former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, the turning point came when
she was asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion.
are typically performed blind,” explained Johnson, who served as health
director for Planned Parenthood in College Station, Texas. “The doctor takes
the suction instrument and probes until he thinks he’s gotten everything.”
this particular day in the fall of 2009, “the visiting physician wanted to use
an ultrasound as a teaching tool to show us what an abortion looked like,”
recalled Johnson. “I was excited about the prospect of learning something new.
My job, during the procedure, was to hold the ultrasound probe on the patient’s
Johnson saw on-screen would forever change her life.
saw a 13-week-old child struggle and fight for its life during the procedure,”
said Johnson. “It was shocking for me because the most common question we were
asked in the counseling room was, ‘Will my baby feel this?’”
Parenthood had come up with a scripted answer that we were to give women,” said
answer: No, the fetus has no sensory development until 28 weeks,” said Johnson.
“I wholeheartedly believed that.”
Johnson was stunned when she saw the child on the ultrasound screen trying to
get away from the intrusive instruments bent on its destruction.
went back to my office, and for the first time during my eight years at Planned
Parenthood, I wondered if this was where I wanted to be for the rest of my
life,” said Johnson. “I sat down and prayed for the first time in many years.
All I knew was that I couldn’t do this anymore.”
October 6, 2009, one week and two days after participating in the abortion,
Johnson left Planned Parenthood and approached those gathered outside the
business who were in the midst of a 40 Days for Life campaignvolunteers
devoted to a prayerful, peaceful presence outside abortion businesses.
broke down and told them, ‘I know what I’ve been doing is wrong, and I want
out,’” said Johnson.
isn’t the first to have experienced a Saul-to-Paul-like moment leading to a
departure from the abortion industry. In the decades since abortion’s
legalization, abortionists and abortion workers such as Dr. Bernard Nathanson,
Carol Everett, Anthony Levatino, and others were convicted by what they were
doing and experienced profound conversions. Some went on to publicly share their
testimony, such as Nathanson did in his 2001 book The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who
Changed His Mind.
story is eerily similar to that of the late Joan Appleton’s 1989 departure as
head nurse of the Commonwealth Women’s Clinic in Washington, DC.
Appleton, too, had witnessed an ultrasound-guided abortion.
handled the ultrasound while the doctor performed the procedure and I directed
him while I was watching the screen,” Appleton said of her experience. “I saw
the baby pull away. I saw the baby open his mouth. I couldn’t deny what I saw
on the screen.”
1998, Appleton went on to co-found the Society of Centurions of America with
Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Philip Ney. The organization was the first outreach
designed for former abortion workers.
recent years, however, the exodus from the abortion industry has increased.
Over the past five years alone, at least 70 abortion workers have had a change
of heart and mind and left the industry.
is one statistic we wouldn’t have predicted,” said Shawn Carney, campaign
director for 40 Days for Life, which has kept track of the abortion-industry
hoped that mothers would choose life and that abortion businesses would close,
but the abortion workers were another story,” said Carney. “They’re the ones
who, on paper, are supposed to be our enemies, and yet the difference has been
that the prayer and the peacefulness of our campaigns really wears on the
Why they stay
they are hired on, it’s often difficult for staff members of abortion
businesses to leave. Financial considerations and social pressures make it very
hard for workers to depart even when they begin having doubts about their work.
to the testimony of those who have worked at abortion businesses, a common
hiring practice is to hire young women and single mothersmany of whom are
would hire those who] needed us and needed the money,” said Joy Davis, a former
Birmingham, Alabama regional director of six abortion businesses for
abortionist Thomas Tucker. “That way, I knew that I would have their loyalty
and that they would stick with it no matter how tough it got.”
financial fear is great. Many are told that they will not be able to find work
feel trapped,” said Johnson. “Planned Parenthood hires young women who use the
job as a stepping stone to another job. When they decide to leave, they’re
told, ‘Good luck finding a job. No one is going to hire someone who has worked
in the abortion industry.’”
used the analogy of working at Planned Parenthood to the stigma that might be attached
to working at a puppy mill.
though the medical community supports Planned Parenthood, it’s looked at kind
of as if you wanted to be a respectable dog breeder, but had on your résumé that
you worked at a puppy mill,” explained Johnson. “Because abortion businesses
aren’t regulated, they hire shabby physicians, and they often skirt the law,
working at one is like a black mark on your résumé. Finding another
job is a real fear.”
also feel trapped psychologically by the lies they are told, and end up
Green, a former abortion worker at the Allentown Women’s Center, said that the
greatest obstacle preventing abortion workers from leaving is deception.
veil of lies is so thick,” said Green. “The euphemisms that surround the
culture of death make it psychologically accessible.”
reason that many remain is that they carry the guilt of having aborted children
of their own.
was coerced into having an abortion I didn’t want, when I was 17,” said Green.
“Weeks later, I tried to take my own life. Within months after recovering in an
adolescent treatment unit, I marched in a pro-abortion walk and began
volunteering as an escort. I was trying to reconcile my guilt.”
describe my decision as reaction
formation,” said Green. “I knew what I did was wrong, but to be okay with
it, I became a staunch supporter of abortion rights. It was an attempt to mask
my own feelings.”
a reaction is quite common. At its 2009 convention, Planned Parenthood revealed
the results of polling it had conducted. The results: approximately 70 percent
of the organization’s workers were post-abortive.
I was working for Planned Parenthood, I didn’t get that abortion was killing
children,” said Catherine Adair, a former Boston Planned Parenthood worker. “I
didn’t get that a baby was involved.”
says that her own abortion at the age of 19 had created a “veil” that prevented
her from seeing the truth.
I got married and had children of my own, the veil was lifted,” said Adair. “It
was then that I finally understood the grief and the sadness that I was
carrying because of the abortion.”
Why they go
are myriad reasons why abortion workers decide to leave the industry. The
turning point differs for each individual.
seems that the departures are becoming much more frequent,” said Carney. “I
think it’s because many workers are being asked to do things they never thought
they would do, and that forces them to ask what the organization stands for.”
certainly was the case for Sue Thayer.
was fired from Planned Parenthood of Storm Lake, Iowa after 17 years.
mid-2008 Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa announced that they would be
offering telemed abortions,” said Thayer, who served as center manager.
telemed abortion involves an off-site physician who pushes a button unlocking a
drawer at a distant abortion business. The patient takes the first set of
RU-486 pills, found in the drawer, and is then sent home to take the remaining
medication and wait to pass her aborted child.
was being asked not only to supervise the procedure, but also to perform an
invasive vaginal ultrasound to confirm pregnancy, and to train others in the
Parenthood of the Heartland wanted to be the first in the nation doing this,
and make it available to other centers as a way of offering abortion on every
corner without the need for surgical equipment,” explained Thayer.
didn’t have any medical training,” said Thayer. “I voiced my concerns about it.
I believed we were about prevention, and said we didn’t do abortions.”
December 2008, Thayer was fired.
Jewels Green, the change came when she heard the story of a friend of a friend,
a gestational surrogate who was forced to abort the child she was carrying when
the child tested positive for Down syndrome.
was when the light switched on and I said, ‘This is just wrong,’” said Green.
long after, Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned
was published, and Green came across a video of Johnson on YouTube.
couldn’t believe that there was someone else out there like meanother abortion
worker who left,” said Green.
Adair said that she was converted through the undercover work the organization
Live Action. Founded by Lila Rose, Live Action went undercover videotaping the
fraudulent and illegal actions of Planned Parenthood employees across the
was present when young girls came in with their abusers and Planned Parenthood
gave them abortions,” said Adair. “When Rose came out with videos of that, I
felt vindicated. I knew it to be true, and they showed it to be true. That
the first timeto
tell others what I had experienced.”
Days for Life, which operates a fall and spring prayer campaign annually, has
also positively influenced several who have left the industry.
40 Days for Life movement has changed the hearts and minds of not just those
outside the abortion business, but inside as well,” said Green. “For those who
work inside, they feel what’s going on outside the door. That makes it easier
to leave, if you know that you’ll be accepted into open, forgiving, and loving
years and nine months after being terminated by Planned Parenthood, Sue Thayer
headed up a 40 Days for Life campaign outside the same abortion business where
she had once worked.
Parenthood hates 40 Days for Life,” said Thayer. “For the first time, we had
churches working togetherevangelicals,
Catholics, Protestants. What happened was truly a miracle.”
miracle indeed. Four months after the 40 Days for Life campaign ended, the
Planned Parenthood of Storm Lake closed its doors permanently.
was all God’s work,” said Thayer. “He brought people together; he filled the
prayer vigil hours. He closed it.”
said that of all the workers who have left the industry, the majority do so in
the final two weeks of the 40 Days for Life campaign, or at the very end.
first week, they don’t like us…they’re agitated and we sense hostility,” said
Carney. “During the second week, that escalates. They mock us. They laugh at
time goes on, a relationship, of sorts, develops.
workers see a lot of the same volunteers. They notice that they’re praying
before they get there, and they’re there as they leave,” said Carney. “They
can’t ignore the presencehow
long they’re there, through the rain and the heat. There’s a seed of respect
that is sown. By week three or four, they stop looking at these people as the enemy
and have to refocus on the reality of what’s going on inside their walls. I
think it’s the peaceful nature of the vigil that gives the worker the avenue to
leave when they have a moment of conscience and they choose to leave.”
certainly was the case for workers such as Ramona Trevino and Abby Johnson.
didn’t know where to go or what to do,” said Johnson. “All of my friends were
involved in the abortion movement.”
she felt she could trust those praying on the other side of the fence.
had always told me, ‘If you ever want to leave, we’ll be here for you,’” said
Johnson. “I decided to put them to the test.”
I told them I wanted out, they just looked at me and said, ‘We’re here to help
A way out
the publication of her 2010 book about her experiences, Unplanned, Johnson was contacted by 17 abortion workers who wanted
to leave their place of employment. She and her husband financially helped to
support these individuals so that they could make a transition from the
abortion industry into other work.
I looked at the pro-life movement, I couldn’t believe that there were no
ministries for abortion workers,” said Johnson. “This is the missing gap.”
ended up founding And Then There Were None, an outreach ministry for abortion
workers desiring to leave the industry. It’s designed to offer assistance to
former abortion workers as they transition out of the abortion industry and
into a new line of work.
the ministry’s official launch on June 4, 2012, an additional 13 workers have
left, bringing the total that Johnson’s ministry has helped to 30 in the past
beyond anything we could have imagined,” said Johnson.
explained that they offer four streams of assistance.
offer three months of financial support, and job placement support until they
find gainful employment,” said Johnson. “We’re also providing prayer and
spiritual support, getting them in contact with pastors, priests, or spiritual
directors. The majority of the 30 who have left have self-described as
non-profit has also partnered with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance
Defending Freedom to offer free legal assistance and access to an attorney for
those leaving the industry.
addition, they are offering the extensive emotional support needed by former
abortion workers, and developing a workbook to help in their emotional
of the workers mention the importance of talking with others.
when I left, I said, ‘It’s over. I won’t talk about it again,’” said Adair.
“That’s a way of coping with the trauma. Abortion is a sickness in our culture;
for a woman to kill her child goes against every fiber of our humanity.”
Johnson made it much easier for others to tell their stories,” said Adair. “The
more of us there are, the less others can call us liars.”
need for support is high, especially in the initial stages of conversion.
my husband went grocery shopping,” recalled Green. “When he returned, he had
gotten everything on the list, including new rubber gloves. When I put them on,
I started to shake and cry. The gloves were yellow, but when I put them on, all
I could see was the blood. They were the same color as the gloves we had at the
clinic. I had to throw them away. Triggers like that will always be there. When
things like that happen, you need support.”
experienced serious trauma,” explained Johnson. “They’ve seen and heard and
experienced things most people cannot imagine. In the first couple of weeks
after leaving, they need to talk to someone every day.”
primary goals are for healing, stability, and recovery,” said Johnson. “We want
them and their families mentally and physically healthy.”
addition to And Then There Were None, Rachel’s Vineyard offers retreats
specifically designed for post-abortive women and men.
excited to be a part of filling this gap in the pro-life movement,” said
Johnson. “This ministry is saving people from a road of darkness and pure evil,
and bringing them hope.”
“Workers coming out could be the demise of the
abortion industry,” said Johnson. “It takes a lot of courage, but as people
start coming forward, others realize that they can do it. This really could be
the beginning of the end for the abortion industry.”