Abby Johnson’s Story “Unplanned” in Theaters March 2019

Unplanned coverThe first book I ever bought when I acquired an e-reader was Unplanned by Abby Johnson. I had never heard of her before. I knew that the book was by an ex-Planned Parenthood worker, and I’d never met such a person, so I thought I might have something to learn by reading her book.

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Abby’s story forced a course correction on the work I’d been doing my entire adult life. If not a correction, then an expansion. I had known abortion workers only from public hearings and press conferences. I’d certainly never known one who had left the industry.

My horizons have been expanded since the book was published in 2010. Unplanned nudged me out of my comfort zone.

Unplanned has been made into a movie, and it’ll be released in theaters next month, March 2019. I’m looking forward to it. Here’s the official trailer.

This brings to mind the first time I met Abby, when she spoke at Dartmouth College a few years ago. Recall her words:“What’s your standing appointment?”

Recommended Viewing: “Desperate Measures”

Not long after Fr. Imbarrato paid a visit to my area and spoke about the need for “decisive strategies” for pro-life activists, I read about his arrest for a sit-in at an abortion facility. Not on the sidewalk – but in the facility itself. Thirty years ago, I would have admired that.

Thirty years ago, I hadn’t met any former abortion workers.

I read Abby Johnson’s Unplanned in 2010, and later met and listened to her. I met Catherine Adair in 2011. These women told me about how, when they were working at Planned Parenthood, the actions and words of some pro-life activists actually increased the sense of solidarity among the clinic workers and the fear among clients. They forced me to see activism differently.

Please watch this 20-minute video from Sidewalk Advocates for Life. Abby and Catherine are both featured. Entitled “Desperate Measures,” the video is a direct response to recent sit-ins and “rescues.” The message is don’t do it – and here’s the better way to carry out peaceful pro-life witness. 

From ATTWN: Sidewalk Advocacy, Through the Eyes of the Workers

And Then There Were None has just released its latest short video, and you’re encouraged to share it on whatever platforms you use. Here, a few former abortion industry workers share their thoughts on what pro-life witness looked like to them from inside their clinics. Some approaches were more effective than others, which is no surprise.

“We Love Them Out”: 5 Good Minutes With Meagan and Laura of And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None was founded by Abby Johnson in 2012, and in five years, hundreds of abortion-facility workers have come through ATTWN’s assistance program. All have left the abortion industry, with help from the only organization dedicated to offering spiritual and material support for such a decision.

How?

“We love them out.” That’s from Laura Ricketts of ATTWN, who with Meagan Weber represented the group at an exhibit table at the 2017 Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. They love their work, and it shows. They kindly and quickly agreed to an impromptu interview with me, which I found more constructive than anything happening on the main stage.

How do you get someone who’s doing abortion work to approach you?

Laura: The short answer is love. We love them out. The longer answer is we have several initiatives that we follow through on, including sending handwritten cards into the abortion clinics to reach out to the workers.  We do a mailing of postcards that have our information inviting them to look us up, letting them know that they can quit, we can help. Sometimes we send flowers to the clinic. If there’s a situation that happens in a community, something specific surrounding that clinic, whether it’s something horrible that might have happened with a patient, or whether there are some unkind – well-meaning, but unkind – pro-life people on the sidewalk, we will send an apology into that clinic and say “I’m sorry.”

How many people have been assisted by ATTWN?

Meagan: To date since we were founded in 2012, we’ve received over 380 workers into our assistance program. That includes seven full-time abortion-providing doctors. We’ve transitioned them all out of the industry into life-affirming work and hope & healing in Christ.

What do well-meaning people do that makes your job harder?

Meagan: Graphic imagery. Inflammatory language such as abortion mill, abortuary, murderers – I mean, yes, abortion is an act that is complicit with murder. But who comes to Jesus Christ because you’re saying “you’re a dirty rotten sinner”? Same concept. We want to affirm their value as a human being, uniquely and distinctly created by God first and foremost. I’d also say trespassing on property [doesn’t help]. We have to flip that and say if we had a bunch of Planned Parenthood employees come into our pregnancy centers and go to the waiting room, [they’d be] violating the privacy of women who are seeking our services. And then they would be telling them “they’re lying to you, They’re not going to give you truthful information about your pregnancy and your options, and it’s your right to have an abortion…” We would never tolerate that happening. So we need to make sure we’re not doing that to them. If we’re truly concerned for the woman who goes into the clinic, who did not receive our information on the sidewalk, we should wait for her, be there for her on the way out.

Laura: Creating an environment around the clinic that feels unsafe or hostile is going to drive the women into the clinic for their abortions faster. And it’s also going to make the workers inside the clinic very distrustful of people who do call themselves pro-life who are scaring them a little bit.

Learn more about And Then There Were None at prolove.com and abortionworker.com and on Facebook. Learn more about Laura’s own work as a birth and bereavement doula at filumenabirth.com, and about Meagan at her Facebook page.


“Their story is not ours to share.”

The Walls are Talking (Ignatius Press, 2016)
The Walls are Talking (Ignatius Press, 2016)

Abby Johnson of And Then There Were None leads a team that has assisted hundreds of people who have chosen to leave the abortion industry. In The Walls Are Talking, Abby and co-worker Kristin Detrow related some of their stories.

Today, Abby took to Facebook to say why she hasn’t shared even more stories. Her answer begins and ends with the same assertion: those stories belong to the people who have lived them, and the stories are theirs to share, not hers.

“We truly value the courageous men and women who step forward and make this decision. We respect them. We value their privacy. And we allow them to take time to heal.”

The Facebook post is worth reading in full. Think in particular of the legal threats that can keep a worker from speaking out. “Ever since I left PP, they make sure that all of their workers sign several confidentiality statements. If they are in breech [sic] of that contract, then they will be sued.”

My one and only quibble with The Walls are Talking was the careful guarding of each former worker’s identity. Co-writer Detrow later said to me in an email, “I can assure you that I interviewed each and every one and have personally met many of them….I pray that the anonymity is not a stumbling block for readers.” Abby Johnson’s post today reminds me why anonymity isn’t just appropriate but essential, until such time as a worker chooses to speak out.