WASHINGTON — No matter how deeply people may be entrenched in the culture of death, they are never beyond the loving reach of Christ, said former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson to a group of Georgetown University students on Wednesday.

“I’m standing in front of you today as a testament to the power of conversion,” Johnson, a former Texas Planned Parenthood director who later converted to Catholicism, said in a talk scheduled the same day as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards’ address to students on Georgetown’s campus.

Reflecting on Richards addressing students earlier in the afternoon, Johnson said, “I just kept thinking, you know, I believe that one day – I have faith – that one day it won’t be me standing here speaking and defending the sanctity of human life: I believe that one day it will be Cecile Richards standing here.”

Johnson’s speech was part of “Life Week 2016” at Georgetown. A pro-life panel led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, spoke on campus Tuesday evening. The group Students for Life organized a protest of Richards’ speech on Wednesday ahead of Johnson’s pro-life talk that evening.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington celebrated a pro-life Mass at Epiphany Catholic Church near Georgetown’s campus on Thursday evening. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away,” said the cardinal in his homily.

Richards’ invite to speak on campus by the student group Lecture Fund, and the subsequent support that the university gave the group, drew biting criticism from the Archdiocese of Washington for its “unawareness of those pushing the violence of abortion.” Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, performing 300,000-plus abortions per year.

“The Jesuit community on campus clearly has its work cut out for it and a long way to go as it tries to instill at Georgetown some of the values of Pope Francis,” the archdiocese stated.

In 2012, the university also ignited controversy by inviting then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to speak at its graduation ceremonies. Many Catholic organizations were being ordered by the HHS, under threat of heavy fines, to violate Church teaching by providing coverage for birth control to employees, and bishops were speaking out against the mandate.  

Johnson focused her Wednesday speech on her conversion away from working for Planned Parenthood and ultimately to the Catholic faith. She emphasized the importance of prayer, perseverance and trust in God in overcoming the evil of abortion.

“No one is beyond the power of conversion because no one is beyond the power of Christ,” she stated. “And we can make all the most beautiful arguments in the world for why we should be pro-life, but at the heart of life is Christ.”

She exhorted the students to be hopeful for the conversion of more abortion workers and “pro-choice” leaders. “And if we are people of faith, we better believe that,” she said. “We better believe in that type of goodness, that type of kindness, that type of faithfulness from our God.”

She pointed to her organization And Then There Were None, dedicated to helping abortion workers and doctors leave the industry, as an example of success. She initially thought 10 workers a year leaving the industry would be a great total, but there have been 218 workers leaving the industry in three years, including six full-time abortionists.

“Being pro-life is not just about saving the baby. Because if it was, then we would just be pro-baby,” she said. “We are pro-life, and we believe in the dignity and the inherent worth of that woman who’s walking in to that abortion facility, and we know that she deserves better than anything she can receive inside those abortion-facility walls.”

“My goal is not just to make abortion illegal: My goal is to make abortion unthinkable so that a woman never even darkens the door of an abortion facility, that she never even thinks that taking the life of an innocent human being is acceptable,” she continued.

“We can grow weary. We can grow tired. We can become angry. We can become frustrated. But in those times, it is then that we have to remember the goodness of God.”