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Interview
July 13, 2013
Abby Johnson and Shawn Carney talk about the new Texas law, “The Preborn Pain Act”
Bryan, Texas – Wendy Davis and her supporters have either bought into a lie about abortion or mistakenly believe these clinics are safe places, but we have the truth, says former abortion clinic worker Abby Johnson.

Shawn Carney and Abby Johnson once stood toe to toe on opposite sides of the fence at the Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, until Abby joined the pro-life cause. They talked to CWR about the new abortion law in Texas and what it means for the clinic where they met and for the other abortion clinics in the Lone Star State.

House Bill 2364, “The Preborn Pain Act”, passed in the state senate late Friday night and is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Perry in the coming days.

Shawn Carney is one of the founders of 40 Days for Life and co-author of 40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done...Imagine What He Can Do.

Abby Johnson is a former abortion clinic worker named "employee of the year" by Planned Parenthood and now the author of Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line, and founder of "And Then There Were None," a support group for abortion clinic workers who have left the industry.

CWR: What are the changes this law will make for abortions and abortion clinics in Texas?

Carney: The proposed laws would ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks in Texas. The biggest impact of this law will be how it raises the standards of the abortion industry, against their own will. For instance the abortionist will need to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the facility and new upgrades would be required inside the facility. This has caused a huge reaction from Planned Parenthood.

Johnson: There are 42 abortion facilities total in the state and 37 are not "ambulatory surgical centers." To comply with the new law, they will have to retrofit, rebuild from the ground up, or close.

CWR: How is this law going to affect your own clinic in Bryan, TX, the site of the first 40 Days for Life campaign?

Johnson: Actually, I just found out today that my old clinic is no longer doing surgical abortions because of the ultrasound legislation that we passed last session in the state of Texas. And the reason that they can't do it because it requires a doctor to be there basically two days in a row: one day to do the ultrasound and answer questions and the second day to actually do the surgical abortion. Because my clinic only had an out-of-town abortionist come from San Antonio, it is virtually impossible to have him come two days in a row. So they hadn't been able to do the surgical abortion, and that went into effect last October. But they are still able to do the medication abortion and that is because the physician is not required to be there on site to administer the medication abortion pill. This bill will actually change that and would essentially require the abortion doctor to be on site three days: one day for the ultrasound, a second day for the administration of the first pill, and then another day for the second pill. If they can't secure a doctor for two times a week, they certainly can't secure him to come three times. So this bill, just in that one part, would essentially close down the abortion part of that Planned Parenthood.

Carney: The pro-life community in Bryan was aware that Planned Parenthood was no longer doing abortions for several weeks and the new law will make it even more difficult, if not impossible.

This Planned Parenthood [clinic] is very symbolic since 40 Days for Life started at this facility in 2004 before spreading to all 50 states and 19 countries. Abby’s conversion in 2009, when she walked next door into my office, put the spotlight on this facility even more, so it is not just a victory for Texans but pro-lifers across the country.

Our prayer is that this facility closes. Countless are the priests, religious, and lay people who have stood on the worn out grass praying for an end to abortion in that community. The gradual decline over that past ten years of that Planned Parenthood’s business is ultimately from their prayers.

CWR: Currently, what types of sanitary and medical regulations do abortion clinics have?

Johnson: There are not many. They do have to have sterilization equipment. But in an open records request that we had gotten from the state listing all the violations that the Texas Department of Health had given the abortion clinics across the state, we are finding that the majority of these facilities do not run their sterilization properly. And that is serious; these are instruments at are going inside a woman's body and they are being improperly sterilized. We found in these reports that a lot of the staff are not trained or certified for the procedures they are performing. That is very common. There is very little regulation in the Texas regulation code. Very little. There is nothing about making sure doorways are large enough for emergency transport to take place if needed. None of that. We say that these are just common sense that they have these things in facilities that are performing surgeries. Actually, we have been talking with a general contractor who called the other day and she said: "Abby, I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself that there are really no regulations as far as facility or anything. I couldn't believe that medical facilities that perform surgeries had no regulations."

CWR: Does something like a nail salon has more regulations?

Johnson: I was getting my hair done the other day and I was talking to my hairdresser about this bill. I was telling her about the lack of regulations and she was just appalled. She said, "You know, I am more regulated as a beautician than these abortion clinics are."

CWR: Wendy Davis has become an overnight celebrity as a defender of women's rights. Do you think most people in the American public know what it is that she is defending beyond "a woman's right to choose"? That she is advocating for no oversight on potentially filthy abortion providers or even infanticide?

Johnson: I don't think the majority of abortion supporters really get that at all. They really think that these clinics – and I understand because a lot of people just find it hard to believe – but I think they really believe in their heart that these abortion clinics are clean, safe, inspected regularly, that they are inspected properly and that women aren't having complications from abortion. Because that is what they are being told by the abortion lobby. And they don't have any reason not to believe it and they do believe it. And they think that we are crazy and telling lies, but we are hearing from the women who have been hurt. We have the facts; we have the information about these facilities and how filthy they are and what is really going on. And I think particularly with my ministry of working with former abortion clinic workers and hearing from them what is really going on, their stories are so powerful because it is hard to dispute someone who has been in the industry and has seen what is really going on.

CWR: And now it is not just you, but there are more and more of you who are former workers.

Johnson: There are 66 who have come just from our ministry in the past year. And I think a lot of people who support abortion just don't understand what they are supporting and it is kind of this blind willful ignorance. I don't mean that in an ugly way – just the definition of the word. They bought a lie, and a lot of these people have had abortions themselves and so they need that justification.

CWR: You have been on the other side of the debate on this issue, beyond ignorance. What is part of the mindset of people who, like Wendy Davis, support this bill? She certainly can't be ignorant of what is in it.

Johnson: What is interesting about Wendy is that she had an unplanned pregnancy; she had a crisis pregnancy as a teen and chose to have her baby. I find it odd that she is fighting so hard to have women make the choice of abortion when they are in that same situation knowing that she was blessed with a child. Her circumstances weren't ideal but now she has a daughter. I don't know if she has had an abortion, but I think for her, one, she wants and needs the support from Planned Parenthood. They have been looking for an opportunity to throw her out into the spotlight because they have been talking about backing her in her run for the office of governor. And I think they were just looking for an opportunity and this was provided that for them. I think that Wendy has just bought into those same talking points—that this is going to be restrictive to women and we are going to be forcing women to go to back alley clinics. I think that she really believes that abortion is a clean, regulated industry.

CWR: That is kind of ironic because as you have described it – and was seen in the Gosnell case – the industry is without regulation and is allowing the practices of the "back alley."

Johnson: Yes, that is what I tell people, the back alley abortions are happening today in our "clean, safe and legal" abortion clinics. The same things that happened in the back alley are happening in our clinics. But I think that these senators and others really believe, deep down, that we are sending women to safe facilities.

CWR: What reaction do you anticipate Planned Parenthood to make in response to this legislation?

Johnson: Right now, what they are saying is that this is about harming women, we don't care about women, we only care about babies. I don't really know how additional regulations on abortion clinics can harm women, but they are talking about it being a burden for women to drive to clinics. My experience with the abortion industry was that that was never a problem. They would drive five or six hours if they felt they really needed it. If the woman really felt like she needed the abortion, she is going to have it. They are going to find the resources. But if it really is a burden, at least they can be assured they are going to a safer facility to have surgery.

CWR: And what about your own work within the pro-life movement? What's on the horizon?

Johnson: I still travel and do speaking events. It is tiring, but it is important because there are so many people inside the pro-life movement who have never heard an insider's perspective on what it is like to be inside the industry. Also, I do a lot of legislative work, not just in Texas, in other states as well providing expert testimony and being a resource witness, and helping draft legislation to ensure that there are no loop-holes that the abortion industry can run through. I'm also running this ministry with the workers. We get calls weekly from people wanting to leave or people who have left but who need additional support. We run retreats for the former workers and help provide healing for them. And I have a new book coming out with Ignatius Press in the fall, which is a compilation of stories from people who have come through my ministry, myself and other abortion clinic workers. These are really egregious things happening in the industry that these workers are speaking out about. It is called The Walls Are Talking.

CWR:
Shawn, there is good news about more abortion clinics closing because of 40 Days for Life campaigns. What is next for the pro-life movement in Texas? And beyond?

Carney:
We have learned of four abortion facilities closing since the end of the spring campaign. That makes a total of 37 abortion facilities that have gone out of business for good following a campaign. This simply shows the momentum at the local level on the pro-life front. There is much to have deep concern about in our culture but there is a lot of hope in the pro-life movement at the local level right now. We see the states creating news laws like in Texas, and pregnancy center outnumber abortion providers 6 to 1 in America. The growth of 40 Days for Life has shows that people want to do something for the women who are scheduled to have abortions this week in their community. We’ve seen nearly 600,000 people participate in 40 Days for Life and 30% of them tell us this was their first pro-life activity. These are good signs at the local level as we take our faith into a culture that is starving for Christ.

 
About the Author
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Carrie Gress 

Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She was the Rome Bureau Chief of Zenit's English Edition and a Research Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC. She is the author of two forthcoming books: Nudging Conversions (Ignatius Press) and a pilgrim's guide to Krakow, Poland, with George Weigel and photographer Stephen Weigel (Image Books). A mother of three, she and her family live in Virginia.
 

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