Last night, on the eve of the release of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned, she revealed during a webcast what she had witnessed during her eight years of volunteering and working with Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. Over 21,000 people listened to that webcast. In 2009, after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion, Johnson resigned her position and became pro-life. She is planning to come into the Catholic Church this coming Easter.
What was it that you saw that October day that caused your change of heart?
I had never seen an ultrasound-guided abortion before. They’re not standard procedure because they take a few extra minutes. To the best of my knowledgeit was the first time it had happened at our facility.
I was called in to help. My job was to hold the ultrasound probe on the woman’s abdomen so that the physician could get a view inside the uterus. I got everything ready. When I looked at the screen and heard them say that she was 13 weeks pregnant, on the screen I saw the profile of a 13-week-old baby in the womb. I had seen thousands of ultrasounds before, including ultrasounds of my own daughter Grace, who is now four. In that instant, I had a flashback to my own ultrasound of my daughter when I was 12 weeks pregnant. In that instant, I realized what was about to happen and what I was about to witness.
As I was trying to get it together and talk myself back into it, I recalled all of the things I had said for so many years to justify abortion – all the things that I thought I believed deep down in my core.
When the abortion procedure started, I saw the child begin to move away from the abortion instrument and recoil. The child knew that it’s life was in danger. Before that moment, I had never even considered that the child in the womb felt pain or felt anything for that matter. Planned Parenthood had always told us that the fetus had no sensory development until 28 weeks.
I needed to believe that to continue to justify abortion. I was surprised, shocked, appalled and disgusted at what I was watching. I felt betrayed because I couldn’t believe that this company that I had believed and trusted in had lied. I didn’t want to believe it, but was looking at it so clearly. The evidence was in front of my face. The abortion started and in just a few moments, the screen was black, and the abortion was complete. In that moment, I knew that my life was going to have to change. I knew that I couldn’t walk out of there the same way that I had walked in.
How did you end up working at Planned Parenthood?
I grew up in a wonderful, conservative, pro-life family. We were in church every time the doors were open. I was involved in the youth group and was a good kid in high school. I remember in high school saying that I was pro-life, but if you would have put me up to a debate on abortion, I would have lost because it wasn’t something we frequently discussed.
When I went to college, during my junior year, I attended a volunteer fair. What caught my attention at the Planned Parenthood booth was the hot pink. It was my favorite color, and the Planned Parenthood booth was drowning in hot pink. I went over to the booth and there was a sweet woman there. She asked me what I knew about Planned Parenthood. I honestly didn’t know a thing.
When she told me that Planned Parenthood offers free testing and exams for men and women, I thought that was sweet. Who wouldn’t love Planed Parenthood? When I started volunteering, she later told me that they offered abortion services. I told her I came from a prolife family. She said she understood that tradition, but that if abortion were made illegal, thousands of women would die from back-alley abortions. She said that their goal was to make the need for abortion rare. Since I had never considered both sides of the issue, I was pretty easily taken in.
As you moved into a paid position and later management, you began to see another side to Planned Parenthood, didn’t you?
When I was volunteering, I had gotten hooked in because Planned Parenthood said that they wanted to reduce the number of abortions. Yet, through my own experience contracepting, having two unplanned pregnancies, and twice having an abortion, this didn’t make sense. When I started working there in 2005 as a paid employee, almost all of the women who I counseled were contracepting, yet were having abortions. It didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t seem like their goal of expanding the use of contraception was reducing the number of abortions.
They wanted us to increase the quota of surgical abortions that we were providing, so that we had a certain number of abortion clients every month. They were increasing that number.
They also wanted to, and were going to offer, medically-induced (RU-486) abortions many times a week by offering something similar to tele-medicine. In true tele-medicine, the patient has a conference with the physician, but in what they were doing, the patient had no contact with a physician.
This was disturbing to me because there are many possible complications. I had lived through nearly every complication with my second abortion, so I was nervous about these women who were choosing this without any physician counsel.
We had no physician on-staff to help them. If something went wrong, the women would either have to go to the emergency room, or drive two hours away to Houston. If they were septic or hemorrhaging, two hours could be too late.
Yet, Planned Parenthood wanted to increase abortion by this method.
It was disturbing that they wanted to constantly up the abortion numbers at our facility, when I had originally been told that it was all about decreasing the numbers. Now that I was in management, I could see their real intentions.
Planned Parenthood receives a lot of government funding. Last year, it received more than $350 million in tax money. They are willing to take a loss in their family planning business because of the profit they make in abortion. We could see that in our budget every year. Our family planning budget was in the red, but the abortion business was way in the black. That was troubling because I thought we were a non-profit. When I asked about that in our management meetings I was told over and over again that non-profit is a tax status, not a business status.
I was involved in the Consortium of Abortion Providers, a sub-group under Planned Parenthood. They would use a map of the U.S. with dots to show all of the Planned Parenthood facilities. Let’s say that all of the non-abortion providing Planned Parenthood centers had green dots, and all of those that provided abortion had red dots. Their specific goal was to turn every green dot into a red dot. They wanted to expand every non-abortion providing Planned Parenthood into an abortion providing Planned Parenthood.
What do you have to say to those who are currently working in the abortion industry?
I want you to know that there is a peace and a joy that you can have too. Right now, you don’t have it and don’t know what it feels like. I thought I had that. I thought I was a happy person, but I was a conflicted person. I thought I had joy, but I was a person living a dysfunctional life who was constantly on the defensive.
You’re probably embarrassed to tell others what you really do. You don’t have to be embarrassed any more. It’s shameful to take the lives of other human beings. You don’t have to be in that shameful environment any more. You can come to a side of the fence where there is compassion, love, and healing. That’s what we want to help you find – that peace and that joy.