Former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director and anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson condemned the abortion services offered by the women’s health care provider at an event organized by Georgetown University Right to Life in Dahlgren Chapel on Wednesday night.
Johnson, who resigned from Planned Parenthood in 2009 after witnessing an abortion through an ultrasound, said her experiences working as a clinic director for eight years in Bryan, Texas, shifted her views on abortion. She was named Planned Parenthood’s employee of the year in 2008.
“I remember looking at the ultrasound screen and I was feeling apprehensive. Because it really did look like a baby,” Johnson said.
Since leaving Planned Parenthood, Johnson has become an anti-abortion activist, volunteering with the Coalition for Life, an anti-abortion group, and writing Unplanned, a novel about her becoming an anti-abortion activist.
Johnson said she first learned about Planned Parenthood while in college when she visited its table on campus and spoke to a representative about the organization’s work.
“I was an easy target for them because I knew nothing about the organization,” Johnson said. “Whatever she fed me, I believed.”
Johnson said she realized she did not consider the consequences of her work until the fall of 2009. When she met with her supervisor to compare her budget for the past fiscal year and the upcoming fiscal year, she noticed that the clinic’s number of performed abortions doubled the quota — the number of abortions that the clinic was required to perform each month.
“I knew that couldn’t be right,” Johnson said. “‘Because at Planned Parenthood, we are about reducing the number of abortions.’ That’s what I said. That’s what I said to the media. That’s what I said to my friends, to my family, to myself. ‘We’re not about selling abortions.’”
The Planned Parenthood Federal Association provides protocol for medical procedures at 700 health care centers operated by 90 individual affiliates. According to Johnson, each facility across the country will perform a first trimester abortion the same way.
“We have the woman lie on the table and we pretty much immediately get sedation going for her for two reasons,” Johnson said. “First, the sedation keeps them quiet. Physicians don’t want to have to answer questions while the woman is having an abortion. The other reason is because of the ultrasound.”
Johnson said before every abortion procedure, clinicians perform an ultrasound to determine exactly how far along the woman is in her pregnancy and how much to charge. However, Johnson explained that they did not want the woman to sit up and see what was shown on the ultrasound.
“Because what was on that ultrasound machine exposes the lie of the abortion industry: that it’s not a blob of tissue, it’s not a mass of cells. That it is a unique, individual, unrepeatable, scientifically human being with a heartbeat,” she said. “And we didn’t want the woman to see her child. Because then she might choose life, and that would impact our bottom line in a negative way.”
Johnson then explained the abortion procedures she conducted daily.
Johnson said she specifically remembers being called in to assist with an abortion by holding the ultrasound probe in place on the woman’s abdomen. The doctors first took the measurement and found out that the baby was 13 weeks along.
Johnson said she recalls telling the mother that the baby would not feel any pain, reciting a scripted answer Planned Parenthood had provided all employees in a memo.
“I knew it was a lie,” Johnson said. “Babies begin to suck their thumb in the womb at 12 weeks because it soothes them. It makes them feel better — because they can feel.”
Johnson described watching the ultrasound monitor and seeing the fetus jump and move around as if to try and escape the abortion instrument.
“Some people think that what came next would be the worst part, seeing a child become dismembered in his mother’s womb,” Johnson said. “But I knew that was coming. The worst part was that when I had the opportunity to intervene, I just stood there and I did nothing. I remember wanting to sit this woman up and say ‘Look. Look what’s happening to your baby.’ But I just stood there and watched.”
According to Johnson, she resigned that day and began advocating for the rights of the unborn. In 2012, she founded “And Then There Were None,” which encourages abortion workers to leave the industry.
The organizations has facilitated 218 people, including six full-time abortion doctors, leaving the industry in three years.
“My goal is not just to make abortion illegal,” Johnson said. “My goal is to make abortion unthinkable.”
Tabling Co-Chair for Georgetown University Right to Life Hunter Estes (SFS ’19), who attended the talk, agreed with her cause.
“She demonstrated how the basis of pro-life opinion is rooted in love,” he said. “It’s not just about ending abortion, but about ending the culture that necessitates abortion.”
Other students said they appreciated the personal experiences that Johnson — who herself admitted to having two abortions — shared.
“To listen to someone who understands and has had experience in the abortion industry and really knows how it works was powerful,” Gabriella Munoz (COL ’18) said.
Alexandra Williams (SFS ’19) agreed, saying she was fascinated by Johnson’s transition from directing a clinic to praying outside of it.
“At one point Abby said, ‘I see two humans walking in [to the clinic] and only one human walking out,’” Williams said. “That reminded me that the pro-life movement is about making sure that both of those humans can one day be happy and healthy, together or apart.”
Johnson ended her story with her goal for the future.
“I have faith that one day, it won’t be me standing here, speaking and defending the sanctity of human life,” she said. “I believe that one day, it will be Cecile Richards.”
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