Ruth Yorston told her story at the Conversion conference sponsored by The Pro-Life Action League. Here are excerpts from her testimony. Ruth Yorston grew up in a pro-choice family. Her mother worked at an abortion clinic, and Ruth Yorston took a job with her mother. Here is the testimony of Ruth Yorston:
“Three feet is not a long distance. Most of us, many of us could probably take a 3 foot step if we stretched our legs enough to do it. That is about the width of the sidewalk in front of Fort women’s health organization. And for me 3 feet represents not just a width of the sidewalk but it represents the chasm that I stepped across….
I grew up in a family that was very strongly pro-abortion and I want to share with you today a couple things. I want to share with you the background of my family and who we were in our community and I want to share with you the background of my faith and how that played a part in the choices and the decisions that I made in my early twenties. And I want to share with you a message of “what do we do now?….
I grew up in a dysfunctional household that probably doesn’t surprise most of you. I know that won’t surprise the other abortionists – abortion workers who are here today. I’m a daughter of an alcoholic who was the son of an alcoholic. My mother was the daughter of an alcoholic. My father stopped drinking when I was five years old and because of my mom’s protection I never once saw my father with a drink in his hand. But that shaped so much of our family. It shaped who we were as people. Alcoholic families keep secrets. And we kept many, many secrets even after my father stopped drinking. He was a broken man and my mom was a broken woman, like we all are. But the brokenness in our family was a brokenness that brought so much silence into our family, an inability to talk and share on a personal level… We were an intelligent family. We were the family that talked about all the things you’re not supposed to talk about over dinner. We talked about politics regularly.… We talked about politics. I was expected at a very young age to have opinions and thoughts on things that I didn’t know about. That was how we were raised. So, being thoughtful intelligent people was very important to my family. My parents were children of the depression. My mom grew up on the family farm in a little mining town just north of Pittsburgh. She was very much a child of the depression. But she did something that no one else in her family had done. She left that little town and she put herself through college and she went to school at Kent State in Ohio… My mom graduated with a degree in zoology and she worked in the medical field. She took a position working at Mount Sinai Hospital in Cleveland working with a doctor who was doing cutting-edge cancer research and she assisted him for 10 years doing advanced research and leukemia
“my mom was offered a job at Yale medical school and she turned it’s down because she would rather be my mom then work at Yale. I had an amazing mother. I adored my mother
it’s funny, we talked about all kinds of controversial subjects, but I never remember talking about abortion. And I never realized until she took a job in an abortion facility that we were pro-choice. Or pro-abortion. There was this kind of sense that we had to be strong people and we took control of our lives, made our own choices to make our own way in the world. My parents were the people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and we were expected to do the same thing. And for my parents, an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy was something that would hold someone back. So my mom took this job working at Fort women’s health Association. I was in high school at the time. And it came about after there was a debate in my high school English class and my high school English teacher when we were studying debate invited two women’s come in and speak on the issue. And one of them was the executive director of the Fort women’s health Association and the other one… Honestly I don’t remember her name – but she was leaving some of the pro-life work in Fort Wayne. And there was such an uproar in the school about these people coming in to talk to students about life issues. That I found out that my parents were pro-abortion was when my dad wrote a letter to my English teacher saying how glad he was that his daughter had the opportunity to hear the truth about abortion and how glad he was that in his daughter’s English class that she got to learn that abortion is just fine and it’s a normal part of life. It’s a good choice and the right decision and that he wanted his daughter to have the opportunity to kill her child – of course he didn’t say it that way – to kill her child should she be given that opportunity. Then it was the op-ed article in the local newspaper with my dad’s name and picture about how abortion was a right that a woman should have.
And then it was my mom’s trip to Washington DC to participate in a feminist March and I have a picture of my mom wearing – it was during the ERA days – wearing the bright yellow women equal rights for women, and wearing a pin of the bloody hanger. This is how I found out that oh, I guess I’m pro-choice. So like most children I followed in my parents footsteps. Parents, your job is to teach your children how to think. One of your jobs is to teach children how to think. Not surprisingly, my parents taught me how to think, and I began to think like they did. I was not that rebellious child who fought my parents in that particular area. I just went along with the ride. And I bought hook line and sinker everything that I started being taught about life, or the lack of life. And I didn’t think beyond that. I believed what I was told. But I didn’t think beyond that.
So when I graduated from high school I went away to college in Michigan for a year, ran out of money and came running home to my parents because I couldn’t figure out how to pay for college, took a job working in retail, wasn’t making enough money to move out of the house. I’m sure my parents were thinking, is this girl ever going to leave. And the abortion facility needed a receptionist. And mom came home, she knew that I was looking to pick up another part-time job, and she says why don’t you come work with me? Well my goodness, what daughter wouldn’t want to work with my mom? The woman who was breaking glass ceilings. The woman who was fighting tooth and nail for women. The woman who started all sorts of things in our community and made opportunities for many. It was an honor to work with my mom. And I took that job without thinking.
I once said I took the job without thinking twice. The truth is I took the job without thinking once. But I didn’t know what I was walking into. I went down to that building, and it was a two-story building – so much I can remember now that I think about. I remember – you know, you walk in and like many abortion facilities were on two floors so the girls would come up, and as quickly as possible, you would separate the girls seeking the abortions from their support network and we did the same thing. I was the receptionist so my job – I was the first person they see. My job was to welcome them, make sure they had a place to sit, give them something to drink, calm their nerves. And that’s what I did.
But it wasn’t too long, actually, when I started realizing that I didn’t know anything about what an abortion was, what we were doing. But I was also afraid to ask those questions. I can tell you that I worked in the abortion industry for about a year. I’ve never seen an abortion. I’ve never heard the suction machine. I left the abortion industry still not knowing really what an abortion was. The process and the procedure. Because I never asked. I just wanted to be with my mom.
So I’m working away, and I’m talking to women, taking appointments and I was kind of answering questions, not knowing what I was talking about but assuring that the counselor was going to be able to answer all their questions and that it was going to be okay. I never met the doctor. Dr. George Klopfer. Who still does abortions in Fort Wayne Indiana, over 25 years later. Who lives in Illinois, and comes to Indiana once a week, in fact more than once a week, because he does abortions in Fort Wayne and does abortions in two other cities that I know of. I never met the doctor. I never met the nurses, because I never went downstairs. I would go to the door that led downstairs and I remember thinking, I should go, really curious to know what happens down there. But I couldn’t bring myself to take a step to go down those stairs. And I remember thinking, it seems very dark down there. Now in retrospect I know the darkness that I was talking about wasn’t the lack of physical light. And I know now that God was certainly protecting me from seeing things that I would not be able to handle and knowing things that I would not be able to handle, and am really grateful that I’ve never had that experience. But I’ll tell you something – not having that experience doesn’t lessen the guilt and the problems that I have faced in making the decision, once I knew the truth, to leave that industry.
As Tony told you, I was attending church at the time. And I was not inactive in my faith. I attended a little evangelical Mennonite church. A very small church. Certainly, a church that would’ve considered itself to be pro-life. I was there every Sunday morning. I was there every Sunday evening. I was there every Wednesday night. I read my Bible every day. And I know that will surprise some people. I was not a nominal Christian at the time. I loved Jesus. I loved the Lord. And as odd as it might sound, I was growing in my faith when I took a job at an abortion facility. And why did that happen? It happened because we never talked about abortion in my church.
It was the ultimate of don’t ask don’t tell. Nobody asked, I didn’t tell. No one confronted me, or had the opportunity to confront me, and we never heard from the pulpit. Now we talked about all sorts of other things that you shouldn’t do. This is very common, I believe, in churches, am I right Father F rank? We talked about all sorts of other things that we shouldn’t do. In my tradition, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t hang with them that do. We didn’t drink, we didn’t smoke, we didn’t swear, we didn’t dance, we didn’t play cards. We didn’t do a lot of things. And we didn’t talk about life. So I was kind of sitting duck.
That’s why I ask you all to not be afraid to talk. Because people need to hear. I was preparing to study at Fort Wayne Bible college because I wanted to study theology. I wanted to learn more about the Bible. I wanted to learn more about how to study and read and understand Scripture. And I was dating a young man who went to that school who was a youth pastor at a church nearby. And after we’d been dating a while, I finally had the guts to tell him what I did for my part-time job, and we had been dating for a while before I told him, because you know, because a lot of us, at least my experience, working in the abortion history, we don’t share so much what we do for our part-time jobs, what we do for our full-time jobs. Some do, and some don’t – I was one of the ones that didn’t because somehow I knew that that was just not cool. So when I told Andy, he was shocked. But much to his credit, he didn’t turn purple and green and run out and scream… He just kept his mouth shut and said really? That’s interesting. And he dropped me off that night my parents home because I lived with my parents, he dropped me off at my parents home and he drove a half-hour away to where he lived and as he is told me the story since then, he was praying, “Lord, I really don’t think you want me dating a girl who kills children for a living, and somehow this was just not what I want to be part of my life.” And the Lord spoke to him and said, “you’re right.” I don’t want you dating a woman who kills children for a living. But you also can’t just leave without telling her why.”
So the very next day he drove a half-hour again to come and see me for maybe five minutes, spent over an hour in the car to spend five minutes with me. And he showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly and said, “I have a little book. Would you be willing to read this? I don’t want to talk about it today but would you be willing to read this and will talk about it this weekend when we go out for dinner. I said sure. I’ll read it.
And after he left and I sat down and it was a little book that just had a series of pictures, the black and white ultrasound images of life before birth. And I saw for the first time, because you know at the abortion facility no one was talking about life before birth, we didn’t talk about human development, I didn’t really understand what was happening as children grow in the womb. We didn’t talk about that at home, this was the first time I’ve seen these pictures – the first time I’ve ever understood. And those scales fell from my eyes and I was shocked and I thought what in the world have I been doing? And I was so convicted and I was so grieved that I quit my job within the next week.
I worked one and a half days a week. So the next day that I worked I went in and I said I can’t do this anymore. And it was a very interesting day at work that day because by that time a mom elevated, she was full was part-time then she was full-time and by the time that she left the industry she was the assistant administrator of the abortion facility. So I went in and I had to sit down with Dee, and with Helen, who was the assistant administrator and my mother, and explained to them “I’m not staying for work today mom, thanks for the ride in. (because we rode together) thanks for the ride in, I’ll be taking the bus home. I’m not staying for work today. I can’t do this anymore because I realize now that we’re killing children and I can’t be a part of that. And the mouths threw open. They were shocked; they didn’t see that coming. Heck, my mom and I lived in the same household and she didn’t see that coming because – that probably wasn’t very nice, I probably should’ve given her a warning – but I didn’t.
And then I got to go home and have dinner with dad that night and have that conversation all over again. And we were the family – we love to debate, and my dad was not a nice debater, he was the guy that would go in for the kill, you know the kind of debater I mean – who just – who knows how to take your words and twist them, to be whatever he wants them to be. He was really really good at that. My dad did not lose debates. And here I was, a girl who – all I knew was that life begins at conception and I couldn’t kill children anymore. But I couldn’t explain anything beyond that, so I was not going to win that debate that night. I was not going to be able to convince him. He just thought that this young man that I was dating, that I was all doe-eyed and would do anything that Andy asked me to do and that’s as far as my conviction would go. And he was convinced that if he could just wait it out until I wasn’t dating this guy anymore, that I would go back to being the normal daughter that he raised. Little did he know that I was now the normal daughter. And I was the daughter that wasn’t going to go away. To my parents credit they did not kick me out of my home. They were really angry with me. But to my parents credit, they continued to love me as they always had. We just disagreed. And it was a very uncomfortable place to live. But we lived with that uncomfortableness as I began to grow in my understanding.
So I’m going to share with you a couple of my experiences what it’s like, for me at that time, working in abortion facility. Our numbers were published in the phone book, we didn’t have a private phone number. Anyone in the community who wanted to know where we lived could know where we lived. And at that time the news was telling us that pro-lifers are kooks, that pro-life people are dangerous, that pro-life people want to kill abortion workers, that there were bombs everywhere. Some of my experiences include getting in the car in the morning to go to work sitting by my mom, and as she would turn the key in the ignition, I remember holding my breath and hoping that the car wouldn’t explode. You see, the fear in the abortion industry at that time was that great. I remember pulling away from our home and looking back and thinking, gosh I hope that’s still there when we get back because I was really that frightened of you. I really thought that you would do that to me. We parked about a block and a half away in the church parking lot, that allowed the abortion workers to rent out their parking lots so we could park there, and our clients often parked there as well. And so it was about a block and a half walk to the abortion facility and remembering that I was a Christian preparing to go to Bible study guess what I took with me to work every day? My big, floppy, leather bound new international version Bible. Marked up, highlighted, ribbons coming everywhere because I actually read it.
I look back now and I’m grieved to think the message that I was sending to the women that I passed on the sidewalk. I got to work in that Bible went on the corner of my desk where everyone could see it. Where every woman who came in for an abortion could see that the first woman they talked to read the Bible. So if I read the Bible and I was there, Jesus must think that it’s okay for you to be here. What a horrendous message.… Part of what I told women was that the church says it’s okay for you to be here. And it wasn’t okay. I’m really glad that God’s forgiven me of that sin.
The scariest part of my day was about the half a block that I had to walk… With the deathsorts on my left and the pro-life prayer people on my right.… On that sidewalk to the left into the right of me. And there was no way I could get to work without being confronted every day “today I lay before you life and death. Choose today.” And every time I went to work I chose death.
But I’d look at the escorts to my left and they were kind of scary. I looked to the pro-life kooks to my right and I couldn’t see that they were not protesting. I couldn’t see that they were praying. I could see it, but I couldn’t realize it because what I thought about them was so deeply implanted in me that I couldn’t see the reality that these were people who weren’t yelling at me, they weren’t screaming at me, they weren’t raising their fists to me, that they were standing there quietly praying for me. But through the veil that covered my eyes that was not at all what I saw. So I walked every week, between life and death and I chose death. Again, and again, and again. And I walked up those stairs and I put my Bible on the desk and said, “okay Lord – how many will you bring to us today?”
It’s a pretty sad life. But is the life that I lived. And I’m so glad, and I’m so thankful for my friend Andy, who had the courage to talk to me…..
I found out that my mom had a miscarriage in between my brother Ken, and I’m the youngest. After I left the industry, there was a time standing in my mom’s kitchen and still trying to talk to her about, you know, why how can you think that abortion is right? You worked in the medical field. Certainly you took embryology 101, didn’t you? You did take something that talked to you about how human life begins? How did you not get that? I didn’t take that course and I get that. And she was trying to explain to me why she looked at life the way she did, and she said, I had a miscarriage between you and your brother Ken. I said yeah, I know that. And when you were conceived, we weren’t really quite sure if you were healthy. And I was really worried that I was going to have another miscarriage. I said, okay. She said, because you stopped moving for a while. And I had a rough time in the beginning of my pregnancy with you. And I said okay, wondering what this has to do with abortion. And she said, so I had a conversation with my doctor. And I told him that I was concerned that you weren’t going to be healthy and that you weren’t going to be normal. I was born in 1964, to put this conversation into perspective. So this would’ve happened in 1963, 10 years before Roe V Wade. And I told the doctor that if you aren’t healthy, that we needed to take care of this now. See, I realized – and it took me 20 years to put that together. I understood that what my mom was saying was that she told her doctor that if I wasn’t healthy she would abort me. But I didn’t put it together in my head it’s over 20 years later. I understood that as being part of what was the makeup of my family – why we were pro-abortion. Because my mom at some point was confronted with making a decision, with making that choice. But what I didn’t put together that she was making that choice about me. See,I am beginning to understand more and more, how deceptive, how convuluted, how complicated this can become. Not because the issue’s complicated, it’s really simple. When does life begin. Answer- at conception. So what does abortion do? it takes a human life. It’s a pretty simple concept. But for my family it was not so simple at all. My dad had three children who after he had a divorce he was denied any relationship with. The reason I never knew my three half brothers was because my dad was not being given the continuing opportunity to be a dad. So he kept it secret. One of the reasons it was so simple for my mom to take that job working at an abortion facility was becasue she thought about aborting me. The reason it was so simple for me to follow in my mom’s footsteps was because she was an amazing woman. And I couldn’t imagine anyone else I would rather be like. I wanted to grow up to be my mom. Strong. Independent. Intelligent, ceiling breaking woman. and I followed in her footsteps. And this happened, yes, because of my family dynamic. But it also happened because of the silence of the church. Silence is not an option. It must not be an option for us. It must not be an option for us. You all know this, but there are people sitting beside you in church who are not pro-life, and I dont’ care how pro-life your church is. There are people who are not pro-life. And if you’re silent, if you’re church is silent, you are helping make it possible for people like me to exist and I beg of you, make it hard for people like me to exist….Speak the truth to us. Confront us in love. And help us understand that what we are doing damages us, damages society, ruins lives, ruins families and futures because if we don’t speak what we know, we’re part of the problem. And that lovely little church I went to who loved me in many many ways, who taught me the importance of obedience to the church, who taught me the importance of reading scripture and praying and loving Jesus, who called me to a higher place, called me to a higher place in many areas, but never in the issue of life. And if we dont’ speak about that issue, we’re falling down on the job and we’re not doing what Christ asks us to do and that is to love the least, the lost, and the lonely.
A Live Action article on Ruth Yorston can be found here.
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