An American woman has just released a harrowing book about her experiences as head of a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Sheila Liaugminas | Jan 17 2011 | comment  

"I know there are many people here tonight sitting in on this webcast from Planned Parenthood, and I want you to know, I was one of you, I sat in on these calls, too."

Abby Johnson was speaking to over 21,000 people across the nation and beyond, on a webcast widely promoted and globally available. It was the eve of the launch of her book UnPlanned and anticipation was intense. It’s the fascinating story of her journey from gullible college student raised in a pro-life Christian home to her recruitment into the abortion industry to the day her work there changed her life forever. The book was never intended to be an expose of Planned Parenthood. But her tale runs straight through it.


The abortion industry relies on controlling the message. It has from the beginning of legalized abortion in America. Over the decades, it has had few high-profile defections to blow the cover. One of the original founders of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the group largely responsible for the passage of Roe v. Wade, eventually converted and took this confession to YouTube: “We made it all up. One of our strategies to export abortion across the land was to deny what we knew to be true, that abortion kills an existing human being.” They also made up numbers and distorted facts to sway judges, he said. Dr Bernard Nathanson, a powerful witness to the inside story behind the success of abortion activism, witnessed the powerful truth of what abortion is when he saw it on ultrasound.

In September 2009, that’s exactly what turned Abby Johnson’s life around, in about ten minutes. On an otherwise normal day at work as the director of a Texas Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, Johnson was startled to be called into one of the rooms to assist in an ultrasound abortion.

She never assisted, and they never did ultrasounds. “I felt a moment’s reluctance outside the room. I never liked entering this room during an abortion procedure.”

That denial, both visceral and calculated, is central to the story of abortion in America in general, and Planned Parenthood’s role in particular.

Johnson was raised pro-life, but “if you’d put me up to a debate, I would’ve lost, because it’s something we didn’t discuss a lot.” When facts are fuzzy, they are easily manipulated. Johnson was recruited on her college campus by a nice woman in a hot pink booth” convincing her that “Planned Parenthood’s goal is to make abortion rare, except for women in dire need.” Johnson was finessed on the spot by the slick marketing job. “Her compassion really captured me..We both cared about people… I really wanted to help hurting people. I was glad I’d met this woman.”

Through her eight years with Planned Parenthood, after two abortions of her own, Johnson counseled women about contraception and the ultimate choice of abortion. But she lived in a numbed denial, and never knew the facts about conception, pregnancy and what its termination meant. Until ‘The Ultrasound,’ the account that constitutes the very brief but breathtaking first chapter of her book. She wanted to “help hurting women,” but she recoiled from the procedure room, telling herself “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to take part in an abortion.” Her instincts were keenly alert to realities she never learned but somehow knew on a deeper level.

Her job in this instance was to apply lubricant and manoeuvre the ultrasound probe over the patient’s belly “to capture the image of the foetus.” In the countless ultrasound images she’d seen, Johnson admits, “this time the image was complete. I could see the entire, perfect profile of a baby.”

She wasn’t prepared. “Just like Grace at twelve weeks, I thought, remembering my very first peek at my daughter, three weeks before, snuggled securely inside my womb. The image now before me looked the same, only clearer, sharper. The detail startled me. I could clearly see the profile of the head, both arms, legs, and even tiny fingers and toes. Perfect.”

She was seized with anxiety. “What am I about to see? My stomach tightened. I don’t want to watch what is about to happen.” What she saw was a suction tube as the abortionist inserted it into the woman’s uterus and maneuvered it closer to the baby. “The foetus doesn’t feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I’d been taught by Planned Parenthood. The foetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed.”

She watched the screen with horror, as the baby instinctively recoiled from the invader. “This child knew its life was in danger,” Johnson said. And what she describes next is horrible, the abortion she witnessed in real time. “Before this, I never knew the child in the womb felt pain or felt anything. I believed this in order to justify abortion. I really felt betrayed.”

 “What was in this woman’s womb just moments ago was alive,” she says in the book. “It wasn’t just tissue, just cells. That was a human baby—fighting for life! A battle that was lost in the blink of an eye. What I have told people for years, what I’ve believed and taught and defended, is a lie.”


If so fundamental a message as that is false, what else does the abortion industry falsify in order to profit as a business and attract new clients? It’s extremely rare to get this firsthand account from someone inside Planned Parenthood. Telling it is important to Abby Johnson’s conversion.

Among its revelations are several key clarifications. One recurring distortion is that contraception prevents pregnancy and therefore, the need for abortion. Johnson was using contraception both times she became pregnant and aborted. “When I started to work for Planned Parenthood counselling women, they were almost all contracepting,” she explained. “It didn’t make sense…”

But contraception is small change. In management level meetings, Planned Parenthood revealed their goal of increasing their number of surgical abortions with monthly quotas. They also used a map targeting specific facilities using non-affiliated abortionists, with the goal of “turning every one of them into a Planned Parenthood provider.”

Another myth they use is that the compassionate people are inside the clinic, while the people outside are scary, judgmental, hostile and angry. The Planned Parenthood recruiter told Abby “that some pretty aggressive anti-choice protesters came to the clinic to use scare tactics to keep women from getting the help they needed… and shame them.” Once she crossed the fence, she learned the truth about “those people praying outside my window” who constantly offered help. “I was a mess,” she writes. “I was a total disaster... I was completely broken, and I needed somebody to fix me, and that’s what they started to do.”

Though Planned Parenthood slapped her with a lawsuit and restraining order, Johnson was fortified. “I was telling the truth,” she says. “They were trying to silence me. Planned Parenthood says this is about the freedom to make choices. But this was them not respecting my freedom of choice, my freedom to be pro-life… But one of the reasons they did this was to make an example, and show other employees that ‘this could be you, if you cross that fence, this could be you defending yourself against us. They wanted to instil fear in their employees. They do that often and they do it well.”

So her message at the end of the webcast, as she was about to release UnPlanned and be released from its implications, Johnson had this message:

“If you are pro-life, have a plan of action when somebody like me comes to you and says ‘I want to get out of this industry.’ When somebody like me walks into your office, you’d better be ready to help them.

“For people who are pro-choice advocates or in Planned Parenthood on this call, I want you to know that there is a peace and a joy that you don’t even know…You’re probably embarrassed to say where you work. You don’t have to be in that shameful environment anymore. It’s filled with pain and grief, but on the other side of the fence, there’s compassion and healing…

“I want you to critique this book and try to criticize it, find something that is not true in it. I bet you’ll have a hard time.”

Everyone will, in more ways than one. But it’s a dis-ease we all need to confront.

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy Award winning journalist. She blogs on American politics at SheilaReports. UnPlanned is available at Ignatius.com.

Below: an interview with Abby Johnson about her book: 


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