I was privileged to have the chance to e-interview Abby Johnson this month about her new book, UnPlanned, that I reviewed in this month’s book page. Thanks, Abby, for being willing to share your heart in this interview and answer my questions.
Q. Thank you for UnPlanned. I truly feel it is a great work, mature and sensitive. Well done.
First, let me get a couple of “harder” questions out of the way. Was it difficult to share about your own personal story in UnPlanned?
It brought out a lot of my story that I was hesitant to share, including my own abortions that I had kept a secret from my parents. Parts like that were hard to write about knowing that I was revealing a truth that would hurt those I love the most. With that said, I knew if I was going to reveal my story, I had to reveal everything; the good parts and the bad. That is the only way to touch people’s lives and better relate people to my story. After much prayer and “arguing” with God over what to include in the book, I knew that the hardest parts to tell were the most important.
Q. You write of how your RU 486 (chemical) abortion was one of the worst things you have experienced. And yet chemical abortions are becoming increasingly common. How do you see that affecting women now and in the future?
I see many more women coming forward with their complications with this particular abortion and possibly these complications leading to a decrease to this type of abortion and possibly an illegalization. If the RU 486 does what it did to me and even worse to other women, the risks and the complications could affect this early type of abortion’s success which will in turn effect the success of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.
Q. In recent weeks, there have been the stomach-turning revelations from Philadelphia abortion mill, where low-income women were maimed and killed, among other horrors. Supporters of abortion might say that that is why we need a place like your well-run abortion clinic in Texas, where you did help women with various health problems unrelated to abortion. How would you respond to this, and what alternative would you promote?
No abortion clinic is “safe.” Abortion harms women every year. They have infections, hemorrhage, lose their fertility, and sometimes even lose their life. If the pro-choice movement really cares about women and their healthcare, they would never want them to walk into ANY abortion center. Abortion clinics maim women and then pay them for their silence. They will do whatever they can to keep their “adverse reactions” a secret. These are the clinics that are supposed to be safe. Not to mention that every time an abortion is performed, a child dies. Whether they die the horrific death like in Gosnell’s clinic, or in the womb by a suction machine…a child dies.
Q. Even more recently, revelations have come out about Planned Parenthood clinics in New Jersey & Richmond advising people posing as sex workers on how to avoid to reporting requirements for underage “workers.” Personally, I was shocked to see the PP staffers so complicit in terrible things, yet at the same time I am repelled by the deceptive tactics used to make the videos. On the one hand, the revelations are shocking and important to know; on the other hand, this sort of deception seems opposite to the approach that persuaded you to leave the abortion industry. Do you have any reflections or thoughts on this?
I am in full support of the efforts of Live Action. While I understand the concern, it is not a real concern for me. We are talking about the taking of children’s lives and sex trafficking of children…not looking for slime in the ice machine. Deceptive tactic are used to find the deceitful mechanic, the child predator and these things are glorified on television. Then we use these same sorts of tactics in the pro-life movement and all of a sudden, we are unethical? People talk about the “ends justifying the means.” If catching the largest abortion chain in the country on film in illegal activity is the end, then I will support Live Action and their stings indefinitely. I have seen this type of footage put doubt into the minds of pro-choicers. Did it work for me? No. I needed to see the ultrasound among other things. But there is no one way of changing people’s minds on abortion and Planned Parenthood.
Q. I haven’t seen much in the news about reaction from Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates to your book. Have you had any reaction from your former co-workers?
I haven’t had a reaction from my former co-workers but I have had reactions from other clinic workers throughout the country. Many have left after hearing my story or reading my book and have communicated with me about it.
Q. You were asked to leave a Protestant church when your abortion work became known. You write of how that wounded you and closed off a chance to dialogue. How do we as Christians speak the truth about life while still remaining open to those with opposing views?
Christ calls us to speak truth, seek the truth and live out that same truth; one of those truths being protecting His most precious creations, life. I think we sometimes get confused as to who the enemy is in this movement. Our enemy is not the abortion worker or the abortionist…it is evil…it is the sin of abortion. We must keep that at the forefront of our minds. We must always be open to ministry, no matter who we speak to. God said “remember, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome it.” We can speak the truth and pray that one day the other side will seek it; but in order for them to desire the truth we must love them.
Q. I was so intrigued by how your idealism and desire to help others brought you into work with Planned Parenthood. How do we who promote the culture of life attract young people, with their sense of idealism and boundless energy? How can we prevent other Abby Johnsons from going the wrong way?
I believe that we have to be practical. We have to start talking about this with our kids at an early age. We have to do things that appeal to our kids. We can’t keep the “sex talk” all bottled up. We have to be transparent with our kids and be honest…and we have to be relevant. Planned Parenthood is very relevant. They use colors that are appealing to our kids. They use language that is attractive. We have to do the same thing, but do it in a life affirming way.
Q. You and your family are becoming Catholic this year. Tell me about that part of your spiritual journey.My husband Doug and I were no longer welcome in our church anymore once I left Planned Parenthood. I grew up Southern Baptist and never considered becoming Catholic; however, I always preferred a liturgical service over and contemporary one. When I made the decision to leave Planned Parenthood, I was welcomed into the loving arms of the Pro-Lifers, many of whom were Catholic. I grew to love and appreciate what these significant people in my life stood for and began to learn more about their faith and spiritual journey. It didn’t take long to know that I wanted that for myself, which is why we have joined the Catholic church.
Q. Probably my favorite line from the book is when you say you were “loved from one side to the other.” How do you think the average pro-life person can be that kind of love in his or her own community?
By following the example of the founders of 40 Days for Life who lived out each day as a loving, caring friend, not only to the clients entering into the clinics but also to the workers, including me. If you read my book, read the descriptions of those who stood beside me when I made the leap of faith to leave Planned Parenthood and practice that same peaceful, loving, compassionate and prayerfully devoted spirit.