Over the years, I have posted about Abby Johnson, the former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Texas who had a massive change of heart and became passionately pro-life. Her book, Unplanned: The dramatic true story of a former Planned Parenthood leader's eye-opening journey across the life line, is riveting. And like many of you, I could not put it down. Since then, I have linked her work on this blog often (including here and here), and I was thrilled to finally meet her in person last fall.
What a dynamic speaker! She was so well-received at the First Way Pregnancy Center banquet that night that First Way executive director Christine Accurso (a hero, by the way) has invited her back to speak. If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Phoenix, you do not want to miss her talk, this Saturday, March 7, from 10:30 to 12:30, in Gilbert, Arizona.
Abby has been asked a million questions, but these are some questions I've always wanted to ask her:
Q. Abby, in several articles and in your book, Unplanned, you have beautifully expressed your own feelings about doing the work you did for Planned Parenthood and how you've grappled with things since you left. I’d like to hear more about how those around you felt when you were working at PP. For example, what did your parents think? How did they reconcile it with their Christians beliefs? And what advice would you give to those whose family members might be caught up working in the abortion industry today?
A. My family is and always have been very prolife. I know that I am at this prolife point in my life in huge part to my praying parents. They never stopped praying and they never stopped believing that one day I would leave. I know there were times when they questioned God. But I think they kept going back to the scripture in Proverbs that talks about training your child up in the Lord. It doesn't say that they will never depart from His ways, but God promises that our children will come back to that foundation when they are older.
My husband was also prolife, which made things tense in our marriage at times. But I know he was also praying. He has told me before that he had confidence that I would one day leave. He says that he saw how much I genuinely cared for these women and that his prayer was that one day I would be able to see how taking the lives of their children was hurting them. He said that he knew once I made that connection, I would leave. And he was right.
Q. Did you ever avoid telling people where you worked, or did you wear it as a badge of honor? If there was any discomfort in telling, was it because of your own unease or because you sensed that others might not approve?
A. It was honestly a little bit of both. Internally, I was very proud of my work. But I just didn't want the hassle. I didn't want to have to defend what I did. I believed that what I did was right. But defending abortion is not an easy job. And many times, I just didn't want the fight.
Q. If I had met you back in your PP days, what should I, a pro-lifer, have said to you? I know it’s a strange question, but I’d love to know the “right” thing to say if someone I meet informs me that she works at PP.
A. I tell people that you should always speak the truth in love. But I think the most important part of that idea is actually listening more than you speak. Ask questions. "Why did you decide to work at Planned Parenthood? What do you love the most about your job? Are there any challenges?" I think what you will find is that many of these workers fall into two categories...
1. They don't really care about the politicized part of it at all. They just needed a job to pay the bills.
2. They have had abortions themselves and working in the industry is the easiest way for them to justify their own actions.
It's all about listening and asking genuine questions. It's not about being "right."
Q. You worked often in the POC ("products of conception") room, counting and piecing together small body parts. Did you ever bring that home with you, or were you able to compartmentalize enough that you did not think of your work when you were at home?
Q. Somehow, I was able to really keep that separate from my life outside of Planned Parenthood. I can't really explain how that work didn't bother me (really at all) except to say that when you are immersed in that type of evil, spiritual blindness is real.
Q. Finally, I am so excited about your apostolate to abortion clinic workers and former clinic workers, And Then There Were None. Please tell us a little bit about your mission and what we can do to help support those courageous souls who wish to come out of the abortion industry once and for all.
A. We are the only national ministry that offers comprehensive resources to abortion clinic workers. We have multiple ways that we can assist workers who want to leave their jobs. We provide professional resume writing, professional recruitment services, job training, one-on-one counseling and advisement, healing retreats, spiritual guidance and support, and limited financial assistance to help ease the burden after they leave their job inside the clinic.
We are working very hard to rehumanize the abortion clinic worker. I think for many years, we have looked at these people and blamed them for abortion. We have looked at them as our enemy. But they are not our enemy. Our enemy is sin. They are misguided sinners just like you and me.
I had someone say to me one time, "So what, you just think you are going to love these workers out of the abortion industry?" My reply was simple. "Yes. I absolutely believe we will. And we are." We have 141 former clinic workers who have come through our ministry. We feel like God has blessed us more than we could have ever imagined. But that's just how God is. He's in the business of conversion.
Thank you Abby, for your courage and witness!
And again, if you are in the Phoenix area, don't miss her talk this Saturday! Tickets are priced at only $7 so that this event can be accessible to all.
If you are unable to attend, consider buying a ticket to donate to a medical student, as we certainly need those students to hear what Abby has to say. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on how to get your ticket(s) to them.