Making it to the Other Side of the Fence: Why I am now pro life and why I support defunding Planned Parenthood
By: Anne Taylor
In my early 20s, four months into a relationship I found out I was pregnant. I was raised with sound values from family and church, yet felt alone thousands of miles away from home while attending college. I felt incredible shame that if family and friends knew of the choices I’d made they’d be let down. This led me on a path of self doubt that I did not know was possible. Fear is what it all comes down to and I have learned that it is distortion that masks itself in many forms more often than not.
Having no doctor at the time, there was a simple solution for this pregnancy:Planned Parenthood. There happened to be one just down the street from campus so I called and booked an appointment with a counselor. Prior to meeting with the counselor, my partner and I began to discuss various scenarios. Adoption sounded good. After all, we barely knew each other.
When we arrived at Planned Parenthood for our appointment, we were quickly sized up. “Adoption would not be a good course of action because more often than not, the girl becomes too attached to the baby by the time she’s given birth.” the counselor advised and continued to remind us we hardly knew one another. My partner then inquired if their clinic performed any ‘termination’ procedures. My partner revealed to me that he once took a friend to have an abortion and she seemed to have no problems with it. “Well, yes!” the counselor responded enthusiastically. “We can certainly do that for you, and in your situation it is probably best for the both of you.” she said with a grin. We went on to ask more questions.
I find it interesting that on Planned Parenthood’s home page under ‘pregnancy options’ it reads: “If you are pregnant, you have three options to think about — abortion, adoption, and parenting.” Why is parenting last I wonder. And another thing I notice, in all the Planned Parenthood videos why are all the women who are portrayed as being pregnant appear to be under age 20? Not thinking to ask the counselor any more questions, I look back and remember that we did not receive additional information that would support us in our adoption endeavor. The counselor went on to explain that the fetus doesn’t feel anything during an abortion procedure and not to feel ashamed or worried and stating, “We do this kind of thing all the time.” We estimated that I was approximately 8 weeks along. “You know,” she continued, ”you are getting really far along in the pregnancy and we often don’t do abortions past 8 weeks, but if we were to schedule something today we can take care of this quickly for you and you’ll be so glad you did it.” she said with a smile.
I asked questions about what it would feel like to have an abortion. The counselor went on to explain I would experience slight pain for a short time, similar to a bad menstrual cramp. Medications used? Their choice was a low dose of valium for the occasion and Ibuprofen. With one swipe of a credit card, about $400 would take care of it. And what if I changed my mind and decided to opt out? I was told by a Planned Parenthood representative that regardless of whether or not I show up for the appointment, the payment is kept in full. The counselor seemed so reassuring than I thought maybe this wouldn’t be a bad option.
The morning of my abortion appointment, we found ourselves among roughly 20-25 people in the waiting area. Upon entering the waiting area I was hit with the reality of the number of pregnancies in the room – including my own. We found a place to sit, while I signed some papers and took a valium with some water from a tiny white cup. “Look at the kids” I whispered, as I recall a few toddlers in the room, seeming so out of place.
One hour passed. Two hours … almost three hours and finally, the number of people in the waiting area began to dwindle. Then my name was called. I was prepped as if I was going to have an annual pap smear. The room was barely 10×10 with stark walls and no décor. I took note of another door opposite to the door I’d entered through but it was locked. Perhaps that was the surgery room.
The nurse entered and began to spread a cool, clear gel on my abdomen to prep for the ultrasound. She then flipped on a monitor and began to move the probe across my lower belly. I asked the nurse, “Can you see it?” “See what?” said the nurse rather distant and not looking up. Timidly I asked, “Can I see the picture?” “No, I’m afraid not today.”
Things began to happen quickly and I wondered if something was wrong by the way the nurses were reacting so quickly. Before I knew it, one nurse was standing on each side of me by my head and a third stood at my feet. I was then instructed to place my feet in the stirrups and almost immediately, that mystery door that was locked from inside opened and out comes a man in full surgical attire. Only the man’s squinty eyes could be seen, but just barely.
Suddenly I was startled by the sound of a machine that seemed as loud as a vacuum cleaner, or worse, a muffled chainsaw. A nurse held down one of my arms. “Don’t worry, dear…it’s just the suction and will take but just minute.” encouraged the nurse. I couldn’t think over the sound of the machine coupled with the increasing pain. I began to moan loudly and tried to yell “Stop! No!” but I was too weak. The room didn’t look right, the voices grew distant and I began to sweat and felt cold. “Hey guys, wait!” yelled one of the nurses, “the back of this girls neck is soaking wet!” I couldn’t make out what was going on and had lost my ability to speak. I had a faint memory of a nurse coming by with something terribly strong smelling under my nose. “She’s okay…just help her up and get her into recovery” snapped one of the nurses.
I was assisted and climbed into a wheelchair while writhing in pain -the pain feeling like sharp claws that had just ripped away raw flesh. “What just happened?” is all I could think. I was wheeled to a larger room where I noted rows of bulky lounge chairs – about 10 to 15 of them. More astonishing was the row of women sitting slumped over like you see in a nursing home. Some women were crying, some sleeping, some preparing to leave and one woman seemed to be in some distress as they hovered over her. I began to sob, and sob and sob. “What have I done…what just happened?” is all I could ask myself.
As I adjusted myself in the chair I was given a hot pad to place on my abdomen. I continued crying and was handed a box of tissues. Shortly thereafter, a cheery voice approached me and said, “Here’s a cookie and some juice for you. Now I see here you checked off that you would like to try Depo-Provera as your new method of contraception today. Is that correct?” “Well, yes, I think.” I said to the nurse. The counselor told me Depo would be a good alternative so I don’t have to worry about taking ‘The Pill’ everyday. The nurse nodded as if to agree and informed me she would be administering the Depo as a shot into my thigh. “Another sting for the day”, I thought. I was exhausted and in shock. Unclear in my thinking, I was numb and just wanted to go home and forget everything that had just happened.
The nurse who administered the shot to me just moments ago loomed overhead strictly reminding me to read the instructions on when to get my next Depo-Provera shot. I looked down at my lap to see she had left me a lunch sized brown paper bag. I opened the bag to find a few thick menstrual pads and an array of small, flat colorful packages that I realized were condoms. It felt degrading, humiliating and insulting like a shameful “bad girl.” I wouldn’t be having sex for several weeks anyway following this surgery and condoms were the furthest thing from my mind.
Time passed in the recovery area – how much time I did not know. I was hungry, in pain and just wanted to get home. I tried to hold back the tears. When it was my time to leave, I gingerly stood up and a volunteer assisted me across the room with the goal of going through yet another mysterious doorway. When the door opened, my partner was in the car and firmly instructed not to turn off the engine or get out. Another volunteer came around and opened the passenger side of the door and we headed back to my apartment. I don’t remember the drive other than feeling drained for I’d literally just gotten the life sucked right out of me.
My sobs continued for several days. I felt better, then worse. There were times I screamed, yelled, beat the couch, but nothing could erase what went on behind closed doors that day. Eventually, I stuffed it away and decided to ‘get on with it.’ Just 6 months after having the abortion, I became pregnant again while on Depo-Provera. The partner I had the abortion with? Well, he was now my fiancé.
We moved to another state where we shared an apartment. Being new to the area, I inquired with some of the ladies at my hair salon for some suggestions on what clinics they would recommend. When I arrived at the doctor’s office (not Planned Parenthood), a nurse confirmed I was pregnant and pulled out a small machine that had a long tube on it. The nurse aimed it towards my abdomen, motioning for me to lift up the bottom of my shirt. “Congratulations!” she beamed, “You’re pregnant! Now just lower your pants a bit so we can hear the heartbeat with this Doppler.”
I felt incredible joy in this moment in a way I didn’t think possible – and a heartbeat? As plain as the sunrise each morning! No one celebrated this at Planned Parenthood in my previous experience. But that joy was quickly replaced with a wave of guilt and shame for what I had decided to do just less than a year ago, feeling unworthy of the life now inside me. The thoughts of what happened that terrible day I continued to bury. Afraid of looking back, I convinced myself this was a new start.
In the fall of 1999, my fiancé and I were married and I gave birth to a healthy a baby girl! This little life created joy and harmony in a way we never thought possible. My husband said he never dreamed he would have such a smart, beautiful daughter and often found himself wondering how he deserved this.
Time passed and my husband began having difficulty keeping work. It was evident that he struggled with depression and one late summer in 2001, I discovered I was pregnant again.
Naturally I went back to the OB that I’d seen while pregnant with my daughter. This time, however, I was experiencing sharp pains in the lower left side of my pelvis that would not go away. The OB could not find anything on an ultrasound or pelvic probe, so exploratory surgery was the next step. I was told there could be a cyst, cancer or something possibly worse that they couldn’t pick up from the images. “You know,” my OB commented, “We can take care of this if you want…during the surgery. Besides, you’ve already taken Dilantin for what could have been a reaction to ‘The Pill’ and you clearly cannot take Depo-Provera due to the side effects you’ve shown in the past.” I was told chances are the baby already had cleft pallet and that it was a whole hassle of issues including surgeries and expense that we didn’t need right now. I was stunned – and scared at this reality, angry and upset. The OB completed his thoughts by saying, “You don’t have to, but know that it’s an option.”
So here we were on this merry- go-round again. My husband and I decided to do things a little differently this time by checking out all the options. We began by talking to family. One agreed that having this baby was not a wise decision, while the other reminded us that by aborting we were losing a life. What side of the fence are we on anyway? The reality was we weren’t sure medically what was going on with my body. So together my husband and I figured we’d try another Planned Parenthood location trusting we would be counseled differently as we were now a married couple with a child. We needed support and perhaps they had resources to help us sort this out. And the lingering question remained: “Do I want to keep it?”
We arrived at Planned Parenthood for our appointment in the city, greeted by protesters blurting out Bible quotes and viewing displays of bloody images of aborted fetuses and the ‘grim reaper.’ I wasn’t used to this because during my last experience at Planned Parenthood there were no protesters on site. We pushed through the crowded mass of people and entered the building. My husband and I slid our IDs through the thick glass block between us and the front desk staff. “This is ridiculous,” I thought “Why did we decide this again?” The room was noisy, crowed and people were very grouchy, however; when the social worker called out my name we were relieved.
We shared with this new counselor our concerns and my experience with abortion at another Planned Parenthood clinic. We talked about my husband’s health, how finances were tight and the issues we were up against with this pregnancy and asked what they could offer.
The answer was simple from this counselor: “You need to abort.” So, we asked what their procedure was as we’ve been through this before and was told they used Tylenol 3 for all their surgical procedures. My husband began to complain and reminded the counselor of my experience just a few years ago. She informed us if I wanted to be asleep during the process, to head down the way to another neighboring clinic where they are equipped to handle ‘twilight’ sedation.
I wasn’t happy that the conversation was headed towards abortion again. What I wanted was someone to ask: Have you checked out ‘XYZ’ places, a church, second option? When in crisis, I learned people aren’t thinking those things. You’re thinking “FIX IT NOW!” and I played right into it. The counselor interrupted and said she wanted to speak to me alone. I told her I didn’t want to speak to her alone. She pressed. We left the building. Upon returning home, the counselor called me again – not once, but over the course of an entire week, one time twice during the day, pressing that I need to have an abortion for my own health. I hung up on her and called my OB.
I explained to my OB our experience with Planned Parenthood and asked how the procedure though the hospital would be done differently vs. the PP clinic. Because my OB was also a surgeon, I was reassured that things would operate very differently. I would be in professional hands in a medical facility where if something were to go wrong, emergency staff would be there to help. The bonus? I wouldn’t have to hear the roar of the suction machine. And to make me feel better, remaining parts of the extracted fetus would be used for stem cell research. Well, I thought. This may be for the better. Or was it?
The eve of my second abortion appointment came. As my husband, daughter and I sat together curled up on the couch, we watched the news following the tragic events of 911. It was in that moment I began to realize that there were not just 3 of us sitting on the couch, but that there were actually 4 and that this little soul was going to meet its Creator along with all the lives that were lost in the 911 attack. I prayed, trying hard to rationalize the situation…stem cell research. Whose life was more important?
I awoke in the recovery room. This time I was in a bed, surrounded by calm nurses quietly tending to my needs. I could hear my husband’s voice in the background and I knew I was okay. But again, there was that empty hollow feeling coming back. So what did they discover that was going on in my body? I had “too much colon.” So much of it apparently that a specialist was called into surgery. Not life threatening, but somewhat concerning as it could cause problems later.
For nearly a year I gathered specialists “opinions” on what to do with this new information. What was most baffling is when I got a second opinion. Following an X-ray exam, my colon appeared to be perfectly intact and I was told most likely I was experiencing irritable bowel syndrome. I took that experience and vowed to do something constructive and positive to make a change in my body through meditation and monitoring the kinds of foods I ate. I also vowed that that was going to be the last time anyone would convince me to have an abortion. I had my questions answered but another life was lost.
People tell me I should have known better, or, I was exercising my freedom of choice as a woman. Some say that what I chose to do in my circumstance was a ‘giveaway’ for another life. That we couldn’t afford another child anyway and perhaps I knew that I couldn’t handle having anymore children. But at what cost?
The saddest part of this story is that one cold January morning in 2004, my husband took his life following years of depression. In his early teens he’d received his first knee surgery that led to a gradual dependency on prescription pain pills. By the time he was 39, he had become completely dependent upon them to mask his own suffering not just of physical pain, but emotional as well. Our daughter was just 4 years old at the time and we were both home at the time of his unexpected death. No one, not the paramedics or the emergency staff at the hospital could save his life.
What did this teach me? A ‘clump of cells’ in a womb, I learned ARE alive. For in those cells contain the essence of will and life itself – the spirit of who we truly are and ‘they,’ yes, they have a place in this world. They are just as worthy of love and appreciation and life as we are given in what little time we have on this great earth. Every life is worth something to someone. For once a life has ended, that life may never be brought back again.
As Abby Johnson would say in her book, “Unplanned,” I share with you my journey to how I arrived on the other side of the fence. It was through those experiences, I learned the value of what living is. I learned a lot in being honest with myself and truthful in my experiences, for they are real and that is the very foundation which has made me stronger and wiser and more spiritually grounded woman and a sacred human.
So what about that fear stuff I had? Well, I’m still standing and I won’t stand for how Planned Parenthood treats its own humankind as I once fell into their shadow of destruction. This is the honest, true testimony of the deaths that took place in my own body and the deeply unethical experiences I encountered on more than one occasion and in different states.
Join me in this effort to open the door and shed light on the shadow that has engulfed thousands of women and potential lives through misinformation, deception and unethical protocols and procedures, while choosing to commit inhumane practices upon mankind.
We are the United States of America. Our people are strong. Our voices are clear. Together we can create beauty around what is needed for families, gathering resources and support and doing so with intention, truth and right action. It is up to each one of us. Isn’t that what we all are called to do?
I ask each of you to look inside and ask what it is you want to see in this world as part of our future for all humankind. People ask me if I’m pro-choice because of a medical implication as I chose to abort my second pregnancy. Although it may appear to be a choice, when we choose life and honor that request – that gift – you can trust that the love and support will be there.
Had I received different information from all of these sources, I may have had more grandchildren for the parents, or brothers or sisters for my daughter. It’s called the circle of life.
I cannot change the past and the choices I made, only move forward in educating others and pray that my story will help others not make the same mistakes.