Former Planned Parenthood director shares story of redemption
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
GARDEN CITY -- In the banquet hall of the Clarion Hotel, Abby Johnson told a packed house that she had “helped facilitate more than 20,000 abortions.”
It wasn’t the first time that the guest speaker and author left the crowd in stunned silence.
Attending the ABC Pregnancy Care Center fund-raiser banquet March 5 was Bishop John B. Brungardt and other priests and members of the curia. Representatives from every church in Garden City also filled the large hall, both in appreciation for the efforts and many good works of the Pregnancy Care Center, and to hear Johnson tell her astounding story of redemption. A movie of Johnson’s experiences, titled “Unplanned,” will be released March 29.
While attending Texas A&M University, Johnson approached a Planned Parenthood representative who was looking for student volunteers.
“Wherever vulnerable women are, there is Planned Parenthood,” Johnson said. She explained to the woman that she was pro-life. The Planned Parenthood rep told her why, despite being good people, pro-lifers are wrong. If there’s no legal abortion, the rep told her, women will be forced to have back alley abortions. Women have a right to their own body, after all. What’s next? Taking away the right to vote?
Young, impressionable, and most importantly, lacking the knowledge to see through the lies, Johnson became a volunteer.
She would work for Planned Parenthood for eight years, eventually becoming one of the youngest clinic directors in the organization. She told those gathered that she even earned an “Employee of the Year” award.
“Hold your applause,” she joked with the large audience. Johnson’s very intense and difficult-to-hear discussion was smattered with laugh-out-loud moments that helped ease tension.
First, the lies, including that of being forced to back alley abortions: “What happens in Planned Parenthood is the same as happens in back alley abortions,” explained the former Planned Parenthood director. Implying that any abortion is safe is a misnomer. “In order for abortion to be successful, a human being has to be killed. That is the antithesis of safety.
“There are 600 Planned Parenthood offices in the United States, and they are rapidly on the decline,” Johnson said to applause. Meanwhile, “there are more than 13,000 centers that provide health care at little or no cost.” In other words, prenatal care is readily available regardless of income.
So, how did a woman who had grown up to consider herself pro-life suddenly find herself a major player in the abortion industry?
“It happened just a little bit at a time,” she said. “One justification at a time … one compromise at a time.”
Suddenly she embraced what she had at one time abhorred, leading to two abortions of her own.
Sin can overtake one in such a methodical way, but so, too, can the healing touch of Christ. Perhaps because it had been instilled in her while growing up. Perhaps it became obvious to her over time. Or, perhaps it was one moment in particular. But before one looks at that one life-giving moment, one must look at the horrors that led up to it:
“Here is the protocol when going into Planned Parenthood,” Johnson explained:
1) The woman is immediately sedated, in part for the amnesia affect, so she won’t remember the sights or sounds.
2) While sedated, she receives an ultrasound to determine “how far along she was so we would know how much to charge.” The patient won’t see the ultrasound because it exposes the truth about there being a beating heart.
3) The doctor dilates the cervix. He or she inserts a cannula (the cannula is a straw, the size of which depends on how far along the child is), which is hooked to suction. The doctor pokes it around until he has enough blood and tissue collected.
The tissue goes to a lab where a lab tech places the pieces onto a dish and “reassembles the baby”. Comments such as these left audience members gasping. Johnson explained: “If we left part of the spine, … etc… in the uterus, this could cause a bad infection. … The tech dumps the remains into a red biohazard Ziplock and places it into a freezer.” The staff, Johnson said, calls this “the nursery.” The remains are later incinerated.
“That’s abortion day in and day out.”
Then came the day when everything changed. A visiting doctor told Johnson that, at his office, he used the ultrasound during the procedure. This was rare, but made perfect sense to Johnson.
“Abortion is the most common surgical procedure in our country. Without the ultrasound, the doctor can’t see what he’s doing.” This leads to mistakes, such as the penetration of the uterine wall with the cannula. She said that doctors in her office never used the ultrasound, because it included an extra two or three minutes of preparation. This would cut in on how many procedures they could provide in a day.
The visiting physician invited Johnson to assist an abortion using the ultrasound.
“My job was to hold the ultrasound on the patient’s abdomen. The baby was 13 weeks old. Everything was formed. [The baby] had every internal organ we have sitting here today. We can tell if it is a boy or girl. I had a hard time convincing myself to look at the screen. I saw the cannula getting closer and closer. When it was very close, the baby jumped and flailed, trying to get away. That baby looked frantic, just as we all would if something was threatening our life.
“The doctor turned the cannula on and said, ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’”
The worst part for Johnson was the taking of a human life and “that I had a chance to intervene for this baby, and I did nothing.”
When the procedure was finished, she fled the office. Moments later she was lying on a couch, crying.
“I started counting the days, and months and years I was with Planned Parenthood, and realized that I helped facilitate more than 20,000 abortions. What do you say? Sorry? There was nothing I could say.
“When I came to that number, God reminded me that there was nothing I could do to change it, but that because of His amazing grace I didn’t have to. He reminded me, it was over and God had won.”
In the decade since then, she has written two books, spoken on news programs, and crisscrossed the country telling of her journey. She is the founder of “And Then There Were None,” which assists abortion workers with leaving the industry and finding a new career.
She converted to Catholicism and, as she spoke in Garden City, said she was pregnant with her eighth child. On March 29, the movie “Unplanned,” based on her book of the same name, will open for limited release. Check local listings, or visit dcdiocese.org/swkscatholic for more information.