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.
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.