Wendy Davis, the woman in pink sneakers, became an overnight celebrity after she filibustered a Texas bill that would have protected some unborn children of 20 weeks and older. She was celebrated for her stand by the president of United States, by most of the mainstream media, and by Planned Parenthood and other abortion-industry stalwarts. As the Texas legislature convenes for another special session, affording Davis more of the spotlight, abortion in the Lone Star State deserves a little sunlight.
Deborah Edge knows abortion. She used to work for Texas abortion provider Douglas Karpen, who is currently under investigation after allegations surfaced that bring to mind the horror stories revealed about Kermit Gosnell. Here, Edge talks about her experience and explains her reasons for leaving the industry, in which move she was aided by the efforts of a former Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director, Abby Johnson, who now has a ministry for clinic workers who want out.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: While working for Dr. Karpen, how easy was it for you to believe that you were helping provide a good service, truly helping women?
DEBORAH EDGE: As a mother of seven children, I have always been a nurturing woman. But I know it was God who put that desire to help people in my heart. I was dealt a pretty bad hand as a child and young adult, and I made some poor choices because of it: from growing up in an abusive environment with a single parent, to going through many trials and tribulations in life and giving my heart to men who took advantage of me. I became motivated to become a good mom and to provide the best I knew how. I always promised myself never to abuse my children and always to help those who came to me.
I always wanted to work in the medical field and to comfort those who needed physical or emotional help. I felt as if I was able to provide that to the women who were coming to the clinic. I genuinely felt I was doing the right thing for these women. I chose to ignore the life inside of her womb and focus solely on her needs. I remember hearing Abby Johnson say that there is a disconnect in the workers’ minds when it comes to seeing the woman and her baby as two people that need to be cared for. I definitely believe that is true and is where my mind was. I would hear stories from these women about abuse they suffered: drug addiction, rape, young women in the middle of their college education, husbands that had been involved in affairs, etc. I remember thinking that because abortion was legal, it was okay to help these women make that choice. I held many women’s hands during their abortion procedures. I remember at times crying for those unborn babies and the reasons that were given to take their lives. I was soon looking at it as if it was them who would have to answer to God — after all, it wasn’t me who was forcing them to have an abortion. I couldn’t see my part in it and that I was guilty as well. And honestly, I was also thinking of my own situation and about the children I had to take care of.
LOPEZ: You primarily worked in the “lab” area of the clinic, “where we sorted through the parts of the aborted child to make sure they were all accounted for and nothing was left inside the patient.” What goes through your head when you’re doing that?
EDGE: Working in the lab was just part of the job for me. I felt like I was doing so much good for these women, that surely I would be forgiven for not protecting these children. It was hard to see in the beginning, but then evil takes over your mind and your thoughts. You become desensitized to what you are seeing. It’s almost like you are numb to it. And you just keep thinking of the women and how you are “helping” them.
LOPEZ: You have said that “many” of the women who came into the clinic were seeking abortions “because the baby was a girl and they wanted a boy.” How common was this occurrence?
EDGE: There were at least a handful of women in our everyday appointments who were having abortions due to gender. They didn’t want another girl or boy, or maybe their husband wanted a certain gender. I often heard that excuse from the patients or sometimes in conversation the patients would have amongst themselves. I remember feeling disgusted in their reasoning, but I would think, “who am I to stop them?”
LOPEZ: What did you hear from women most often?
EDGE: I mainly heard from women that having a baby at that time was not part of their plans. Less frequently, the reasons were drug addiction, rape, abuse, or infidelity. But it seemed that the majority of these women were choosing abortion because they felt like they had no other option. Maybe they didn’t have a support system to help them. Maybe they already had children at home and were struggling. It seemed like they honestly felt that an abortion would be a selfless decision. They thought they were really doing the best thing for their unborn child.
LOPEZ: You occasionally talked women out of abortions. Where would they go from Karpen’s clinic? Were they grateful?
EDGE: There were a few occasions where I was successful in helping women change their minds and choose life. This happened mainly with women who expressed their mixed emotions concerning the abortion. Sometimes we would have mothers bringing in their minor daughters. I would try to take the time to explain to these women that by forcing their daughters to have an abortion, they were putting a wedge in their relationship — one that sometimes can’t be fixed. We had women come in who would say they were only having the abortion because they didn’t have any money to support a child. I would always try to give them information about prenatal Medicaid and other services where they could receive help. The women who left and chose life were always grateful. As Abby says, “No one grows up wanting to have an abortion.” They are always looking for a way out.
LOPEZ: What is it that made you leave?
EDGE: My plans to leave this industry were always in the back of my mind. But then I would always have to face reality — what would I do when I left? How will I support my children? Who would want to hire a woman who worked in the abortion business? It was scary to even contemplate leaving. I remember feeling very trapped. I did leave for a time, but ultimately returned because of a bad financial situation. I think I had gained a different perspective once I came back. I started to notice a lot of wrongdoing. In my opinion, the staff and patients were not being protected. Protocol was not in place. Women were being sexually harassed. Women were being overcharged based on how they looked or what type of purse they were carrying. My impression was that if Dr. Karpen thought he could charge more and get away with it, he would. I started to realize that as long as I stayed, I was part of the problem.
LOPEZ: How did And Then There Were None help you? Why is its work important?
EDGE: In my years at this facility I had been approached by the people praying outside and I would ignore them. Then one day in 2011 I saw a young man dressed in a suit. He had a small pendant on his jacket that signified life. He would park his SUV on the side of the road and pray at the gates of the facility. I thought to myself, “WOW what dedication to God.” One day, I decided to see what he would say to me. That was the day I learned of Abby Johnson and her organization And Then There Were None. He didn’t have her contact information on him at the time so he gave me his email and told me that he would get it for me. He begged me to leave the industry and assured me that Abby would help me. I remember thinking that it all sounded ridiculous. Who would want to help me? I was their enemy, right?
Some time passed and on April 16th, 2012, I was terminated for confronting Karpen about some illegal activity that was taking place. Looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. During the next few months I was desperately trying to think of different things to report about Karpen. I decided to contact Operation Rescue. One of their employees told me to write up my allegations and send them to the Texas Medical Board. So I did. I filled out the TMB forms and waited. And waited. After several months, I received a response stating that they were not going to pursue an investigation. I felt very defeated. I felt like all of my time there had been for nothing. These babies were not going to get the justice they deserved and Karpen would continue practicing medicine in a way that harmed women.
I didn’t know if anyone could help me further, but I decided to call Abby. I was sure they weren’t really interested in helping someone like me, but I didn’t have anything to lose. The first time I spoke to her, it seemed unreal. That guy who prayed outside our clinic had actually been right. Abby assured me that they were going to take care of me and my needs — physical, spiritual, and emotional. My heart felt full of life once again. I felt a huge burden had been taken off me. It made me feel good that someone else knew exactly what I was feeling. I wasn’t alone. I was so impressed with the way Abby and her ministry focused on my needs. She would always assure me that everything was going to be all right. Since then, ATTWN has supported me in all of my decisions. They have helped me through a rough spot with my finances and have always made sure that I could put my family first. Anything they promised to do, they delivered. I have always felt protected with them and I know that they are always looking out for me and my family. I don’t know what would have become of me had they not stepped in.
LOPEZ: Why did you feel like you needed “forgiveness and healing”?
EDGE: To say I needed forgiveness was a no-brainer. I was raised to believe in God to understand His laws. I know that I am His child. He died for me and I owe it to Him to seek repentance and ask for forgiveness. I am not worthy of His love, but He has always been beside me, even when I was turning my back on Him. I carried that sin for years. I knew that I needed to repent. I was so lost and in denial for many years. I have asked God for my soul to be freed from my past sin. I have also made a commitment to fight for the lives of the unborn. I am in His hands now and know that I am a new creation in Him. The healing process will be long. I know that I must be strong in His will in order to overcome my past. But God has assembled an amazing support team for me through ATTWN. Honestly, Abby and her team have a difficult mission ahead of them. We need to make sure the employees of these facilities know that there is a safe place waiting for them and that they are not trapped. I am a witness to that love and care that ATTWN has given me and many others.
LOPEZ: You’ve written that “I was a Christian but abortion was not at the top of my list of concerns. I thought it was not a great option but really depended upon the woman’s situation.” Do you engage with people now who are in the same boat –who believe that it might not be a great option but who are they to stand in a woman’s way by working toward restrictions on abortion?
EDGE: Since my exit from the abortion industry, I see things very differently and for what they really are. A life is life no matter what. I do not condone abortion no matter what the situation. I am 100 percent pro-life. I try to share my story with people who consider themselves pro-choice. I think they need to know what they are really supporting. I look forward to being an influence to those abortion-clinic workers to choose to leave. I pray many more will come forward and not fall victim to the horrors inside those clinic walls.