion workers, listen to them attentively, and give them moral support.


If ignoring what's too painful is a well-used strategy to keep going in the business, what happens when that deliberate cloud is removed from the mind? Former abortion doctor David Brewer said that, at one point, "The reality of what was going on was finally beginning to seep in through my calloused brain and heart."[1] If many people have done this, what insight can we gain from them?

Dr. Bernard Nathanson was instrumental in founding the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), and pioneered in setting up a large abortion clinic in New York City. After some time, he wrote a book explaining why he no longer believed this to be sound public policy. After detailing his learning more about fetal development, he says, "This evolution of my thinking will sound incredible to many. I was generally aware of these biological developments during the years of my abortion crusade. Three things happened. First, I reflected again on the older knowledge in perinatology. Second, new data were reported all the time. Third, and most important, I opened myself up to the data. When one is caught up in revolutionary fervor, one simply does not want to hear the other side and filters out evidence without realizing it. Until 1973 I was sold of bill of goods. No -- let me be honest -- I was selling a bill of goods. I had been terribly disturbed by the injustice and hypocrisy of the '60s, the disparity between rich and poor, East Side and West Side. I had seen the victims of self-abortion and hack abortionists. After the fever of activity had cooled, I found myself reflecting on the seeds of our revolution."[2]

Carol Everett, who had run Dallas abortion clinics, also wrote a book about her departure. At one point, she says, "Upon my return to the clinic, I noticed something was different. From my point of view, women had been dancing in through the front door, singing, 'I'm pregnant...Do my abortion...' But when I got back, I saw that all the women coming in the front door were crying. I'd never noticed that before."[3]

She made inquiries as to why things were different, but the other staff noticed nothing amiss. In fact, it was the same as it had always been. She suddenly saw something that she hadn't seen before, even though it had been there all along.

Dr. Beverly McMillan of Mississippi tells her story:

"I think my coming out of the abortion situation -- I've heard other people talk about their experiences, and it seems to be sort of similar. It doesn't happen all at once.

"I would go in and meet my (ahem) well-counseled patient. I would examine her, then I would do the suction D & C procedure under a paracervical block. After it was all over, I would leave my patient on the table, and I would go over to the suction bottle, and I would take the little sindexkingette out. I'd go outside the room to the sink, where I'd open the sindexkingette up, and I personally would pick through it with a forceps, and I would have to identify four extremities and a spine and skull and a placenta. If I didn't find that, I would have to go back in that room and scrape and suction some more, or else my patients would be showing up in 48, 72 hours just like those women in Cook County with an infected incomplete abortion.

"And standing at that sink, I guess I just started seeing these bodies for the first time. I don't know what I did before that. I think I just counted. I was cool. Blood didn't make me sick, I could handle all the guts and gore of medicine just fine. But I started seeing this for the first time, and it started bothering me.

"I remember one afternoon in particular . . . the manager of the clinic came up to the sink one day while I was getting ready to go through my little procedure. And she said, 'Would you let me see -- I've never really seen what y'all look at at the sink.' And I said sure. And I started showing her -- this happened to be about a 12-week abortion, and that was about the farthest along we went. And that day, as I was showing her, I remember very clearly seeing an arm, and seeing the deltoid muscle. It really struck me that day how beautiful that was. And the thought just flashed through my mind -- what are you doing? Here was this beautiful piece of human flesh -- what are you doing? And that was one of the very last ones that I did." [4]

Former abortion nurse Joan Appleton put it this way: "I can't remember off-hand what the specific problem was, but we wanted to do the abortion by ultrasound, to make sure that we had indeed gotten . . . the entire pregnancy. I handled the ultrasound while the doctor performed the procedure, and I directed him while I was watching the screen. I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open its mouth.

"I had seen 'Silent Scream' a number of times, but it didn't effect me. To me, it was just more pro-life propaganda. But I couldn't deny what I saw on the screen. After that procedure, I was shaking, literally, but managed to pull it together and continue on with the day."

That was a sudden incident that was etched on her memory, but she also had a slower, drawn-out questioning process:

"I started out in the pro-choice movement believing that I was helping women, believing that women had the right to choose, they had a right to life, they had a right to go on. I felt when I was counselling women, I was preparing them, I was helping them with a difficult situation so they could to on with their lives. I told them that they were the most important person on this earth, that nothing was more important than them. And once we see you through this difficult situation, once this is over, you can go about your life. You now have a freedom. You can go to college.

"Guess what, folks? It didn't happen. I had to stop and say, what's going on? Why isn't this happening? Instead, you're going back out, you're getting pregnant again, you're getting diseases. How am I helping you? Those are the questions that kept gnawing, and gnawing, and gnawing at me.

"I finally decided that my questions were too strong. I didn't like what was going on . . . I didn't like what we were doing to women. If it was right, why were they suffering? What have we done? We forget, we created a monster, and now we don't know what to do with it. We created a monster so that we could now be pawns to the abortion industry, those of us women who really still believe in women's rights. Those of us who still believe, and care, and are pro-woman, who still believe that we are worth something, we are intelligent, we aren't doormats, we aren't something to be used. And we used ourselves. We abused ourselves."

She knew a pro-life picketer named "Debra", and said this about her:

"I firmly believed, I thought she was a little misled, probably by the male religious leaders of the pro-life movement. I thought she was a little misled, but I really believed she cared about women. And so when my questions did get too strong, I couldn't go the Molly Yard and say, Molly, you got a minute? I went to Debra, and I started asking questions."[5]

Going to the opposition is not an uncommon theme in the tales of leaving. Joy Davis gives this account: "Over a period of time, certain ones [picketers] I got to care a lot about. And when I started to have these mixed up feelings -- maybe I don't believe in abortions anymore. This is killing me. I can't sleep. I'm having nightmares. I don't like who I look at in the mirror. The first person I called was the one that cared about me when I did say I believed in abortions. I called the Lackerbys.

"Dr. Tucker had done a lot of things, that I was trying to get the medical board to do something, I was trying to get the D.A.'s office to do something. And nobody was helping me. I had told them, I had given them the actual written proof of what he had done, and they would not do one thing about it. . . So I said, fine -- if they don't care, I don't care. I'm going to go to Alaska, I'm going to let him get off the hook, it's over. . . (but) I've got to go home and make sure I give it one last chance, for these people to do something about the things that he's done. So I came home, nobody would do anything, so I called (my sister), and I said, that's it, I'm not going to try any more, I'm coming to Alaska . . . I'll call you when I have my airline tickets . . . I hung up the phone, I sat down in my recliner, I picked the phone up and called Tom and Mary Lackerby and I said, 'Would y'all help me do something? Nobody's doing anything.' I told them all about the situation, and things just started falling into place after that."


One of the interesting developments in those women who were counseling potential abortion clients when they started a questioning period, was the change in how they counseled. Joy Davis reports, "If the patient ever saw the ultrasound, they could see a baby. It would be sucking its thumb, most of the time, or moving its hands, or whatever, and it was a very cute thing to see, on the ultrasound. And so, as a rule, Dr. Tucker would always tell us to keep that screen turned away from the patient and never let them see it. So I just took it on myself to start showing them the pictures, and most every one I showed the picture got up and walked out, and changed her mind. I did that for a good while. But basically, Dr. Tucker never found out I did that. He started noticing that I was having a lot of people change their mind, and he questioned me, why are they changing their mind? I would tell him I don't know.

"I would point out, like, see, look at its little lips, look at its little nose, its eyes."

When asked why she did that she replied, "Because I got to the point I didn't want them to go through. I felt like they were going to die, if they went back there to him."

Carol Everett tells of a similar dynamic: "I also started taking the women into my office, closing the door, and asking 'Why are you crying?'

"One young woman in particular said, 'My parents would kill me if they knew I was pregnant.'

"'No, they wouldn't kill you,' I heard myself say. (Wait a minute! This wasn't the say to sell abortions! I should take the fear, amplify it, get their money, and push them through!) As if from a stranger's throat, my voice continued. 'Your parents love you They'll be disappointed, but they'll stand by you. Would you like for me to go home with you to tell your parents?' This was weird! I was actually looking at the women differently. I wanted to draw close to them and love them. I thought, 'if I don't watch out, I'll be the one leaving the clinic . . . Or worse -- there won't be any women having abortions if I keep helping them, encouraging them to tell their parents, talk to their husband or boyfriends. If I'm talking people out of abortions, how am I going to make a living? How will I keep my two children in college with their thousand-dollar monthly allowances, new cars, and the rest of it?' It was business as usual around me, but certainly not business inside me."


Though religion is absent in the above examples, religion was not actually absent. Carol Everett found in crucial in her thinking, while Bernard Nathanson found it irrelevant. Ms. Everett had been a regular churchgoer who tithed her abortion money (that is, gave one tenth of it to her church), while Dr. Nathanson was an atheist and remained so at the time he wrote his book.

Atheists can take the approach that, since they don't believe in an afterlife, then an abortion takes away everything when the baby is gone. There's no soul to stay on. Atheists also believe that the entire world was unplanned, which might shed some new light on the idea of unplanned pregnancy.

Feminist and anti-violence arguments could also make sense to them, and to most religious traditions as well. People who think for themselves rather than simply following religious dogma can find ample reason to fly the coop of the abortion business.

The Hippocratic Oath, which is one that until recently has been taken by all physicians, came from a religious background of pagan gods that very few take seriously any more. It expressly prohibits inducing abortion. The long history of medical ethics is quite capable of opposing abortion without any religious reference at all.

Therefore, no change of religion is necessary in order to psychologically get out of the abortion business. If providing abortions is dangerous to the human psyche, then differing religious viewpoints can still lead to the same conclusion.

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