Presence at abortion clinic makes a difference, former Planned Parenthood manager says

Jennifer Brinker | jbrinker@archstl.org

Jefferson City — The first time Sue Thayer contacted Iowa's right-to-life organization, she called from inside a Planned Parenthood clinic.

For 18 years, Thayer worked at the clinic in Storm Lake, Iowa, starting as an entry-level assistant, rising to office manager. As the years passed, she began to feel that the clinic was motivated by profit, not patients. When the clinic announced it would start offering webcam abortions (a procedure that allows a doctor to remotely administer an abortion-inducing medication), Thayer saw that as her "wake-up call."

Thayer shared her story before more than 300 people who attended a Missouri Right to Life lobby day Feb. 9 at the Missouri Capitol.

As she became overwhelmed with concern, she began feeding information to Iowa Right to Life — "I don't think they believed me at first," she said about the first phone call — and was fired not long after. Iowa Right to Life put her in touch with Alliance Defending Freedom, and in 2011, attorneys there filed a "whistle blower" lawsuit on her behalf, asserting the clinic filed false reimbursement claims to Medicaid. The case now stands before a federal court.

Thayer felt that was the extent of her involvement, but God had other plans, she said. In 2012, she led a 40 Days for Life campaign outside of the Storm Lake clinic. By the end of the campaign in March, the clinic announced it was closing.

"I was stunned," she said. "I couldn't believe that God would do that. I worked there and they made a lot of money. While I was there we signed a 15-year lease. People thought that somehow I had something to do with that ... but it was the prayers of many that went up." In total, 13 clinics in Iowa have closed.

Missouri is a leader in the pro-life movement, said Thayer, and it's because of the prayer and dedication of many. Since the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos last year of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies, Missourians have strengthened their efforts to continue a prayerful presence outside clinics, especially in St. Louis and Columbia.

Members of the Missouri House and Senate, last year launched investigations of Planned Parenthood's activities in Missouri, and have since filed legislation that addresses some of their concerns. Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, filed a bill (SB 644) that would require annual inspections of abortion clinics, prohibit fetal tissue donation, tighten pathology reporting on fetal tissue from aborted babies, and modify physician privileges. The measure, which is expected to be heard by the full Senate sometime in the next week, is supported by Missouri Right to Life and the Missouri Catholic Conference,

Onder, a member of St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville, said the bill is "aimed at public safety, which is well within the province of state government to regulate, as we regulate other ambulatory surgical centers, hospitals and doctor's offices. And if a side effect of this or any other pro-life bill is that it shuts down an abortion clinic, so be it. As we have applied the care standard of care to abortion clinics that is applicable to other areas of medicine, we have found the abortion clinics are left wanting, and they close down."

Several similar bills have been filed in the House. Last year's investigations showed that there isn't a formal method for accounting for all of the body parts from aborted babies, said Missouri Right to Life legislative liaison Susan Klein. "We want to make sure that all of the baby body parts are accounted for," she said, "that there is no selling or buying of baby body parts in Missouri. I think that there are a lot of unanswered questions, and the legislation this year will account for all of that."

Despite what happens with abortion in Missouri in the future, there are many life issues with which to content, said Klein.

"We're dealing with the rationing of health care, organ donation, and research on early-stage embryos," she said. "There are a lot of issues outside of the abortion issue. Our society has devalued life over the years, and I think the presence of pro-lifers at the capital is going to be a necessary thing for our lifetime." 

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