A Pro-life Conversion

Abby Johnson was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas in 2009 when she received the unusual request to assist one of the doctors with an abortion. Willing to fill-in for medical staff in a pinch, she agreed. Here’s how she describes what happened next:

As I took the ultrasound probe in hand and adjusted the settings on the machine, I argued with myself, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to take part in an abortion. No, wrong attitude — I needed to psych myself up for this task. I took a deep breath and tried to tune in to the music from the radio playing softly in the background. It’s a good learning experience — I’ve never seen an ultrasound-guided abortion before, I told myself. Maybe this will help me when I counsel women. I’ll learn firsthand about this safer procedure. Besides, it will be over in just a few minutes.

I could not have imagined how the next 10 minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life”. . .

My heart sped up. Time slowed. I didn’t want to look, but I didn’t want to stop looking either. I couldn’t not watch. I was horrified, but fascinated at the same time, like a gawker slowing as he drives past some horrific automobile wreck — not wanting to see a mangled body, but looking all the same.

My eyes flew to the patient’s face; tears flowed from the corners of her eyes. I could see she was in pain. The nurse dabbed the woman’s face with a tissue.

“Just breathe,” the nurse gently coached her. “Breathe.”

“It’s almost over,” I whispered. I wanted to stay focused on her, but my eyes shot back to the image on the screen.

At first, the baby didn’t seem aware of the cannula. It gently probed the baby’s side, and for a quick second I felt relief. Of course, I thought. The fetus doesn’t feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I’d been taught by Planned Parenthood. The fetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed. Get a grip, Abby. This is a simple, quick medical procedure. My head was working hard to control my responses, but I couldn’t shake an inner disquiet that was quickly mounting to horror as I watched the screen.

The next movement was the sudden jerk of a tiny foot as the baby started kicking, as if it were trying to move away from the probing invader. As the cannula pressed its side, the baby began struggling to turn and twist away. It seemed clear to me that it could feel the cannula, and it did not like what it was feeling. And then the doctor’s voice broke through, startling me.

“Beam me up, Scotty,” he said lightheartedly to the nurse. He was telling her to turn on the suction — in an abortion the suction isn’t turned on until the doctor feels he has the cannula in exactly the right place.

I had a sudden urge to yell, “Stop!” To shake the woman and say, “Look at what is happening to your baby! Wake up! Hurry! Stop them!”

But even as I thought those words, I looked at my own hand holding the probe. I was one of “them” performing this act. My eyes shot back to the screen again. The cannula was already being rotated by the doctor, and now I could see the tiny body violently twisting with it. For the briefest moment the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then it was gone. And the uterus was empty. Totally empty.

What you have just read is an excerpt from the first chapter of Abby Johnson’s new book describing her conversion from director of a Planned Parenthood clinic to pro-life activist. The title of the book is Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line, and it looks to be a must-read.

In an interview with Christianity Today, Johnson also describes deficiencies she has found in the pro-life movement. This article is worth the read as well.

15 Responses to A Pro-life Conversion

  1. Brian January 13, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    My heart ached as I read those words. When will we begin to see all life as precious and not medical waste or a careless decision ?

  2. Kevin January 13, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    I feel physically nauseous after reading this. It will take an act of God to open eyes and hearts to the evil that is abortion. Also we, as the church, MUST be reaching out to these women who have gone through with an abortion, not with condemnation, but with the grace and love we have been given in the gospel.

  3. Ian Clary January 13, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Horrifying. May her book get a wide read.

  4. Charlie January 13, 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Horrifying and powerful.

  5. Michael Templin January 13, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Awful.

  6. Casey January 13, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I can’t imagine being an active part of that procedure. I am floored by the dr. coldness in his statment of “beam me up scotty”. I can imagine that any prayer for any of these people would be needed.

  7. Donald Johnson January 13, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Good insights on how to compete with PP. Also, be sure to see the linked page at the bottom of the CT article at Her.meneutics.

  8. MatthewS January 13, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Groans that cannot be uttered…

    I think personal story has always been powerful and especially so in this age. This sort of story is probably one of the most effective ways available to communicate the horror of abortion to our generation.

  9. Drew January 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    what a story about the change from pro-choice to pro-life. Does anybody know if she claims Christianity?

  10. julie January 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    After reading the CT article I have to ask: does this woman really care about women and babies? Is she really pro-life? Or is she just a shill for the Roman Catholic church? Sorry but anyone who comes into the church and immediately starts pointing out everything that they think is wrong does not come across like a true convert. What exactly did she convert from/to? All it sounds like to me is that she changed jobs.

  11. Guy R January 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    Julie,

    I can appreciate your frustration but I think she does really care about women and babies and is really pro-life. Clearly she has converted from pro-abortion to pro-life. Not clear about her faith. I guess we’ll have to read her book.

    But I share her frustrations with the “pro-life movement.”

    I’ve been involved in politics quite a bit, working as full-time staff on several campaigns (local, state, and federal) and for conservative organizations. A significant amount of progress has been made on the right to life issue over the last 15 years or so. But I wouldn’t give the various pro-life groups much of the credit. I’d give the credit to advances in ultra-sound technology and partial birth abortion legislation. Many within the “pro-life-movement” have opposed partial birth bans because they consider them a compromise.

    I’ve been attending the annual pro-life march in DC fairly regularly from when I was a teen (20+ year ago) and it won’t take you long after being a part of that to see the disfunction.

    Some observations of the march:
    – They need some younger more organized leadership.
    – Should Vatican II be recalled? Not hard to find that debate happening at the march.
    – You’ll find lots of disgusting and huge photos of aborted babies.
    – As you march you will hear the constant reciting over and over of the Hail Mary. It is sad to think that since Roe v. Wade there have probably been more petitions to Mary rather than God for the unborn. (And that is just as much a slam on we protestants, I realize) If only Mary could answer our prayers!!

    In my view the pro-life movement has made a lot of progress in the recent years, despite the “pro-life movement.”

    Sorry to be so negative.

  12. DennyReader January 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years and seen many churches, and held various positions in the church. I think Abby Johnson does have a valid point in her criticism of the denominational nature of the Church, but not in the way she thinks. It is true that evangelicals have emasculated and made a spectacle of ourselves before the world. Don’t get me wrong I am as dogmatic as they come but we need to have a lot more comity and a lot less denominationalism. Whatever happened to the adage “Unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials and charity in all things.”?

    The Church has so fractionalized ourselves and surrounded ourselves with same sounding voices that we are like Dorian Gray, impervious to any criticism. How is it that with all the great Christian intellectuals and theologians that we have, yet we still can’t find a way to congregate with a little more comity? Is it possible to have koinonia and still preserve our diversity, E pluribus unum? Or are our egos too big to have more that one person under the same roof?

    Circling back to Abby’s criticism, I don’t think she is fair in criticizing that Baptist church when she was still working at Planned Parenthood. It is fair that they refuse her membership but so what. Just because she can’t be a member that doesn’t mean she can’t continue going to that church. There is nothing to stop her from carrying out the common causes and mission of that church. Unity goes both ways. I don’t know about the Episcopal church she attended but unfortunately so many Episcopal churches have strayed to the point of outside the pale of orthodoxy. Therefore I agree with her criticism but disagree with her reasoning.

  13. Michelle January 16, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    Having worked in an abortion clinic it sounds like she worked for someone who does late term abortions. Which I don’t understand if she is a Christian.

    The procedures that I assisted on were no more than D&Cs, no cannulas or the such.

    Planned Parenthood does pap smears, gives birth control pills and counsels women. They discuss all options without leaning one way or the other.

    And I’m sorry but the “Beam Me Up Scotty” makes no sense and a professional MD would not make such a callous comment in front of a patient. Now I have heard some pretty wild stuff in an OR with the patient asleep.

    I wonder if facts have been checked on this book or if she just got lucky and found a publisher, be interested to know who, to publish her story.

  14. Chris January 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Michelle are you saying that early term abortions are ok?

  15. julie January 20, 2011 at 12:48 am #

    That is a good question Chris. One other thing about Roman Catholics. Their biggest criticism of protestants is that we have so many denominations. This is extremely hypocritical on their part to accuse us of this. The fact is that Roman Catholics themselves, while seemingly united under one pope, have their own denominations. Some are charismatic. Some have contemporary worship services. Some go across town, even though they have a RC church nearby, because they only attend the mass which is spoken in Latin. Some RCs do not recognize the current pope as the true pope. Some RCs are pre-Vatican II, some are post Vatican II and some can’t decide which. Some RCs in other countries have feast days and holidays that RCs in the USA do not celebrate, for example the Day of the Dead celebrated in Mexico. I could go on but I won’t – you get the idea. RC’s are not being honest when they make the denomination charge against protestants.

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