Joan Appleton

Former Abortion Nurse: Joan Appleton

Former occupation: Abortion nurse

Place: Fall's Church, Virginia, USA


Joan Appleton was a feminist. She was active in the National Organisation for Women. She took a job at the Commonwealth Women's Clinic in Fall's Church,VA...

Testimony of Joan Appleton 

How did I get started in the abortion business? I was very active in NOW (National Organisation for Women). As a registered nurse, I thought that I had a wonderful opportunity as a nurse and as a firm believer in choice to be able to actually practice my political beliefs. I looked on it as a gift, so I went about working hard at the clinic for four years and remained active within the National Organisation for Women.

One of the things that bothered me even during the time that I was head nurse at the clinic is that it [abortion] was such an emotional trauma for a woman and such a difficult decision for a woman to make. If it was right, why was it so difficult? I had to ask myself that all the time. I counselled these women so well, they were so sure of their decision, so why were they coming back months and years later, psychological wrecks? We in the pro-choice movement and in the abortion industry deny that there is anything like post-abortion syndrome. Yet, it is real and girls and women do come back. I couldn't deny their presence.

Another thing that bothered me as I went about my work at the clinic was the fact that I had seen an ultrasound abortion. We did first trimester abortions. This was a late first trimester, probably second trimester. 

I handled the ultrasound while the doctor performed the procedure and I directed him while I was watching the screen. I saw the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. I had seen the Silent Scream a number of times, but it didn't effect me. To me it was just more pro-life propaganda. But I couldn't deny what I saw on the screen.

After that procedure I was shaking, literally, but managed to pull it together and continue on with the day. The doctors that we used were primarily physicians who were starting out in practice and would do abortions until they had enough money to open their own private practice. Or they were physicians who didn't have such a hot practice and did abortions to pay for their medical malpractice insurance. I never, ever had a doctor in the five years I was there who did abortions because he believed it was the right of the woman. It was not what was foremost in his mind. I'm not saying that they don't exist, but you certainly can't prove it by me or by my clinic.

I became more and more involved politically. We were a full-service clinic. We dealt with all types of sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, condoms, everything. I began to work more with organisations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and NAF on certain projects. I was issuing birth control pills after an abortion, and this is where I learned the real business and the real work of the abortion industry. I would be able to counsell a woman and say, "Alright, we don't want you to have to go through this procedure again. We want to get you started on birth control pills. We'll give you your first packet free." We could do this because the pharmaceutical companies gave it to us free. It's good marketing. So we could distribute one pack free and write a prescription for five months worth. Everybody makes out.

"If the birth control pill doesn't work for you this time, it may be that it's a little too strong. But don't worry, come on back because there's one that's a little lower dose." Now the pharmaceutical companies and Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry were not stupid. They knew that the less dose of estrogen in those pills, the more likely it was they were going to fail. But you don't have to worry. We can bring you right back here for another abortion. They even used percentages, by the way. Thirty percent failure rate, because we were going to use the real low estrogen pill. So that means thirty percent will come back.

And if we forget to tell you, by the way, that if you get the flu and have to be put on antibiotics, the chemical reaction between the birth control pill and the antibiotic renders the birth control pill worthless - and totally ineffective, so we have another twenty percent. Thank you , come back around. When I started counselling women there were seven forms of sexually transmitted diseases. There are now twenty. But don't worry, you can come back to us for that. Of course we will get you on some medication for that, and we know what the antibiotics do to the pill. Bingo! We have another ten, fifteen percent coming back around. Thank you.

Now we're going into the schools and teaching "safe sex" because we care about women. We tell them to use condoms. You must use condoms with a jell or foam, never alone. We all know you are going to have sex anyway, so you might as well protect yourself. Then AIDS came out and we still say, and Planned Parenthood is still saying, use the condom. What they are really saying is: It's going to fail and we will still have a certain percentage of you come back anyway. Since the AIDS virus is 100 times smaller than sperm, we're going to have a real good failure rate with the condom.

So basically what they're doing today is going into the schools and saying, 

Kids, we know you're going to have sex and that's O.K. If you use our condoms and our birth control methods and if you practice safer sex, only three or four of you will die. The rest of you will live. It's the same thing as saying to a group of high school kids, You've all got guns. We all know you are going to use them anyway, so I have this great bullet proof vest that will work for you. It won't stop all the bullets all the time, so three or four of you will get killed anyway.

That is what made me angry. I started out in the pro-choice movement believing that I was helping women, believing that women had a right to choose. They had a right to life. They had a right to go on. I thought when I was counseling women, I was helping them through a difficult situation so they could get on with their lives. I told them that they were the most important person on this earth, and that once this was over they could get on with their lives. But I had to stop and say, "What's going on? Why isn't this happening? Instead you're going out and getting pregnant again. You're getting diseases. How am I helping you?" Those are the questions that kept on gnawing at me.

I finally decided that my questions were too strong. I didn't like what was going on. I didn't like what "Our Bodies, Ourselves" had turned into. I didn't like what we were doing for women. If it was right, why were they suffering? What had we done? We created a monster and didn't know what to do with it. I went to Debra [a sidewalk counselor] and began to ask questions. We talked and talked.

My way of getting out of NOW was that I was a guest speaker at a Virginia NOW dinner. I got up to the podium and I said, "Folks, I can't do this anymore. There is something wrong here and I can no longer be a part of the abortion industry or a part of the pro-choice movement and so I can no longer be a part of NOW." I was asked to leave immediately. For a while there was a stir. These were people I had worked very hard with in the organisation, people who I had trained to be escorts at the clinic.

My last official day at Commonwealth Women's Clinic happened to occur on the same day that a group of pro-lifers were having some rescues in the Washington D.C. area. Debra and I had become very close friends and she stayed with me when she came into town for these rescues. I dropped Debra off downtown early in the morning - it was in November- and there were thousands of pro-lifers everywhere. I dropped Debra off and went to back to my clinic to set up the defense against the pro-lifers. That day there was a group of men and women from the pro-choice community in France in town for Senate hearings on RU486. This was in 1989.

These people from France wanted a clinic demonstration so they chose my clinic. I was asked to give them a tour and explain the procedures to them. That was my last official job. I took the French contingency through my abortion clinic, explained it in detail and that was it. It was all done. I left.