Sue Thayer was a former Planned Parenthood clinic manager who trained staff, oversaw patient records, maintained the financial books and participated in family counselling. She had a desire to serve other women and felt that her work in the facility could make a difference.
Then, through a remarkable chain of events, she made a 180 degree shift to become the director of her state's leading pro-life advocacy organization.
The mother of five took a job at Planned Parenthood in 1991 and worked there for nearly 18 years as a nonmedical staffer. The pay was great and within a few months of starting, she was promoted to office manager.
As a part of her induction Sue was sent to an abortion unit and required to witness at least 30 surgical procedures and account for all of the unborn babies' body parts.
"I really wasn't prepared for what I saw and experienced. That day I had seen it with my own eyes, and I knew that abortion was murder," she admits.
Sue was born in Storm Lake, Iowa and even though she had become a Christian before her start at Planned Parenthood, "for me, the process of coming to see the truth [in that industry] was long and slow".
Sue had grown up in and attended a large denominational church which she went to for most of her life, even during her Planned Parenthood career.
"We had a pastor that was very comfortable with abortion and my job there. I had one of the pastors there say, 'When you start doing abortions, can I come down and escort the women in?' I thought, 'Aren't you supposed to be on the other side?'" Sue recalls as she remembers receiving mixed messages of support and condemnation from various pastors at her church.
During this time, Sue was struggling with her faith and her marriage. As she and her husband walked through a devastating divorce, Sue went to several other churches hoping to find peace and comfort. When they found out who her employer was though, she was harshly turned away. "It left me feeling devastated," she says.
Then, Sue decided to attend a small church whose members protested frequently outside her clinic.
"They were all about the Gospel [good news of Jesus] and loving people," Sue says. "They welcomed me. God used them and a Christian radio station to save my life."
These gentle prompts caused Sue to finally overcome her fear and stand up to oppose a newly instituted tele-medicine abortion procedure, better known as "webcam abortions," that came into use at her clinic in 2007.
"As a mom, it hurt me every time I was in, or even near, the abortion unit," she says. "As my heart softened, I knew my days in the abortion industry were numbered."_
She explains how she and her nonmedical staff would be involved with the new procedure: "We would be doing invasive procedures after only a single day of training. I kept asking my boss if this was even legal. They were like, 'Our i's are dotted and our t's are crossed, nothing will stop us.'
"I would question the wisdom or the legality or the ethics of having a nonmedical person doing an invasive procedure. They just said, 'If you are breathing, you can do it and if you can play a video game, it is a lot like using a joystick.' I was really concerned about that."
When Sue became vocal about her concerns, she was fired from the facility.
"When I told my pastor and the board what was going on they were supportive. I was a single mom and had all these kids," she says. "They were telling me that God will provide and I need to leave that to Him. He has. He has been very faithful to not only meet our needs but just provide everything. I am just very thankful to Him for His faithfulness to see us through."
Over the years, Sue has had an important part to play in pro-life activism. The first step she took was to lead a 40 Days for Life campaign right outside the facility she had previously managed.
Her prayers were answered when the facility closed down permanently.
Sue has since travelled the world to speak of the horrors of the abortion industry, offered help and encouragement to those involved in its work and testified against Planned Parenthood in numerous court cases.
She has compassion for the staff at these facilities because she knows: "It is a slow process of brainwashing. In the early 1990s, we were very comfortable referring to an unborn baby as a 'clump of cells,' 'contents of uterus' or 'products of conception.' Perhaps this is how hearts are hardened to the reality of abortion."
Sue has also founded a crisis pregnancy centre in Storm Lake that offers free ultrasounds and pregnancy testing, and helps women find employment and housing.
In 2018, Sue started as the new director of outreach for 40 Days of Life, campaigning against abortion. "We learned that prayer works because God hears us. We are successful simply because God cares, and He answers," she affirms.•