Former Clinic Worker: Hellen Pendley

I came into a company that was very well established. This particular company is one of the largest in the nation, it does operate abortion clinics to this day, 12 clinics across the United States. When I came into this industry, I was asked during my initial interview, “Are you pro-choice?” Well, of course I said yes, even though I really hadn’t thought much about it. The next question I was asked is “Can you handle the fact that this is a business?” and of course I fit right in, I have a business background, I have a medical background as well. There was no mistaking the fact that I was here to make them money.  No one ever said to me, “I hope you’re pro-choice because we want you to help these women. I never felt that.

Well I had this noble cause because that because that I had worked in medicine I was used to sterile environment that I could bring that knowledge into the abortion industry and I could try to turn that clinic around so that we could give quality health care to women.

Well that sounds real nice, the only problem was that the industry, instead of me changing it, it changed me.

The first thing I did was clean up the clinic. At least on the outside. But soon I realized it was gonna cut into my bottom line. Because you see every time we bought a piece of equipment, we like you had absolutely no life support equipment, we had no crash cart we didn’t have any of those things in the clinic, and the state of Georgia where I’m from and where I operated this particular clinic, we were regulated by the state for the state didn’t require that we had any life support, didn’t require that we had any recovery room equipment though we did perform abortions under general anesthesia.

Because I was beginning to see things the way the abortionist sees things which is the more abortions we perform the more money I’m going to make. That was the bottom line.

I began, to see these women, I never saw them as women. If you want to know the truth, I never saw them as women. To me, if they were so stupid that they would come in and believe our lies, they deserved exactly what we were gonna give them. And that’s exactly the way I treated each and every woman.

14 weeks

But in our clinics, our doctors, those were not their patients. That’s common around the country. These doctors don’t care about their patients. We could see a separation, OB/GYN’s that worked in their own private practice and then they’d came to our clinic, if one of our patients had a problem afterward they called me. That’s common. I, like Joy, I’m not a medical doctor , I’m not trained to evaluate a woman’s problems, postoperative hemorrhaging, etc., I have no skills to enable me to make that diagnosis and to prescribe the method of treatment, but that was required of me and I did it for three years. When they called me after hours and said, “I’m hemorrhaging, what can I do?” It was my problem, not the doctors. I was the person on call, I was one who called in all the drugs, I was the person who prescribed the medication.

[discussing another clinic worker who is required to shred medical records of a patient who died] We had a personal shredder in my office for that purpose. There would not have been a medical record if the DA had shown up on the my doorstep the next morning.

The state of Georgia is one of those states that is very heavily regulated or technically very heavily regulated, meaning that they are subjected to an annual inspection by a governing body, they also, we have surprises inspections, they do come in without being announced, other than the first inspection. However, some of the material I brought with me and that I was holding up and showing you this morning are actual deficiencies, listed by this governing arm, such as patients who have a cardiac arrest, although their patient records indicate that they were ready, that they were healthy, that they were ready to be discharged from the clinic.

….

In the future, I believe, that we are going to have to deal with a generation of women who have Hepatitis B, who are HIV positive, because they’ve contracted if through an abortion procedure.  If you reuse a vacuum aspiration cannula, you’re going to infect the next person. But when you get busy in a clinic, there is no time to sterilize instruments. I’m sorry.  You wash them, you repack them, and you reuse them. And then, when the state comes in to look at your logbook, they have these nice little strips that you just stick on the autoclave and you put a date on there and you put a time, and we stick them in by the handful, and then we take them out and we show that we ran fifteen loads that day. When we didn’t.

There are a number of regulations, and the regulations are only as good as the enforcing arm behind it. I also have an original memorandum from the Georgia Department of Human Resources, which is our governing body that states that they realize that there were some criminal violations that were detected in these clinics as well during their routine inspections. However, because they are not given the authority to act upon criminal codes, it basically has to be dismissed. There is no action taken. So it does, the rules and the regulation varies very widely from state to state, most of them are in name only, and unless we begin to push our legislators and say that we want some accountability for the agencies that are responsible for inspecting abortion clinics, you’re really not going to see a change. You can write laws all day long that make people feel good and give you a warm, cozy feeling, but if there is no enforcement, there is no law.

8 week old unborn baby

Incomplete abortions, those happen very very frequently. I kept a file in my office, it was separate, it was under lock and key and absolutely no one had access to that but me. Those were our “problem patients.” Those were pulled out, they were purged from the normal filing system because we did not want an inspector to come in and routinely pull records and pull those records. Those were the women that we knew we sent home bleeding, the women that we knew we sent home with a problem. They were the ones that we knew we were going to hear from again.

You see when I came that we did have it, to the clinic, we did have a complication log book. Well, I asked the staff, I said how- would you explain to me how you gather the data for your statistics? They said well, we guess.  I said, Ok. You guess at how many patients have complications after an abortion. So I tell you this because when you stop and look at CDC statistics, other statistics that you come across showing just how safe legal abortion is, you need to understand who reports those statistics.

I have a memorandum that came from our national director of this particular company, and in that memorandum she states, “You do not report it if it’s not a hospitalization. I don’t care how many times you perforate a uterus, you pack them, you massage the uterus, you give them some [medicine] and you send them home, but you don’t report it.

One incident in particular, when I was working in the clinic. We had a young girl, she was actually 14 years of age, and this particular Doctor came in to me and he said, “Hellen, I perforated her uterus and I pulled the bowel through. What do I do?” I knew what he meant. He wasn’t asking me what he should do as a doctor., he was asking me what do I do to make sure that this stays under wraps. So the decision was made. Poke it back in and sent her home. Because I’m going to tell you something, life or death means nothing in the clinic. If you do not respect the life of the unborn, how can you respect the life of the mother and why? It doesn’t happen.

Whether she lived or died I do not know. And I wish I could stand here and even tell you that I cared, but I didn’t. Because you see I wasn’t there to care about women. I knew that in the abortion clinic, there are women exploiting women. And I was one of them.

There are a lot of things that go on in a clinic that you would not tolerate if it happened in any other branch of medicine, and I say that speaking as one who is still in the medical industry. But it’s important that you understand to what lengths people in the industry will go to preserve their image. There is nothing that is too low. I say this because I want you to understand that when I worked in the industry there were no delusions of helping anyone. I helped myself to the money. I helped myself to a position of power. And I didn’t care how many dead bodies I had to crawl over to get there. I walked into the laboratory every day. I saw dead babies every day for three years. I played with many of them. I never saw human life. And I never cared. If I could see 50 I was so happy, because you know what that meant? It meant I’m really gonna have a good bonus in my next paycheck.

You see we did work from a tight script, but because we understood that if we could gain control of that conversation immediately, and then we could start telling her a little bit about us and what we were saying to her is, “I care about you. I am in control. I am the adult, I’ve done this before. I am the answer to your problem, no matter what it is.” It was a very, it was sales, it was a marketing tool.

I had one counselor though, who approached me and said, “I’d like to start a postabortion syndrome counseling session.” Well of course I said, “we can’t do that, because there’s no such thing as post abortion syndrome.” This was a counselor who was hearing from a lot of hurting women. But I quickly set her straight, “I don’t know where you got your statistics, but they are wrong. There is no such thing. If a woman calls you and says, “I feel terrible. I’m hurting. I’m empty. Something’s wrong,” we were trained to tell her, “if you have a problem, you had it before you had the abortion. The abortion has nothing to do with it. Now, if you need our services again, feel free to call us back, otherwise you need to speak to someone else.”

So you see, there’s a process that happened and it happens to other people who work in the industry, regardless of what your position is, that’s not, that irrelevant to the issue, the industry is motivated, it is driven by money. But there is this secret, which nobody talks about, which is we have to pretend, at least pretend, for the sake of image, that we care about someone. Because we, if people really saw us for the way we are, and could really see our heart, abortion would not have the level of respect that it seems to have in the community and this country at large….

Behind closed doors, we used to joke about the term pro-choice. In our clinic, the only choice you have is what clinic gets your business. There is no choice

This testimony is excerpted from the film “Abortion: The Inside Story” by the Pro-Life Action League

 

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About Sarah

Sarah is a member of the board of The Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
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