ABOR­TION

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

be­lieve in women’s moral agency to make their own choices,” and they will say later that work­ing at Preterm “changed my life.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­search, how­ever, stigma and ha­rass­ment com­monly come with the job.

Iron­i­cally, a ma­jor rea­son peo­ple work in abor­tion clin­ics is that they want to “help peo­ple.” But many of those staff mem­bers face stress, iso­la­tion, re­jec­tion and “an in­tense fear of vi­o­lence” as part of their jobs, Dr. Lisa Har­ris of the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Health Sys­tem said in an Web sem­i­nar this sum­mer.

Dr. Har­ris is in­volved with a pi­lot project called Providers Share Workshop to study ex­pe­ri­ences of clinic work­ers and de­velop sup­port sys­tems for them.

Some of the project’s early find­ings were that 89 per­cent of clinic work­ers said they felt “un­ap­pre­ci­ated by so­ci­ety” and half ex­pe­ri­enced “ver­bal or phys­i­cal ha­rass­ment.”

The Gos­nell ef­fect

Pro-choice lead­ers in­sist that the Gos­nell in­ci­dent will not have last­ing ef­fects be­cause he was “a rogue” and not rep­re­sen­ta­tive at all of the in­dus­try as a whole.

“No, no, no,” Ms. France said when asked about “other Gos­nells.”

There are hun­dreds of clin­ics, and 13 in Ohio, she said. “Cer­tainly, we all give good care. We are reg­u­lated, and we want to do good work.”

“Gos­nell was very much a rogue and had noth­ing to do with what good abor­tion care is,” Ms. Taft said.

Ms. Krom­e­naker cited a sur­vey re­leased in Au­gust by RH Re­al­ity Check, an online pub­li­ca­tion on re­pro­duc­tive-jus­tice is­sues, that looked, state by state, for other un­eth­i­cal abor­tion providers along the lines of Gos­nell.

“And they found, in fact, there are not,” Ms. Krom­e­naker said.

But pro-life ac­tivists dis­pute that, and clearly want to make the Gos­nell case into an ob­ject les­son for all clinic work­ers.

“Dr. Ker­mit Gos­nell is not alone” in the kinds of “in­hu­man prac­tices” he and his staff per­formed at their Philadel­phia clinic, said Lila Rose, pres­i­dent of Live Ac­tion, cit­ing her group’s “un­der­cover” videos at abor­tion clin­ics. The abor­tion in­dus­try is “united,” Ms. Rose said. If there’s a prob­lem in one clinic, “you’re go­ing to find it in another one.”

For­mer clinic work­ers in Texas and Delaware al­ready have come for­ward to speak pub­licly about abuses they en­coun­tered.

Some of the Delaware clinic whistle­blow­ers “lit­er­ally feared for their [health care] li­censes,” said Ni­cole Collins, pres­i­dent of Delaware Right to Life, which has run ra­dio ads and put up bill­boards this fall as part of its out­reach to clinic work­ers.

In Texas, Mr. Crutcher’s or­ga­ni­za­tion has pre­pared post­cards for more than 600 clin­ics that warn about the risks of ex­po­sure to crimes such as in­come tax eva­sion, Med­i­caid and insurance fraud, and fail­ure to re­port statu­tory rape.

The cards “tell peo­ple, ‘Hey, if you are do­ing some­thing il­le­gal and you don’t want to go to jail, you’d bet­ter call th­ese peo­ple,’” Mr. Crutcher said.

Also, lawyers with Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom are stand­ing by to talk to any­one who is wor­ried about reper­cus­sions from leav­ing a clinic job.

In ad­di­tion to crim­i­nal or civil is­sues, some clinic work­ers may fear their em­ploy­ers will pur­sue them over “imag­ined con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments” or block un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion, said the al­liance’s at­tor­ney Michael Norton, who is also a board mem­ber of Ms. John­son’s group, And Then There Were None.

In all of th­ese cases, he said, Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom can of­fer pro bono le­gal sup­port to make sure a worker’s in­for­ma­tion is “used in a co­op­er­a­tive way” with law en­force­ment of­fi­cials. Its job is “keep­ing them out of harm’s way,” Mr. Norton said.

‘Heal­ing’ work­shops

Re­gard­less of why a per­son leaves the abor­tion in­dus­try, of­fi­cials at the So­ci­ety of Cen­tu­ri­ons of Amer­ica say, they are pre­pared to of­fer com­fort and coun­sel­ing.

“Cen­tu­ri­ons is a true Chris­tian min­istry in that it doesn’t just serve peo­ple who left to con­vert. It is for peo­ple who left on their own, for their own rea­sons as well,” said Brian Gib­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Pro­Life Ac­tion Min­istries in St. Paul, Minn., a well-known side­walk-coun­sel­ing group that housed the Cen­tu­ri­ons pro­gram for years.

The so­ci­ety, named af­ter the Ro­man cen­tu­rion who re­pented for his par­tic­i­pa­tion in Je­sus Christ’s cru­ci­fix­ion, of­fers pri­vate coun­sel­ing and work­shops to for­mer clinic work­ers.

“We see a con­stant stream of peo­ple com­ing for help,” said Fa­ther Pavone, na­tional di­rec­tor of Pri­ests for Life, which now runs the group.

By de­sign, Cen­tu­ri­ons is “not a high­pro­file type of min­istry,” said Fa­ther Gense­mer, in­ter­na­tional di­rec­tor of the Charis­matic Epis­co­pal Church for Life in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., who led a workshop in Septem­ber with Fa­ther Pavone.

Many for­mer clinic work­ers “are very dam­aged by their work in the abor­tion in­dus­try” and don’t want to talk about it pub­licly, so it takes time and com­pas­sion to help them heal, said Fa­ther Gense­mer. Based on what he has heard over the years, he said, “there are peo­ple like Gos­nell who are still out there, op­er­at­ing.”

“I used to be one of those die-hards, one of those clinic work­ers, too,” Ms. John­son said. “All it takes is just one mo­ment of clar­ity, one mo­ment of kind of get­ting slapped in the head with what you are do­ing … for them to say, ‘I can’t do this any­more.’ And we’re go­ing to be there for them when they make that de­ci­sion,” she said.

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