As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an attorney, for my sins no doubt. It supplies me with bread and butter for my family and myself as well as an opportunity to observe the frailty, follies, crimes and, occasionally, the nobility, of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. However, that is just my day job. For over a decade now I have also been chairman of the board of directors of the Caring Pregnancy Center located in Pontiac, Illinois in Livingston County, the county in which I live. There, dedicated pro-life volunteers, almost all of them evangelical women, labor ceaselessly to help women in crisis pregnancies. In the movie the Agony and the Ecstasy Pope Julius II is depicted as saying that when he comes before God he will throw into the balance the ceiling painting of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel against the weight of his sins and he hoped it would shorten his time in purgatory. If such an opportunity exists for me, it will be due to my association with the Caring Pregnancy Center and their truly awe-inspiring and selfless female volunteers.
On April 14th, we held our 25th anniversary banquet which was a grand affair, with our supporters and well-wishers turning out in en masse. I opened with a few introductory remarks where I talked about the Center and its 25 years of service to the women of Livingston County and their babies. I also asked why we did this. First and foremost to protect innocent human life, and, second, because we remember with Thomas Jefferson, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” It will come as a vast shock, no doubt, to faithful readers of this blog that I somehow worked into my remarks the surrender of Fort Sumter 150 years before on April 14, 1861 and Mr. Lincoln’s remarks in his Second Inaugural Address that the terrible war the nation had been through was God’s punishment on both the North and the South for the sin of slavery. I ended by stating that it was still possible for America to turn around and repent for the great sin of abortion and that the great words of the prophet Isaiah, as always, give us hope: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be made white as snow.”
Abby Johnson was our speaker, and she gave the most effective pro-life speech I have ever heard and I have heard many over the decades.
She was funny and moving at the same time. Her delivery was as natural as if she was talking to a next door neighbor, but every word she said was riveting.
She began her remarks by mocking the stance of Democrats in the Senate that Planned Parenthood is an essential aspect of women’s health care, and by saying that first and last Planned Parenthood is about one thing today: the big business of abortion. Later she remarked that to those who love them, their children are priceless, but that Planned Parenthood has a price set for human life, and it is approximately $450.00 a head.
She told us about her upbringing. She was raised in a pro-life Southern Baptist Family. In high school she debated on the topic on behalf of the pro-life side. She then asked us how many of us were raised in a pro-life family. Almost every hand went up. She then asked how many of us in that pro-life family had discussions about abortion, and very few hands were still in the air. She said that was true of her pro-life family and that if the issue isn’t discussed in more than a perfunctory fashion, what happend to her could happen to many pro-life children after they leave the nest.
When she was twenty and in college working towards a degree in counseling, she became involved with a guy who she thought was a hero but turned out to be a dud. (This brought hoots of the laughter of recognition from many of the women in the audience.) When she became pregnant by him, he knew just what to do. It seems that he had been down this road before and had driven a former girlfriend he had impregnated to an abortion clinic. Presto, problem solved. Abby said that she could not blame the boyfriend for what she did next however. She looked in the yellow pages and made her appointment at an abortion clinic, went in, had it done and that was that. No anguish, no regret. She put it in the back of her mind and still called herself pro-life. Problem solved! She and the boyfriend never talked about the abortion and Abby did not reveal it to her friends and relatives. When she got pregnant again by him she repeated the process. Abortion certainly was handy!
However, when she met a Planned Parenthood volunteer who suggested that she become a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, she was leery. She associated Planned Parenthood with abortion, and her second abortion had been performed at a Planned Parenthood clinic. She still considered herself pro-life and didn’t think she wanted to get involved with an organization that promoted abortion. Her new found friend said that she had Planned Parenthood all wrong and that Planned Parenthood was all about reducing the need for abortion through contraceptives. Abby said that appealed to her, and before she knew it she was a volunteer at a Planned Parenthood clinic, was wearing one of their lovely hot pink t-shirts and had one of their bumper stickers on her car.
After graduating from college in 2005 she went to work for Planned Parenthood: the benefits were great and the money was very good. She noted that Planned Parenthood was a billion dollar non-profit (she had a lot of fun in her speech with that oxymoron) and that Planned Parenthood pays very well indeed.
She worked at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Bryan, Texas, eventually becoming its director. In 2008 she was named Planned Parenthood employee of the year for southeast Texas. She went to national conferences and spent one memorable evening chatting with Hilary Clinton at a Planned Parenthood banquet. To gales of laughter from the assembled, she said that she knew we were envious of her for that evening with Hilary! She said later that she was still in agreement with Clinton on one point: abortion is a human rights issue, just not in quite the way meant by Clinton. She was an up and comer in the Planned Parenthood organization.
Along with success at Planned Parenthood she was enjoying success on the homefront. She was happily married and gave birth to a daughter, cue the foreshadowing music, she and her husband named Grace. Abby was one happy gal.
However, certain things nagged at her. Her superiors at Planned Parenthood kept harping on the need for the clinic to provide ever increasing numbers of abortions each year, as the revenue from abortions was key to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line. She was told not to clean off the tables where women had “services” provided to them as this increased the cost of the “services” in time and labor. (This appalled her, and she and her workers continued to clean the tables between “patients”, hoping they would not get caught by Planned Parenthood higher ups.) In short, Planned Parenthood turned out not to be an organization dedicated to helping women, but rather an organization dedicated to making money. Selling abortions was their business and business was good.
During her time at Planned Parenthood one of her duties was to “counsel” women prior to abortions. She was struck by the number of women seeking abortions who were Christians and regularly attended church and proclaimed themselves pro-life. It was a standing joke at the clinic that the pro-lifers seeking abortions for themselves were against abortion except in three cases: rape, incest and me.
One concern of Abby as clinic director was the substantial risk of perforation of the uterus during a common vacuum aspiration abortion. These of course are done blindly, and the insertion of the vacurette is done by feel, with the risk of uterine perforation always present. Abby said that all clinic directors fear most unstoppable bleeding occurring after an abortion, and having to call an ambulance to the clinic to rush a “patient” to an emergency room. Bad for business. To reduce this risk she was interested in the use of ultrasound to guide the abortionist during the abortion.
One of the part time abortionists for the clinic agreed to show her how this was done. So, on September 26, 2009, she found herself guiding the ultrasound pad in regard to the abortion of a 13 week old boy. She emphasized that she has no medical training, but that if you are a warm body, you will often be pressed into service in a medical role at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
So there she was looking at the ultrasound of this 13 week old, and God’s grace struck her with the force of a freight train. Completely unbidden came thoughts of the ultrasound of her daughter at less than the age of the about to be victim of the abortion. She and her husband had been very proud and had paid for a 100 copies to be printed up of the ultrasound image of their daughter and gave copies to everyone they knew. The shock of recognition of the humanity that was about to be snuffed out was overwhelming. Numbly she observed how the 13 week old moved away from the vacurette to the other side of his mother’s womb, away from the instrument seeking to end his young life. When the vacurette was in position the abortionist activated the vacuum with a cheery, “Beam me up Scotty!” (At this point in her presentation I had several unprintable thoughts about the abortionist.) The young life was snuffed out, the abortionist moved on to the next “patient” and Abby Johnson stood there and for the first time comprehended precisely what abortion truly was.
She resigned as director and joined the pro-life cause. Planned Parenthood was terrified at her defection and in a hilarious and completely counterproductive move, which only succeeded in drawing national attention to her resignation, went to court to have her enjoined from talking about her employment with Planned Parenthood. A judge threw out Planned Parenthood’s laughable attempt to enjoin her from speaking after two hours of testimony.
Since leaving Worse Than Murder, Inc, a/k/a Planned Parenthood, Abby has been unceasingly active in the pro-life cause, including the 40 days for life, and is Chief Strategist for Live Action in their unending crusade against Planned Parenthood. She also is part of a pastor’s group of 250 churches in Texas to get the churches into the forefront of the fight against abortion. She was devastating in her presentation as to the silence of the churches in the face of the greatest deprivation of human rights in this country today. She and her group give banners to churches proudly proclaiming that the church is pro-life. She recommended praising a priest or minister whenever they speak out against the abomination of abortion and to speak privately to them about the necessity of speaking out if they are not. She said speaking out once a year on Respect Life Sunday is not nearly enough and I firmly agree.
I was bowled over by her presentation. It was filled with wit and sharp insights. I would highly recommend her as a speaker to any pro-life group, and I believe that she would be effective with any audience but especially with young women, where her bright and sassy humor and spare no sacred cows attitude I think would be especially welcome. She has been through the abortion mill literally and figuratively and her experiences are vital for young women to hear. Go here to read her blog.
The conversion of Abby Johnson is a symbol of how we will win this fight for the unborn in the end. The still small voice of God, placed in each human soul by the hand of God, never sleeps, and can break forth unexpectedly in the most unlikely people. In the Middle Ages a noted robber in Italy was about to rob and murder his latest victim when he heard Church bells ringing. He let his victim up, dropped his dagger and walked to the nearest monastery and became a monk. God’s grace is all around us, always waiting, with the most minimal assistance from us, to strike home. In her book Unplanned, Abby Johnson writes about her conversion to the pro-life cause and the Catholic Church. God’s grace is why, inevitably, we will win this uphill fight. “Though your sins be as scarlet , yet they will be white as snow.