Former Director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas
Assisted in an actual abortion procedure
Joined Coalition for Life as a volunteer and continues her volunteer activities with the national 40 Days for Life campaign
B.S. in psychology from Texas A&M University; M.A. in counseling from Sam Houston University
Former Planned Parenthood Leader Abby Johnson on Life Unplanned
The 700 Club
Appeared on January 11, 2011
Abby Johnson grew up in the small town of Rockdale, Texas. Her family was very supportive and until she left for college, Abby always attended church with her family. She was active in her youth group, a church counselor, and believed in the sanctity of human life. She assumed that she would live out the values that she had been taught. It wasn’t that simple once she began living at college.
As a freshman at Texas A&M, Abby quickly went from super achiever good girl to party girl. “Naturally everything suffered. My grades as well as my choices of friends and activities,” she recalls. She and her parents realized she needed to transfer to a community college to improve her grades. The bad news is she fell head over heels for a man named Mark. Her parents did not approve of the relationship and tried to caution Abby but she refused to listen to their counsel. Mark was older, divorced, and the father of a three-year-old who he never saw. Abby and Mark were engaged and she made plans to return to Texas A&M to pursue her degree. Then Abby discovered she was pregnant.
When Mark discovered she was pregnant, he quickly announced, “You can have an abortion.” Together with Mark, Abby made an appointment at a clinic. She applied for a credit card so she could pay for the $500 abortion fee. After the procedure was complete, Mark drove her home. Abby recalls, “The process had been physically painful, but I had no regrets. No sadness. No struggle over whether what I’d done was right or wrong. Just a sense of relief. That’s behind me. I can get on with my life now.” Several months later Abby and Mark were married.
Abby started working as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood during college. She believed she was genuinely helping women make the best choices for their lives. “I didn’t grow up believing that abortion was a good choice for women, but since it was legal, I thought it must be okay. I thought it would certainly be better for a woman to have a legal abortion rather than an illegal abortion,” shares Abby. She thought that Planned Parenthood really believed in reducing the amount of unintended pregnancies; and therefore reducing the amount of abortions. Abby thought she was doing the right thing.
Abby and Mark divorced in 2003. Prior to the divorce, Abby learned she had a crisis of her own when she discovered for a second time she was pregnant. Mark was about to sign away his parental rights to his then seven-year-old son, so she knew he would not be interested in being a father. Abby did not want to become a single mother. She made an appointment for herself without even revealing her pregnancy to her soon to be ex-husband. She was eight weeks along and was eligible for a medication abortion. After several weeks of excruciating pain, she returned to work. She told no one about the abortion not even her parents.
In 2004, Abby increased her volunteer role at Planned Parenthood by becoming a college intern. When Abby told her parents about her volunteer work for the organization, it quickly became clear that her mom did not approve of the organization nor their work. Abby still felt empowered to defend the mission of Planned Parenthood.
In March, Abby began dating a friend named Doug. His Christian faith was an important part of his life. Although Doug did not approve of abortion, he did not judge Abby and they married in 2004. The same year Abby graduated from college and began working full time at the Planned Parenthood clinic. She took pride in her work, drawing on the sense of purpose that came from knowing she was helping women in crisis until one unforgettable day.
Abby had been with Planned Parenthood for eight years, but she had never assisted in an ultrasound-guided abortion procedure as her clinic had never before performed that type of abortion. Although reluctant, Abby stepped into the exam room. This was her first time watching the procedure on an ultrasound. "My job during the procedure was to hold the probe on the woman's abdomen. I could see the whole profile of the baby 13 weeks head to foot. I could see the whole side profile. I could see the probe. I could see the baby try to move away from the probe," Abby recalls. In the end, the baby lost the battle. Abby promised herself that she would never again participate in this procedure.
Two weeks later, Abby quit her job, walked out of the clinic and joined the pro-life members of Coalition for Life, a group that held prayer vigils outside the clinic where Abby used to work.
When Planned Parenthood found out about Abby’s change of heart, they were frightened that others would hear her story and then change their minds on abortion. Abortions are a substantial money maker for the clinics. Their defense was to silence Abby with a temporary gag order and eventually take her to court. On November 10, 2009, Planned Parenthood faced off with Abby in the courtroom. After an hour of testimony from Planned Parenthood, the judge dismissed the case.
Since leaving Planned Parenthood in 2009, Abby has been traveling the country sharing her story and motivating others to continue the pro-life fight. She also works on projects for the national 40 Days for Life team. Abby lives in Texas with her husband and daughter.
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