Spotlight Interview: Abby Johnson shares why she left Planned Parenthood to become pro-life advocateJuly 19, 2017
Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director. She travels across the globe sharing her story, seeking to educate the public on pro-life issues and advocating for the unborn. She’s the CEO and founder of And Then There Were None. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry. You can check it all out at abortionworker.com, and you can follow Abby on Twitter at @attwnministry. That stands for And Then There Were None Ministry.
Listen to our interview with Abby here:
Carmen: Abby, welcome to The Reconnect.
Abby Johnson: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Carmen: Let’s just start with your story because when I introduced you as a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, there are probably some people who furrow their brow and say, “Why is she on this program?” Share with us your story.
Abby Johnson: I went to work at Planned Parenthood when I was in college. I worked there for eight years and eventually ran the facility where I worked, which was an abortion facility, and left in 2009. After several things had happened, one, I was being told that I needed to increase our abortion quota, the number of abortions that we had to sell to women every month, and that was troubling for me because I really got involved with Planned Parenthood with good intentions. I believed that our goal was to reduce the number of abortions, but here I’m being told we have a quota. Not only do we have a quota, but I’m being instructed to double it.
Then ultimately though, I left in October of 2009 after witnessing a live ultrasound-guided abortion procedure where I saw a 13-week baby fight and struggle for his life, ultimately to lose his life to abortion, and I knew then that there was humanity in the womb, that there was life in the womb, and if those things were true, then I had to leave and start defending that life, so I left. Ever since then, I have just been advocating for life and speaking out against abortion and exposing what’s really going on inside of the facility.
Carmen: Abby, when you left Planned Parenthood, how did they then and how do they continue to respond to your decision not only to leave, but to advocate in opposition to what they’re doing?
Abby Johnson: When I left Planned Parenthood, they actually sued me. They tried to get a permanent restraining order against me so that I wouldn’t be able to speak, so a permanent gag order against me so I wouldn’t be able to talk about things I had seen inside of the clinic, but that obviously failed. I don’t think that they’re very happy that I’m speaking out. I think they’re really frustrated that we are pulling their workers out of the industry and now those workers are beginning to talk, as well. We’ve had over 360 of their employees leave these centers, and they’re speaking out and everyone has got the same story, that abortion is hurting women, that these clinics are unsafe, and that abortion is dangerous, not just to the unborn child obviously, but to their mother.
Carmen: Abby, my guess is if there’s somebody listening right now and they have had an experience like what you are describing, if they go to your website, they’re going to be able to connect with somebody in the ministry. Am I right?
Abby Johnson: That’s correct. We help not just people that are currently working in the industry, but we have quite a few clients who have at one point in time worked in an abortion clinic or worked at a hospital that performed abortions. We have women and men who have come to us that maybe they were out of the abortion industry for 20 years, but they felt very alone. They felt like they had no one they could talk to, no one they could connect with, so they have reached out and now they’re a part of our ministry, as well. We are getting workers out who currently work there, but we’re also here to serve the needs and to really help with the healing process for those who have ever been involved in abortion.
Carmen: I’m going to ask a personal question, and I’m hoping that it’s not too invasive to ask, but I feel confident that people who are listening are wondering. Did you genuinely not perceive it as humanity? Had you genuinely not perceived the pre-born life as a human life, and then what happened that flipped that switch for you? Then how did you process through that reality?
Abby Johnson: I remember being asked one time by someone who was praying out in front of my clinic, “When do you think life begins? I remember my answer just like I said it yesterday. I said, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter when life begins.” That’s how I felt at the time. I didn’t care if it was a life, I guess. I hadn’t really spent a lot of time contemplating it. That’s a silly answer, but that was really … I think when you work in an environment like that, you have to drown out those sorts of questions, and you can’t really think about it that long.
I remember though, because I grew up in church, I was baptized when I was eight. I grew up a Christian my whole life. I remember one time sitting in my office wondering if I die today, would I go to hell? I remember thinking, yes, I would probably go to hell, but somehow my mind being okay with that, and that’s terrifying to me now, but when you’re living in this lifestyle and you’re around these types of people and you’re around evil, you’re really submerged in it, and I tell people, “I’ve experienced evil in a way that most people have not through abortion because I’ve pieced these babies back together. I’ve seen this sort of thing with my eyes. Abortion has a certain smell.” The evil was very tangible for me. It’s hard for me to even understand.
I consider myself a smart person, but the only thing I can really say is that when you’re involved in that sort of evil, you really can become blinded to the truth and blinded to what you know to be true. I just really didn’t think about it. I thought, “Yeah, I mean it’s obviously human, but this human’s rights don’t trump the rights of the mother and her rights are always gonna supersede the rights of the fetus and her rights are always going to be more valuable.”
Carmen: Thank you, first of all, for being willing to share that and reflect on that. I think that when you recognize that there were people outside of your abortion clinic where you worked, you acknowledge, you recognize that they were out there praying. They obviously asked you to consider what you were doing and asked you to think about it. Can you just speak a word of encouragement to pro-lifers who are listening today who they don’t know what to do? They don’t know how to appropriately come alongside God in His effort, in His pro-life effort, to save the lives of the unborn. Can you just give us some encouragement to pro-life people who are listening right now?
Abby Johnson: Sure. First of all, I do think that there is a place in the pro-life movement for everybody, and it’s just about finding your place. Maybe it’s at the legislative level, whether that’s federal or state. Maybe that’s your interest. Maybe it’s volunteering or giving of your treasure to pregnancy health centers that are helping women through these difficult decisions, women that are in crisis, providing for, not just the emotional needs, but the material needs of these women, but I also think that most people do need to go out to the sidewalk, to go out in front of an abortion facility just to pray, not to yell, not to hold a sign, not even to stand really in judgment, but just to just stand there and pray because it’s a very powerful thing to watch a woman walk into a facility and ultimately make the biggest mistake of her life and to see her walk out. It’s very powerful and it really gives you a sense of urgency that we must do something, that we must be involved somehow.
Is it fun to go stand out there? No, it’s incredibly uncomfortable. It should be. Any time you’re watching a woman go in to take the life of a child, it shouldn’t feel good. It should feel uncomfortable, but being a Christian is not about being comfortable. It’s about being uncomfortable. It’s about doing what God has called us to do. I believe that He calls all of us out to be in front of these facilities where abortions are taking place because in the end, I believe in pro-life legislation. I think it’s important, but in the end, abortions aren’t taking place in the halls of Congress. They’re not taking place in the White House. They’re taking place in our communities to the women that we know, women that we worship with, women that we are in the grocery store with, people in our family.
We must be out there to give that witness, to life, and to show these women that what they’re doing is morally objectionable, but there is hope because once they walk in those doors of that clinic, hope is gone for them.
Carmen: Abby, let’s talk about that hope. Let’s go back to a comment that you made just a moment ago about the material needs, the tangible help that women need. If we’re going to have conversations with women who have an unplanned or an unwanted pregnancy, what does the church need to be doing, how could we be doing it better? When I say church, I mean every Christian out there. What have you seen that works? Just give us some encouragement in terms of what we can be doing to actually encourage women to have these babies. Then what do we need to be prepared to do in terms of coming alongside them to raise them?
Abby Johnson: I think the church has a huge responsibility. Unfortunately, we have, for the most part, given that responsibility over to the government that should have been with the church all along. It is our responsibility to care for these women and for their children, and it’s also a responsibility to care for the hurting, for the wounded. Pastors that may be listening, I encourage you to speak about abortion, to speak about in front of the pulpit, and to speak about just the mercy of God because statistics tell us that almost 70% of women who have abortions identify as Christians, so they’re sitting in our pews. They’re sitting in our worship services. Many of these women who have had abortions are sitting there and they’re hurting because they’re not hearing a message about forgiveness from abortion and they’re feeling like their sin is too big for God, so we need to dispel that lie immediately from the pulpit publicly in our churches. That’s one thing.
Also, just putting out pastors letting women know, “Hey, if you’re pregnant, this is a safe place for you. This is a church that wants to support you,” and then putting it to practice, supporting your local pregnancy center, doing diaper drives or material assistance drives for them. I absolutely love the ministry, Embrace Grace. They have a movement that’s in over 300 churches across the country, supporting single moms, pregnant moms, and letting them know that the church is a safe place for them to turn, that they don’t have to go to the abortion industry to find support, that it’s right here.
I think doing all those things, and even just having a pro-life committee in your church, so that you’re constantly raising awareness about what’s going on in your community, what’s going on at the national level. When 40 Days for Life rolls around, you have a signup table. Maybe your church could pick a day where your church goes for 12 hours and prays in front of the abortion facility and you take shifts and do that. There’s a lot of different ways that churches can get involved in the pro-life movement and we need them to do that.
Carmen: All right, friends. She is Abby Johnson. You can check out more information at abortionworker.com. The ministry is And Then There Were None. We also want to be encouraging you to check out Embrace Grace if you don’t already have some kind of active pro-life committee or industry in your church. That is a great way to start one and to engage. Abby, thank you so much for being with us today on The Reconnect, and thanks for raising five. That is just awesome.
Abby Johnson: Hey, the twins gave us seven. We have seven kids now.
Carmen: Seven. Oh, my goodness. Bless you. Bless you. Bless you. Thanks for being with us on The Reconnect.