The information revealed in the undercover Planned Parenthood videos has shocked the nation, but the monetization of fetal body parts was an everyday occurrence for Abby Johnson during her eight years as a clinic director at Planned Parenthood.
In 2009, Johnson experienced a conversion to the pro-life movement while assisting in an ultrasound-guided abortion. Since then, she has become a strong advocate for women seeking alternatives to abortion and has founded And Then There Were None (ATTWN), a non-profit organization for abortion clinic workers looking to break from the abortion system.
Johnson told The Tidings in a telephone interview that the content of the video footage released by the Center for Medical Progress is nothing new. She had already experienced it all firsthand while working at Planned Parenthood.
However, she says the fifth video release was difficult to watch.
“Video five was secretly filmed in my former affiliate where I used to work,” she says. “And I knew everyone in that video. I was close friends with them, we were on the same management team.”
It’s difficult to see that they are still participating in abortions, she says. “I want them to find the joy that I have found.”
The fifth video shows Melissa Farrell, director of research at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, speaking to people she thought were potential buyers. Farrell said Planned Parenthood has “an edge over other organizations” since they “deviate from our standard” in order to get specific fetal body parts for consumers.
Farrell also mentions the high prices for these body parts — prices that go well over covering procurement costs, the legal limit for pricing, since fetal tissue cannot be sold.
Today Johnson is married with five children and living in Austin, Texas. A convert to Catholicism, she is studying for her Masters in Theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.
She wrote on LifeSiteNews about her experience at the abortion clinic: “During the season of tissue harvesting, an intact body was gold. An intact fetal body is considered perfection in the land of fetal tissue research.”
Johnson was in charge of getting a patient’s consent to donate the baby’s remains — a consent that was usually achieved by saying that the donation would “help others.” She would sort, package, and send the intact and dismembered body parts to the clinic lab.
“The images of tiny bodies will always be burned in my memory,” she writes. “And in a strange way, I am thankful for that memory, as it reminds me what I’m fighting for.”
Many viewers were horrified at how easily the abortion clinic workers talked about harvesting fetal tissue organs, but Johnson says that she can almost see herself in the video.
“After a grueling abortion day, we would all go out for margaritas and Mexican food … we would plainly talk about harvesting fetal parts as if we were talking about harvesting a field of corn.”
In the phone interview, Johnson says ATTWN proactively seeks out abortion clinic workers to give them an escape from the morally abhorrent job.
“We provide them transitional financial assistance, we provide employment help, we provide emotional help,” she says. “Our model is a relationship model so each worker who leaves [the abortion clinic] and comes through our ministry has a one-on-one relationship with a client manager.”
She adds, “We are able to provide them a comprehensive package so that they can leave the industry, they can find healing, they can move onto something that is more enriching for their life.”
The nonprofit was founded in 2012. Within three years, 179 abortion clinic workers completed the ministry program and joined the pro-life cause.
“We’ve also had six abortion doctors who left their practice and are now committed to defending life,” Johnson says.
Johnson is working to find the best methods to end abortion. Since her own escape was made possible by contacting members of the 40 Days for Life group, who silently prayed outside her clinic, she believes that the most loving approach is always the best.
“The best thing for the abortion clinic is to have angry protestors with big graphic signs outside of their clinic,” Johnson says. When protesters hold graphic signs and scream at the women entering the clinics, “the women are essentially running into the arms of these abortion clinic staff.”
40 Days for Life is winning the pro-life movement, she says.
“Here is this peaceful, prayerful vigil and nobody was screaming any names, nobody had a 6-foot graphic sign in anybody’s face. It was all about love and compassion and meeting these people where they were — whether it was an abortion clinic worker or someone going in to have an abortion.”
She adds, “The most effective thing you can do is stick someone out there with information on free help and a kind voice. That’s very damaging to the abortion industry.”
Johnson also believes that Catholics should have an open and honest discussion about using undercover videos to fight abortion.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily categorically opposed to it, but I would say that I always think there’s always a better way of getting information that doesn’t include lying.”
She says the recent exposé may have permanently closed the door to conversion for the abortion clinic workers filmed in the video.
“I feel that there is a closed door with these workers where maybe there could have been some openness. That’s heartbreaking for me.”
Because of Johnson’s past as an abortion clinic worker, she says, “I tell people, I gave up lying when I left Planned Parenthood.” Adding, “I don’t ever think it’s OK to sin in order to reach our goal.”
Regardless, Johnson wants the horror people felt while watching the videos to translate into an increased involvement for the pro-life cause.
“My concern is that things will go back to the status quo after the outrage has died down,” she says. “We can all sit around and say that we are pro-life but that’s not enough. We have to take our beliefs and put them into action and so I hope people will do that.”
The fight to end abortion is a long road, she says, comparing the battle to a journey, not a sprint.
“Even if abortion were made illegal across the country tomorrow, we still have over 60 million women in the country who have had abortions in the past 42 years. We have people who are hurting and need help.”
And Johnson says “people are always going to be experiencing unplanned pregnancies. This work is never going to be done until Jesus comes back. We are never going to stop having something to do in the pro-life movement.”
Abby Johnson will give a talk Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. entitled “Unspinning the Web of Planned Parenthood,” which promises to be an exclusive look into the organization. The entrance fee is $25.
All funds raised will go towards OneLife LA 2016. The event is located at St. Philip the Apostle Church Hall, 151 S. Hill Avenue, Pasadena.
To learn more about And Then There Were None or to make a donation, please visit abortionworker.com.