Darlene Pawlik and Rebecca Kiessling: “Did I deserve the death penalty?”

Seventh in the Voices to Trust series.

Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1 is featured in an ad for Feminists for Life. She is a woman who was conceived in rape, and she has one question about rape-and-incest exceptions to abortion regulation.

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Rebecca Kiessling in NH, 2014. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Rebecca Kiessling in NH, 2014. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

I interviewed Rebecca a couple of years ago. When asked about the no-exceptions position being a tough sell, she replied, “We need to speak words of life and value. Even pro-lifers need to be careful in the way they communicate. We want to change hearts and minds….Point out that rape and incest exceptions benefit the perpetrator. Abortion hides evidence of his crime. Protect a woman from rape and abortion, not from a baby.”

Darlene Pawlik. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Darlene Pawlik. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Darlene Pawlik of New Hampshire, also of Save the 1, is a trustee of New Hampshire Right to Life. She was conceived in rape and as a teenager was sexually trafficked.  Today, she speaks and writes about the need to defend life at all stages, regardless of the circumstances of conception. In a 2013 interview with me, Darlene said that when she decided to go public with her story, a friend advised her not to. Darlene went ahead anyway. “I said stop. No more secrets. I am the ‘exception.’

Darlene’s web site, thedarlingprincess.com, carries the tag line “Bad beginnings do not necessitate bad endings.” She writes, “I am so passionate about the value of every life; whether one is conceived with wine and roses, in a test tube or as a result of violence. I absolut[e]ly reject the utilitarian view that people are valuable only if they can contribute to society in arbitrarily contrived ways. We should all hold to the Declaration of Independence’s admonition that each of us is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights: the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One’s right to life trumps all other rights.”

See a related post from 2013 about Darlene and Rebecca.


 

Ex-PP managers on what it’s like inside

Sixth in the Voices to Trust series.

“You are saying things to yourself and others that you will never be able to get out of your head.”

Abby Johnson (photo: abbyjohnson.org)
Abby Johnson (photo: abbyjohnson.org)

Two women who spent years working for Planned Parenthood are now in the forefront of PP’s challengers. Abby Johnson and Sue Thayer started at Planned Parenthood believing that women’s health care would be the priority there; both eventually realized that it wasn’t.

Abby Johnson wrote Unplanned in 2011 to give her account of being an award-winning manager of a Texas Planned Parenthood facility and how she decided to leave the industry in 2009. She didn’t stop there. She founded And Then There Were None (abortionworker.com), seeking “to end abortion from the inside out” by assisting anyone seeking an exit from abortion work.

Sue Thayer (iowartl.org photo)
Sue Thayer (iowartl.org photo)

Sue Thayer worked for 17 years at Planned Parenthood in Iowa, eventually becoming a center’s manager. When PP began promoting telemed (webcam) abortions, she saw that making money had taken precedence over women’s health. Thayer began speaking about her PP experience, and she is a plaintiff in a multimillion-dollar Medicaid fraud case against her former employer. She recently joined the staff of Iowa Right to Life as lead strategist.

Johnson has written an open letter to abortion facility workers, saying “No one grows up wanting to work in an abortion clinic.” An excerpt:

“I thought that Planned Parenthood really believed in reducing the amount of unintended pregnancies; and therefore reducing the amount of abortions. I thought I was doing the right thing….I was rising up the Planned Parenthood corporate ladder. I was the Planned Parenthood 2008 “Employee of the Year.” This was my life. I loved my job. I loved the patients we served. I thought I was helping them. I know you do, too.

“Did I help women? Sure.…the woman who hadn’t had an exam in ten years, the woman who needed testing because her husband had been unfaithful, the woman who had never been checked for diabetes but was then diagnosed because we finally ran the test. I remember all of these women. I remember all of their stories…. I helped them receive the healthcare they needed, the healthcare they deserved. You know what else I remember? I remember the day I watched a 13-week old fetus fight for its life during an abortion procedure.

“I remember looking at the bodies of aborted babies while I accounted for their arms, legs, and head. I remember being able to determine if the baby was a boy or girl. How did I justify my work for so long? How are you doing it? I think I tried to really believe that I was doing the right thing…the right thing for those women. But what about those babies? …Didn’t they matter? Was it really ALL about the woman and her rights?

“I have learned now what I didn’t realize then. It is NOT just about the woman. Abortion is something that affects many people. Yes, it affects the woman; but it also affects the man involved, the extended family, and of course, the child growing in her womb. I saw abortion as something that was very one-sided…now I am able to see it as an issue that affects multiple people; multiple lives. It also affects your life as a clinic worker. You are witnessing things that are permanently damaging your mind. You are saying things to yourself and others that you will never be able to get out of your head.”

Thayer wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times in 2012 summarizing her concern over telemed abortions. An excerpt:

“In my mind, Planned Parenthood was the ‘trusted friend’ it claimed to be, educating and providing women with effective contraceptives so that abortion could be avoided….

“This all changed in 2008, when Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa (now known as Planned Parenthood of the Heartland) required our clinic to begin ‘telemed abortions.’ Telemed abortion is the practice by which an abortion doctor from a remote location simply presses a button, which opens a drawer containing the dangerous abortion pill, after a brief teleconference call with the woman.

“Telemed abortion doesn’t only result in the death of an unborn child; it strips women of their dignity by denying them the courtesy of an in-person visit from a doctor concerned for their health and well-being. It risks their lives by sending them away with no support and a drug that has led to massive bleeding and hemorrhaging, infection and even death.

“So what does Planned Parenthood, the ‘trusted friend of women,’ love so much about telemed abortions? Low overhead costs.

“My superiors justified telemed abortions, lauding the financial benefits of not having to worry about or pay for specialized equipment, staff and a traveling physician – all required with surgical abortions.

“When I expressed my concerns, I was ‘let go,’ supposedly because of ‘downsizing.’

“The final veil had been lifted and Planned Parenthood’s big lie was exposed: Planned Parenthood is not about helping women access health care. Instead, it is about making money. And abortion is its moneymaker. Telemed abortion is its mega moneymaker.”

Johnson and Thayer eventually participated in 40 Days for Life campaigns outside their respective former facilities. Both of those PP facilities have since closed down.


 

Survivors of “the dreaded complication”: hearing from women born alive after attempted abortions

Fifth in the Voices to Trust series.

“If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine?” — Gianna Jessen

“My biological mother was 17 years old and seven and one-half months pregnant when she made the decision to have a saline abortion. I am the person she aborted. I lived instead of died.” That’s Gianna Jessen speaking. She was born in 1977 and was adopted at age 4. When she was 12, she learned the circumstances of her birth. When she was 14, she began telling her story publicly, and she hasn’t stopped since.


Born alive: “the dreaded complication” of abortions.

Jessen testified to Congress earlier this year at a hearing prompted by the Center for Medical Progress videos about Planned Parenthood. “Hear me clearly: I forgive my biological mother….how many children have died and been dismembered and their parts sold for our ego, our convenience, and our promiscuity? How many Lamborghinis were purchased with the blood of innocent children?”

Jessen spoke before another Congressional subcommittee in 1996. Today, a baby is a baby when convenient. It is tissue or otherwise when the time is not right. A baby is a baby when miscarriage takes place at two, three, four months. A baby is called a tissue or clumps of cells when an abortion takes place at two, three, four months. Why is that? I see no difference. What are you seeing? Many close their eyes…The best thing I can show you to defend life is my life. It has been a great gift. Killing is not the answer to any question or situation. Show me how it is the answer….All life is valuable. All life is a gift from our Creator. We must receive and cherish the gifts we are given. We must honor the right to life.”

At the more recent hearing, Jessen was joined by Melissa Ohden, another survivor of a saline abortion attempt.

On Ohden’s own web site, she writes about the intergenerational injustice inflicted by abortion – and the importance of speaking the truth, even in the face of opposition. (Punctuation is shown as she used it.)

“…I wrote a post in reference to the Washington Post’s attempt in 2012 to discredit my life and life story in their support of President Obama, (http://www.melissaohden.com/?p=1315), and in it, I started to process out some of my thoughts about how responses like this by those that are pro-abortion not only affect me, but affect my family, who have been forever changed by the abortion that was meant to end my life. In the course of the last year, though, I’ve been thinking about how not only such responses deny the reality of my family members, including my birthmother, who was forced to have the abortion and was greatly pained by this for decades, but denies the realities of tens of millions of families who have been forever changed by abortion. And I’ll be honest. It saddens and frustrates me that we live in a world that wants to deny the truth about abortion so badly that it will not only turn a blind eye to its’ everyday injustice against children, but then further denies the ramifications of this injustice on the children’s families.

“Abortion affects everyone, and I hear from and meet grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers who have experienced abortion and its’ long-lasting effects, day in and day out. They have a story. One that they don’t often share because of their own guilt, shame, grief, or fear about how others will respond in a culture that has embraced abortion as a way of life (or lack thereof). Yet, no matter the feelings welled up inside these family members, what I have discovered is that when they finally hear from someone else that they, too, have experienced that pain, that they, too, understand what they’ve gone through, the floodgates open, and those feelings, those words that have remained locked up within them come pouring out.

“We may not be able to change the response that the abortion industry and its’ supporters, including the media, have in regards to abortion, abortion survivors, and the truth about how abortion affects all of us, but we can do something. We can be courageous enough to share our experiences with others, whether it is face to face, or something we share anonymously on the Internet.

“We can educate others about the impact that abortion has across generations, not only on children and women, but on men, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and ultimately outside of the microcosm of family to our communities and nation. We can share our stories and encourage others to find hope and healing in the midst of what they have experienced. If we’ve lost 57 million children to abortion in the last 41 ½ years in the U.S. alone, we should recognize that we are not alone in our experience, and use our grief to bring about a difference, not only in our lives, but the lives of others.

“I know that it’s not easy to talk about, and it’s hard to know where to start, but I would like to just encourage you, the reader, if you’ve been affected by abortion in your family, to take the first step and simply acknowledge this to yourself. The next steps of sharing it will come in their due time.”

 

 

 

 

When Julia Holcomb spoke, “you could hear a pin drop”

Fourth in the Voices to Trust series.

Julia Holcomb at NHRTL event, October 2014
Julia Holcomb at NHRTL event, October 2014

Julia Holcomb visited New Hampshire a little over a year ago to speak at a fundraising banquet for a pro-life group. I was there, and I can still remember how the crowd hung onto her every word. As someone at my table that night said later, “You could hear a pin drop on the floor in the back of the room.”


Julia endured a coerced saline-method abortion at the age of 17, in her fifth month of pregnancy. The father of the child was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Many years later, Julia wrote about their relationship and the abortion in The Light of the World: the Steven Tyler and Julia Holcomb Story.  

“The doctor did not explain what the procedure would be like. Steven watched when the doctor punctured my uterus with a large needle. Then I was taken to a room to wait for the contractions.  Steven sat beside me in the hospital until it was over.  When the nurse would leave the room he was snorting cocaine on the table beside my bed….Steven, high on cocaine, was emotionally detached, witnessing the procedure but cut off from the normal reaction and feelings of horror you would expect.  At the time I was shocked and hurt by his behavior.

“But I know now that on an unconscious level, he must have been traumatized witnessing the death of his first-born son in such a horrific and direct way. Steven watched the baby come out and he told me later, when we were in New Hampshire, that it had been born alive and allowed to die.  (I was not allowed to see the baby when it was delivered.) Steven told me later that it had been a boy and that he now felt terrible guilt and a sense of dread over what he had done.  I did not know that such a thing could be legal.  I could not imagine a world where a tiny baby could be born alive and tossed aside as worthless without ever seeing his mother’s face.

“Nothing was ever the same between us after that day…”

That was a long time ago. The relationship with Tyler did not last. Better things were in store for Julia; she and her husband have been married for more than thirty years and are the parents of seven children. Julia now speaks on behalf of Silent No More Awareness campaign along with other post-abortive women who want to “break the silence” and speak “the truth about abortion’s negative consequences and the hope found in healing.”

“I pray that all those who have had abortions or have participated in any way in an abortion procedure may find in my story, not judgment or condemnation, but a renewed hope in God’s steadfast love, forgiveness and peace.”

Watch a video of Julia Holcomb’s testimony at silentnomoreawareness.org.

Message from a post-abortive NH lawmaker

Sue DeLemus, former state representative running to represent Rochester once again: "I have a very personal connection with the right to life, because I had an abortion. I fight like mad every single bill that's against life that comes through this House. There is no one in this House who can testify the way I can."
                NH Rep. Susan DeLemus

Third in the Voices to Trust series.

New Hampshire state representative Susan DeLemus is a straightforward woman. She’s honest about having had an abortion, and she’s just as honest about the aftermath. A few months ago, she was asked to speak at a State House rally about her experience.

 “I’m sorry we don’t don’t have people [here] in protest today of our movement. Those people are the people I want to reach the most. … I went ahead and had my baby killed. I know I’ve been forgiven, but it still hurts like hell. I hope you all take away from this that’s it’s still painful to me, and painful for any women who decides to kill her baby. And if Planned Parenthood was here today, I would look them right in the eye and say shame on you. Do you hear me, Planned Parenthood? I just want this message to get out.”

She sounded a similar note in a 2014 address. “I have a very personal connection with the right to life, because I had an abortion. I fight like mad every single bill that’s against life that comes through this House. There is no one in this House who can testify the way I can.”