By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald Commentary
Even now, 20 years later, the truth of what Patricia Sandoval witnessed first-hand inside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Sacramento, California, is hard medicine to take, especially for those who refuse to accept it.
Sandoval’s life as the Prodigal Daughter had spiraled out of control. She herself had three abortions, and she was sure of one thing. No one – especially no man – could tell her what to do with her own body.
After breaking up with her boyfriend after her third abortion, she needed a job. She saw an ad in a newspaper about Planned Parenthood searching for a Spanish-speaking medical assistant.
“I went to the interview, and they hired me on the spot,” Sandoval said.
The clinic’s need was apparent. It did 50 abortions a week – 25 on Wednesdays and 25 on Fridays – and 90% of the women who came to the clinic were Hispanic. The clinic’s circuit-riding surgeon was on a time schedule, and quotas had to be maintained by adhering to a five-minute rotation.
Sandoval’s job was to calm the waters when women asked probing questions and, ultimately, she did whatever she needed to do to get them on the table.
“If they don’t come in for their abortion, you can actually lose your job,” Sandoval said. “There is no other solution but abortion. They told me I could not bring photographs of my family or my nieces and nephews because the women might see it and freak out. I was told to never look the women in the eyes. The woman is waiting for someone to say, ‘Are you OK? There are other solutions.’ But there are no other options. We couldn’t use the words baby, he, she, mother or father. We couldn’t even use the word fetus.
“The most important thing was to never let the woman see the ultrasound screen. The screen had to face the doctor. And the clinic manager told me, ‘You never tell the mother or the father in the waiting room that after their abortion, we throw their babies away in the garbage.’ She said it that bluntly. I felt something pierce my heart, but I didn’t say anything or do anything at the time.”
Wednesdays and Fridays were the days when Sandoval felt like a broken record.
“My baby’s going to feel it, right?” a frightened woman would ask Sandoval.
“Somehow, they knew it was a baby,” Sandoval said. “I would tell them, ‘Of course it’s not a baby, and it’s not going to hurt. It’s just a sack of tissue.’ I actually thought I was doing an act of charity. I thought Planned Parenthood was a bunch of heroes.”
Sandoval, who has written the book “Transfigured” to describe her transformation as one of the country’s foremost advocates for life, will speak Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at St. Rita Parish in New Orleans and also speak to Notre Dame seminarians. And, yes, some of what she will say is hard medicine (not appropriate for children).
While Sandoval had blocked out most of the details of her three abortions – after her second abortion, the doctor actually applauded her because she was “not even crying or kicking and making my job easy” – the doctor in the Sacramento clinic needed her assistance in the room one day to keep the schedule humming.
When Sandoval gets to this point in her testimony, she warns the audience and asks them to bear it “for the sake of the unborn and the sake of the martyrs … because this is happening in our generation.”
Sandoval goes on to describe the surgical instruments, which the doctor has turned into swords of death, and what happens to the unborn child.
In just five minutes.
It is hard medicine to take.
That trauma triggered an even deeper slide for Sandoval, who found herself dousing her emptiness and pain on the streets for three years, homeless and drug-addicted.
It was a waitress named Bonnie who looked out the window of her restaurant one day and found Sandoval sobbing in the fetal position, lifted her up and offered to drive her home to her parents.
“She told me, ‘Jesus loves you,’ and the Lord told me to tell you, ‘Even if a mother or a father abandon you, I will always be with you,’” Sandoval said. “She held me in her arms and lifted me from my misery. I felt as if Jesus were lifting me up with so much dignity. That’s my friend, Jesus Christ, king of the divine mercy.”
Sandoval was withered and almost hairless when she knocked on the front door of her father’s house.
“I thought he would be mad at me, but when he opened the door, he said, ‘Everything is OK. I love you,’ just like the Prodigal Son. It was welcome home.”
Sandoval, who also has appeared on ETWN, has given her personal testimony at hundreds of churches around the world. Just last week, she and her husband Robert Rubin had their first child, Maria Victoria, baptized at her mother’s church in Mexico. Maria Victoria is five months old.
Sandoval said her experience of attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat – for those who have experienced the pain of abortion – helped her through her pregnancy in the face of many “post-abortion syndrome triggers.” On the retreat, she had a moving, prayerful experience with her three aborted children, whom she has named Mariana, Emmanuel and Rose.
“Throughout the years, God has really healed my post-abortion syndrome,” Sandoval said. “During my pregnancy, I was really, really happy, but on the other hand, I was really fearful because I still had this idea of ‘What if my child dies during the pregnancy’ or ‘What if there is something wrong with her health?’ Then, I kind of felt guilty – ‘Why am I so excited about this pregnancy and then I actually aborted my other three children?’”
One day, in the midst of those emotions, Robert bent over and spoke to Patricia’s womb. Before they were married, Robert had asked Patricia if he could adopt her three aborted children.
“He told my daughter, ‘Your sisters and brother in heaven prayed that you would come into this world and that you would be part of this family,’” Sandoval said. “Those words gave me so much healing.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.