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An abortion facility may have anywhere from a few staff members to dozens, clinic directors say.

Charlotte Taft, director of the Abortion Care Network, estimates about 1,000 staff members in member clinics.

If clinic employment data are soft, figuring how many clinic workers have left their jobs for any reason is even more of a guessing game. In addition to Ms. Johnson’s numbers, there is evidence of clinic workers leaving the industry from the Society of Centurions of America, which regularly hosts “healing” retreats for former clinic workers.

However, Centurion gatherings are intended to be small and personal, and the two workshops held this year had fewer than 20 former clinic workers, said workshop leaders the Rev. Frank Pavone and the Rev. Terry Gensemer.

Why leave?

Undeterred by an apparently small defection rate, pastors and pro-life activists have long homed in on disillusioned abortion clinic workers, including doctors, administrators, secretaries, nurses, technicians and clinic guards.

Yes, some workers left “under their own steam,” but others were helped along “by what might be called tugboats in human form,” Mary Meehan wrote in a 2,000-word article in Human Life Review called “The Ex-Abortionists: Why They Quit.”

Pro-life activists say the grisly daily aspects of abortion are what propel workers out the door.

Many people take clinic jobs for the paychecks, and they may not even “believe” in abortion. But over time, they can find themselves “working tech” — assisting the abortionist in the exam room or “piecing together the pieces of the baby after an abortion,” said Ms. Johnson, who for years ran a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas until she had a dramatic change of heart after participating in the abortion of a 13-week-old fetus.

“That’s why they call us,” she said. The workers say they were hired to help in the front office, but now have been called to the backrooms to keep their jobs, and they find they “can’t do it anymore,” said Ms. Johnson, who told her own story in a 2010 book called “Unplanned.”

Some people leave after a divine epiphany.

As a 19-year-old college student, Dr. Beverly McMillan said she left the Catholic Church, embraced secular humanism and became an abortionist. She opened the first abortion clinic in Mississippi in 1975.

But then the day came when “I realized I was looking at what I was doing and an immense sadness came over me,” she told an audience at Our Lady’s Center in Ellicott City, Md., in September.

“I thought to myself, five minutes ago, this [tiny arm] was attached to a child. What am I doing?” said Dr. McMillan, who has returned to the Catholic Church and is now a pro-life speaker.

Tested loyalties

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