An interview with Abby Johnson
Karen Garnett: Hi, Friends. This is Karen Garnett with Heroic Media, and I am delighted today to be joined by Abby Johnson. Abby worked at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Bryan, Texas for eight years, climbing the ranks, becoming the youngest Planned Parenthood Director in the country, and receiving Planned Parenthood’s Employee of the Year Award.
But everything changed in September 2009, when Abby was asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion and saw a 13-week-old baby fight for his life, and lose. Abby left Planned Parenthood, and in the 10 years since, she is now an international pro-life advocate, leader, speaker, author of two books, Unplanned and The Walls Are Talking, founder of And Then There Were None and the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, subject of the film Unplanned, wife to Doug and mother of eight, Abby and her family live outside of Austin, Texas. Welcome, Abby!
Abby Johnson: Thank you so much for having me.
Karen: You are so welcome, and thank you for your time. We’d like to take a deep dive today to hear about And Then There Were None, your outreach ministry to help workers inside the abortion industry to get out. Tell us about how you got the inspiration to found And Then There Were None.
Abby: Well, honestly, after I wrote my book Unplanned, published in 2011, I started getting messages from people who had read the book and who worked in the abortion industry, and they said, “I read your book. I saw myself in a lot of what you wrote, and I also want to leave. Can you help me?” And at that time, we had been fighting legalized abortion and traumas for about 40 years, and I thought, “Oh, well, of course… there’s got to be some sort of ministry out there to help abortion clinic workers.”
So I started looking, and looking, and I couldn’t find anything. So I went to some of my friends who were leaders in the pro-life movement and asked them about it and said, “Why don’t we have anything like this?” And the answer was pretty much the same. That “there’s just some people who are ‘too far gone,’” and “there’s just some people who ‘can’t be redeemed.’”
And that really bothered me, because I just didn’t believe that at all. If God was able to redeem my life and everything I had done, I thought, “Well, why wouldn’t these people be able to have that same conversion experience?”
I started praying that God would put it on someone’s heart to start a ministry for abortion workers. And I prayed that for a few months. And finally, I realized that God had called me. But I was so discouraged by everyone who I talked to about it, just the lack of faith that this would actually work. And that began to jade my attitude toward it as well. I thought, “I don’t even know if this is going to work.”
But we kept moving forward in faith, and we thought that success would be getting ten workers out of the abortion clinics a year. And we thought, it’s sort of a hard sell trying to convince people who are fully invested in the abortion industry to trust a pro-life group.
We thought ten a year would really be a huge success. But here we are six years later, and we’ve now helped over 500 workers leave their jobs. And I’m always telling people that I just really believe that God loves a good conversion story, and He’s waiting on those who have fallen away from Him or who have never known Him, to return. We’re really honored to play a very small role in that. And to see those transformations take place is an honor and an incredible thing to be a part of.
Karen: Praise God. That is absolutely incredible that you’ve already helped more than 500 to leave in six years, Abby. So tell us, how did you come up with the name, what is the meaning of the name, and also, who works with you on your team?
Abby: We were trying to think of a name, and the typical pro-life stuff is all like flowers and butterflies and hope and things like that. We didn’t want to do anything like that. We wanted it to be a little edgier because we recognized the group that we’re going after may not be a group that’s really enticed by all the rainbows and flowers.
But we could not come up with a name. My husband and I could not think of anything that really fit. So I said, “Well, let’s go backwards then. Let’s start talking about our vision statement. What do we want our vision statement to be?” Our vision statement actually was very clear to us. That was: “No more abortion clinic workers, no more abortion clinics, no more abortions.”
We thought, OK, this idea of no more, none, having none left, that kept coming back to us. And one day, we were sitting around and I said, “What about ‘And Then There Were None’”? And I’m an Agatha Christie book fan. So I said, “Do you know that Agatha Christie book called And Then There Were None? What if we did something like that?” And it just “fit.” We kept trying to think of other things, but we kept going back to that idea that we are going to drain these clinics from the inside out.
So not only do we want to help the workers find hope and healing in Christ, but nobody understands the abortion industry better than former abortion workers. We knew that they were going to have information that could be devastating to the abortion industry. OK, we need this. We have women who have had abortions, we have men who have had abortions, we have people who are speaking out about their experience as patients, but we don’t have people like me, right? I thought, “We need more of me, people who are whistleblowers, willing to tell their stories.”
And I thought, that’s going to be really powerful if we can get a group of us together to do that. And that’s what we started to do. And now, because of our work with state health officials and different legislative bodies, our former workers have helped close down 21 abortion clinics where they previously worked.
Karen: That is incredible! So, tell us about your team. How do you reach into the abortion facilities to love the workers out? And then, what is the process once a contact has been made or they’re connected with your ministry?
Abby: Sure. We work a lot with Sidewalk Advocates for Life. A specific part of their training program is guided by And Then There Were None. We’re trying to help those who are on the sidewalk understand how to best reach out to abortion clinic workers, and help them
understand that not everybody is going to be gifted with that desire or that ability.
We’re trying to help them discern if they are a person who should be reaching out to the abortion clinic workers. About 60% of the workers who come to us tell us that they first heard about us from someone on the sidewalk. We know that training the sidewalk advocates, and making sure that they are handling various situations with clinic workers appropriately and effectively, is really important.
We also have several different opportunities where we send handwritten cards. We have postcards, we have mailers, different letters that
we send to the abortion facilities.
Somebody there is opening the mail, and the hope is that that mail is being passed around like, “Oh, look what they’ve sent us today.” We know that is really effective. You think they would just throw it in the trash, but they don’t. It usually goes around the clinic. We’ve had a lot of workers tell us, “Yeah, they passed it around as a joke, but I ended up folding it up and putting it in my pocket to take home later to look you guys up.”
We make phone calls into the clinics. We work with pro-life physicians in the area. If there’s a job opening available, a lot of times they’ll call us and say, “I have a job opening for an RN or for a medical assistant or a practice manager. If someone from the abortion clinic will leave, I will hire them.”
It’s a lot of outreach into the clinics, and a lot of it is word-of-mouth. If we can get one worker from a clinic out, we can usually get two or three out, because that worker will then reach back into the clinic to their friends and say, “Hey, look, this group really will help you. And I’m a part of their group and we want to help you leave, too.”
Karen: It’s so beautiful, Abby, that you aren’t just encouraging and inviting them to leave, but you’re also about helping them find new jobs and helping them to experience healing. Talk about that – what kind of healing opportunities does your ministry offer to former
Abby: We have an ongoing retreat process that all of our workers can go through and attend. We have a phase one and a phase two retreat as they’re coming into the ministry, and then we have an ongoing phase, what we call a phase three ongoing retreat. Once a year, our former workers, who’ve gone through the first two phases of our healing retreat, come back together, they really build a sisterhood, a very strong bond, friendship, camaraderie, together. Our retreat program helps to foster that, and it’s also just to provide support throughout the year.
We also have licensed professional therapists, who are Christian-based, on staff with us, so all of our clients have the ability to access free professional therapy, if that’s something that they would like to take advantage of, and I would say that about 60-70% do. They recognize that, yes, the healing retreats are amazing, but it also opens up some very painful wounds and trauma that they need to handle one-on-one.
We also work with groups like “Surrendering the Secret” to help our workers experience healing from their own abortions. About 70% of abortion workers have actually had abortions themselves. So we also want to get them into healing programs to address their own personal abortions that they’ve participated in.
Karen: Beautiful. So, turning now to the movie Unplanned. It opened in theaters nationwide, on March 29th of this year, and I saw the most recent news that it has already grossed $18 million in the theaters domestically. Congratulations on that!
Abby: Thank you.
Karen: At the end of the movie, there’s a number on the screen to text if you work in the abortion industry and would like to talk to someone. What have you seen from the Unplanned movie in terms of abortion workers reaching out to you?
Abby: We’ve seen a considerable number of people reach out with inquiries and questions, people who are working in the clinics. We’ve seen about two dozen actually leave their jobs, but we have probably another two dozen who we’re in contact with on a regular basis who are just nervous about taking that step of faith and leaving, and of course are worried about finances, worried about finding another job.
It is an incredible step of faith. So we continue contact with them. We don’t help them financially until they’ve actually quit their job, but we do have some services that we can help them with. We have professional resume writers on staff and professional HR employees. We can write them a beautiful resume or rewrite them a beautiful resume. We can still help them with job leads in their area. Some people are just nervous to leave a job until they have something else lined up. We want to honor that, and we’re not going to shut the door on them. We want help them get out as quickly as we can
Karen: Once again, beautiful. So, tell us, as we’re wrapping up, how can people find out more about And Then There Were None? And what do you need help with from the pro-life community?
Abby: They can go to abortionworker.com for all things related to And Then There Were None. We have a store there if you want to purchase anything. We have video testimonials from some of our former workers who have gone through the program. Really beautiful stories that they share. And, of course, we always need prayers for our ministry. This is not just for the workers coming out, but also for our staff. This is very emotionally draining type of work, and not that we don’t enjoy every minute of it, but hearing some of the stories from these workers, navigating through that, can be very difficult. So, prayers for our staff as well. And if you feel called, we can always use donations. We’re a non-profit. However you feel called to help, we’d love to have you.
Karen: Thank you so much, from the depths of our hearts, and we thank you on behalf of the whole pro-life industry for what you are doing, Abby, and your wonderful staff – loving abortion workers from the inside out. Thank you for everything that you do! We are your number one fans, and we pray for God’s blessings upon you, your family, and your ministry, and in all that you do for Him. God bless you.
Abby: Thank you so much!