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Best of 2023: Experiencing God’s Mercy After Leaving the Abortion Industry (Part 1 of 2)

Best of 2023: Experiencing God’s Mercy After Leaving the Abortion Industry (Part 1 of 2)

In this best of 2023 broadcast, Abby Johnson recounts what God has done in her life since she originally released her book Unplanned and her healing process since leaving Planned Parenthood.  She describes how the Lord helped heal her marriage and gave her a desire for more children.  She also discovered a passion to help other people leave the abortion industry like she did, and formed a ministry called And Then There Were None.  (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 20, 2023

Abby Johnson: I knew standing there holding that ultrasound probe, and I h- I had one hand on the ultrasound probe, and- and the other hand on this woman’s belly. And- and just feeling that there was once life there, and now there wasn’t. And knowing that my hand had been a part of that. And- and just feeling this grief for this woman that I had taken part in her lost motherhood. And just thinking, “You know, what am I doing? How- how have I done this for so long? You know? How have I not seen the reality of this?”

John Fuller: On today’s Best of episode of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, we’re going to revisit the topic of abortion, and what it means to live out your pro-life convictions. Obviously, this is a topic, uh, not suitable for younger listeners. Now, earlier this year, we talked with Abby Johnson, and she had proudly worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic until she experienced a dramatic change of heart.

Jim Daly: Here’s the good news. Uh, Abby left the clinic, and reconnected with her childhood faith. And today, she’s a passionate pro-life advocate. And I so respect Abby for her convictions, and how the Lord has used her in amazing ways. Abby’s story resonated with so many of our listeners and viewers, and that’s why we’re sharing it again today.

John: And Abby is an author, speaker, and ministry leader. And she’s written a book that kind of documents her journey since leaving the abortion industry. It’s called Fierce Mercy: Daring to Live Out God’s Compassion in Bold and Practical Ways. And we’ve got more details about Abby and this book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Jim, here’s how you began Part One of this Best of 2023 conversation with Abby Johnson on Focus on the Family.

Jim: Man, I’m, uh, I meant that. I’m so proud of what the Lord has done in your life.

Abby: Thank you.

Jim: I mean, it- it’s like a Paul thing. I mean, Paul was the persecutor of the Christians. You were in that clinic that’s ending a woman’s right to choose and then, bang! But the scales fell off your eyes. And that clip caught that. But for those that haven’t heard the story, they’re new; there’s a lot of people listening that don’t know you, don’t know your background. Summarize, in addition to what that clip captured, summarize what you experienced and how God did kind of tear the scales off your eyes.

Abby: Sure. Well, I worked in Planned Parenthood for eight years, got involved as a college kid. Didn’t know much about the pro-life or pro-choice debate. I grew up in a Christian home, but abortion was not something that was talked about in my home.

I think my parents raised me with the- the idea that, you know, “Abby is going to follow the biblical pathway to marriage. And so as long as she does, then abortion is never going to be something on the table. So we’re just not gonna talk about something that unpleasant with our little girl.” And so we didn’t talk about it. I never heard about abortion in my church. So I went to college, met a woman with Planned Parenthood, who really gave me the- the Planned Parenthood talking points-

Jim: Hm.

Abby: … about helping women and empowering women, helping low-income women find healthcare. And, you know, who doesn’t want to do all of those things? Right?

Jim: Yeah, they sound so positive.

Abby: Absolutely. And at the time … Now, this is 20 years ago.

Jim: Right.

Abby: I can’t even believe that. But this was 20 (laughs) years ago.

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: She told me that their goal at Planned Parenthood was to keep abortion safe, legal, and rare.

Jim: Right.

Abby: And I thought, “I mean, that sounds good.” (laughs) Right? I mean, nobody wants abortion to be safe, legal, and plentiful, right? So safe, legal and rare, that-

Jim: Even the other side thought that at one time.

Abby: Right. And that made sense to me. So I got involved, thought I was doing the right thing, got hired on, pr- you know, was progressively, uh, rewarded for the work that I was doing. Um, just really moved up the ladder at Planned Parenthood. And we’re not talking about some little mom-and-pop shop. We’re talking about a billion-dollar corporation. And so I was pretty proud of myself for the work I was doing. Uh, was given their Employee of the Year award, was meeting famous people. (laughs) You know, Hillary Clinton and actresses and-

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: … you know, actors all around the world. And so, eventually after becoming the director-

Jim: Of a clinic.

Abby: … of a clinic, I was called in to assist on an ultrasound-guided abortion procedure.

Now, I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I have no medical credentials whatsoever. I was really in the administrative part, the business part of Planned Parenthood as a- a clinic director. I’m a therapist by education and licensure. So I really don’t have any business being in an abortion clinic room. But at Planned Parenthood, in- inside of the abortion industry, you just really have to be a warm body and be willing. And they will send you in to perform invasive medical procedures.

Jim: Or to assist.

Abby: Or to assist.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And so, I was asked to go in. Ultrasounds are not typically used during the abortion procedure. But we had a visiting physician that day. And he told me that he wanted to show us something so that we could learn something new.

Jim: Huh.

Abby: And in order to do that, he needed an extra set of hands. And he needed my hands to- to help him with this particular abortion procedure. And so I did the ultrasound. We found out that the woman was 13 weeks along, a little over 13 weeks along. Now, at 13 weeks, the unborn baby is completely formed: arms, legs, fingers, toes, heart’s been beating since 21 days post-conception. Brain waves are functioning, every internal organ that we are sitting with today that’s inside of our body is completely formed on the baby by that time. And so I remember- I remember standing there, looking at that ultrasound image, and I did feel very apprehensive. Because I remember thinking, “What am I about to see here on this screen?” Because I did think, “That really looks like a baby.”

Jim: Hm.

Abby: Now, I had been taught abortion science. Now, abortion science told us that a pregnancy does not turn into a baby until the mother decides that her pregnancy is wanted.

Jim: That’s bizarre. Sorry.

Abby: Right.

Jim: But this- this is crazy.

Abby: Yeah. And if a mother decides that her pregnancy is not wanted, then it’s not a baby. And this woman was at an abortion facility. So this baby was not wanted. So you know, it looked like a baby, and it had every human (laughs) characteristic of a baby. And even though I had a child at the time; my daughter Grace was two; and I remember having an ultrasound with her at 12 weeks.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And she was a baby. I just was trying to really convince myself of what I had been taught at Planned Parenthood.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: That this somehow was not a baby.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And it was at that moment, as I was (laughs) really trying to reassure myself, that I saw the suction tube; the suction wasn’t yet turned on; and I saw that suction tube go into the woman’s uterus. And I could see it getting closer and closer to the side of this baby. And when it finally touched the baby’s side, he jumped. And it was if he had been asleep, and, um, he was now awake. And he started flailing his arms and legs, as if he was trying to move away from the instrument that was probing him. And when the doctor got the- the tube into the right position, he asked the technician to turn on the suction machine. And he said, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Jim: Hm.

Abby: And the suction was turned on. And I mean, it was just … I mean, it was just seconds, a minute, maybe, that I- I watched this baby just be torn apart-

Jim: Right.

Abby: … inside of his mother’s womb, because of the force of this very powerful suction.

Jim: And that changed your perspective when that doctor said, “I want to teach you something.” He probably had no clue-

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: … what you were about to learn.

Abby: And I did learn something that day. And-

Jim: What’d you walk out with that changed your heart?

Abby: I just remembered thinking, you know, “There- there is life in the womb.”

Jim: Right.

Abby: And there- there was humanity here. And the same fight-or-flight response that we have within us, as human beings, was in this tiny human child.

Jim: Right.

Abby: And that- that really spoke to me.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: Um, and I thought, “We’re the same.”

Jim: Survival.

Abby: We are the same. This baby was trying to survive. I’m no different than this child in the womb. We’re just different sizes.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And this baby is in a different location. But we’re the same.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And I thought, you know, “I- I’m on the wrong side of this debate.”

Jim: Yeah. And Abby, we’re gonna get into it. But, um, it just … Man, it just is amazing that with all the technology that we have today, with 3D, 4D, ultrasounds; with the imaging, with the better medical understanding of fetal development and where that child is at a very early stage like you mentioned, complete organ formation, et cetera, very quickly; that we as people don’t understand any better what we’re actually doing to humanity when we allow abortion. It- it’s becoming like bizarrely macabre-

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: … that we as a nation don’t understand what we’re doing.

Abby: You know, Jim, I worked with a woman who was a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood. And I remember her very clearly saying to me one day … This is toward the end of my time with Planned Parenthood. And I remember her telling me, “Oh, I- I know we’re killing a baby.” She said, “I know we’re killing a baby.” And she said, “I just don’t care.”

Jim: Right. That, to me, is a very honest statement.

Abby: Right. And I- I remember thinking, “But I- I don’t think we’re killing a baby.” (laughs) I mean-

Jim: Right.

Abby: Right? Right? Because-

Jim: We’re just taking out a glob of tissue.

Abby: Right. Because I was still-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Abby: … in that mentality, that it’s-

Jim: Right.

Abby: … not a baby. That it’s n- right? I was still living under those blinders, right? But she was so just matter of fact about it. “No, I- I know it’s a baby. I know it’s living. I know I’m killing it. I’m fine with it.” And I think that- that’s really what we’re seeing today.

Jim: Right.

Abby: Just this complete disregard for life. And I- I think the sad thing for me is that it’s an overall disregard for humanity.

Jim: Right.

Abby: And we see it even in- in young people, just the disregard for their own life.

Jim: Right. It’s a coarsening of the culture.

Abby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, um, you know, I’ve often looked at Romans, in where the Scripture talks about He’s handed, meaning God, He’s handed them over to the deprivation of their own mind. And in essence, their actions; and certainly, abortion fits that, because a sane human, um, with any kind of compassion would not support this. Really. I mean, that’s a bold statement. But when you really get to it, and you better understand what is happening, like you described here, certainly, this isn’t a political issue. They’ve reduced it to that. This is a moral problem with the heart of our culture, that we would wipe out 63, 64 million children, uh, for the sake of convenience or eliminating a problem or a burden. And, you know, we’ll get into that. I do want to move to the book: Fierce Mercy. Um, h- how do you define that title that you’ve given this book, Fierce Mercy? Do those go together?

Abby: (laughs) Well, it does for me. You know, I think for a lot of people, they think of mercy and they- they think of Christ as being this voice that kind of whispers to them, and, you know, quietly beckons them. But I gotta tell you: it was not that way for me. When, you know, and I- I think one of the reasons that- that it was- when I saw that ultrasound-guided abortion, I knew immediately, “I have to get out of here. I- I have to leave immediately.” I think one of the reasons that it was- it was an easy decision for me to leave was because I had grown up with that foundation of faith. And so for me to take that leap of faith and- and to say, “I’m- okay, Lord, I’m trusting You,” um, that was easy for me. Because I- I had believed that my whole life. That, you know, if you trust in the Lord, He will protect you. You know? And I- I kind of ran back to the Lord. I’ve been separated from Him, and I ran back to Him in that moment. You know, God did not tap on my shoulder and, you know, sweetly (laughs) and quietly say, “You know, come back to me, Abby.” (laughs) It was like a- a loud, thunderous lion, right, roaring back into my life.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: He was fiercely protective of me, because I was His child. And that- that is how God has been for me. That is how the Lord has been for me in this transition, in this conversion in my life.

Jim: Hm. Well, in so many ways, it was dramatic for you.

Abby: It was dramatic.

Jim: I mean, one day, you’re the star. You’re Employee of the Year. You’re hitting all your goals and your targets. Then the doctor wants to show you something to help teach you. And then, bang! I mean, the Lord got your heart.

Abby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Right?

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, that’s what happened.

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: The Lord got ahold of your soul and said, “Really? Is this what you want to do?”

Abby: Right.

Jim: Let me ask you, um, in that experience about, uh, I don’t know, three or four months later, the Lord encouraged you to go back into the lion’s den, so to speak. Um, what was that about, and how did He express that to you?

Abby: Yeah. So three weeks after I had left, I was in my (laughs) shower, actually. And I was praying to the Lord. I was still trying to really get re-acquainted (laughs) with the Lord, you know? I had been actively not praying to Him (laughs) because I didn’t want to hear what He had to say. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: So, um, for eight years, I’d really been not listening to the Lord, and not praying. Um, and so I was in the shower, and I was praying when I- and I- I- I said wh- during my prayer, “You know, Lord? I wonder if I’ll ever be called to go back out to my clinic to pray.”

Jim: So, just a question in your heart.

Abby: Just a question in my heart-

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: … to kind of, you know, was wondering-

Jim: That’s what the Lord does with us, isn’t it?

Abby: Yeah, just wondering, you know, in my prayer time in the shower, you know, quiet, just me and Him. And right then, the Lord just dropped into my heart: “Go now.”

Jim: Wow.

Abby: “Go now.” It was 10 o’clock at night. And there was a 40 Days for Life vigil going on and at- at my former clinic; it was a 24-hour vigil. So I knew somebody would be out there.

Jim: Out praying.

Abby: Yes. Now, nobody knew that I had left, except for the few people that were in the pro-life group where I had gone and- and had said, you know, “Can you help me leave?” So there were only a handful of people that knew I had even resigned at that time. So, I go downstairs to my husband. My hair was still wet. I (laughs) go downstairs to my husband. And I said-

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: “I-” I said, “… I know you’re gonna think this is crazy, but I think I need to go back out to my clinic.”

Jim: Hm.

Abby: (laughs) And Doug says to me, “Are you gonna vandalize it?” (laughs)

Jim: Oh, my. (laughs)

John: Oh, my.

Abby: (laughs) “No! I think I need to go to pray.” (laughs)

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And he goes, “Oh, I don’t think that’s crazy at all.”

Jim: Oh.

Abby: He said, “I think you should go.” And he said, “Do you want me to go with you?” And I said, “No.”

Jim: Hm.

Abby: I said, “I need to go alone.” So I get in my car, I drive over there. By now, it’s, like, 10:30 at night. I saw this couple, this young couple, probably in college. They’re out there praying. So I walk up by myself, and I’m thinking, “Uh, I should probably tell them who I am. Because if they recognize me, and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Abby Johnson.’”

Jim: One of them.

Abby: “‘Yeah, the clinic director.’” They’re gonna- I’m gonna make them nervous. “‘You know, why is she out here?’” “Um, oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to tell them that I’ve resigned, right?” So I walk up to them. They’re looking a little nervous. (laughs) I introduce myself, and I said, “I- I don’t- you probably don’t know this, but I resigned from the clinic three weeks ago.” And I said, “I- I’m working with the Coalition for Life right now.” And they looked at me.

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: They looked at each other.

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: And they just started jumping up and down.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: And just screaming and they’re laughing, and the girl starts crying. And they’re hugging each other, and they’re hugging me. And I- I’m kind of like (laughs) “W- what’s going on?” You know? And they’re just like, “Thank you. We’re just so excited. Thank you for leaving. And we’re gonna be praying,” and all of this, and-

Jim: Yeah, talk about getting a boost. (laughs)

Abby: Yes.

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: And so they said, “Do you want us to pray with you?” I said, “No, I’m- I’m gonna walk over here by myself. And this is my first time being out here on this side.” And I said, “I’m just gonna pray.” They said, “Okay.” So I walked over by myself, and I looked at that building. And it was just- it was like all of the sins just washed over me.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: I was, like, staring at my sin for the first time. And I- I really, I couldn’t even stand anymore. I just fell to the ground, and I was just weeping.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: And it was an interesting time, because I really felt like that was when my healing started.

Jim: Sure. Cleansing. Yeah.

Abby: Like, facing that sin. Yeah. And- and feeling like God was doing something in my heart, and healing me of that. And it was really kind of a juxtaposition too, because I’m- I’m, you know, on my knees in front of that building, just crying out to God. And then here’s, you know, this couple over here, they’re still crying and hugging each other-

Jim: Oh, I’m sure.

Abby: … in- in thanksgiving and celebration for what God had done. But I was feeling just so much sorrow-

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: … at that moment. And, um, and then it was just a couple of days later when I was served legal paperwork from Planned Parenthood. Um, and found out that they were suing me-

Jim: Hm.

Abby: … for leaving my job. Um, trying to silence me, uh, to not tell this story, and- and things that I knew: which, of course, I won later in court. But it was just a- that was a very interesting time in my life. And really, it was a- it was a- it was a good thing to go back out there to face that. But, you know, healing is hard.

Jim: Oh, right.

Abby: And, you know, healing from your past sin, it’s hard. It’s a- it’s a journey. And I’m still healing, even 13 years later.

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Abby: I’m still healing. I’ll be healing the rest of my earthly life.

Jim: Let me ask you, uh, you feel that connection with Mary Magdalene. You talk about it in the book, and this will be a good place for us to, to end today. But, that connection with her, she was demon possessed, the scripture says. She was seeing things through an unhealthy view. Why do you connect with Mary Magdalene in that regard?

Abby: She was forgiven so much. She was forgiven for so much. And she was used so much by the Lord. And I think when we are forgiven much, we are then expected to do many things with that forgiveness. And she did many things for the Lord. And I think for me, I think for me and so many of the former abortion workers that that come through our ministry, And Then There Were None, that’s how we all feel. We feel like God has done so much for us in our lives, and he expects a lot from us. But we’re so willing to give him everything that we have.

Jim: Um, you have now, I think, over 600 employees in the abortion industry have come out, similar to your journey. Because of Then There Were None, your ministry. Just describe that. I mean, what are those conversations like?

Abby: Yeah, we’ve had 640 now who have left. And really success for us is not just them leaving, but these workers leaving and then coming into a saving relationship with Christ. That’s success for us.

Jim: That’s great.

Abby: And because we know that God is the only one who can heal our hearts, and that’s, that’s our goal is for them to receive true healing. It’s … people ask me, you know, what’s it like to be on this journey with, with people who have witnessed, who have experienced this kind of evil and who literally walk away from it and run into the arms of the Lord. And I tell them it’s like witnessing a miracle.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And that’s really what it is.

Jim: Yeah. Abby, I- I really want to allow you a few seconds here to speak to that woman, or that man, because we always, uh, seem to exclude the man. But those that are feeling that guilt. Maybe they’ve never talked about it with anybody, and they’re hearing your voice right now. “Can God really forgive me? Really, Abby? You don’t know what I’ve done.” When, in reality, you know exactly. What would you say to that woman or that man right now?

Abby: You know, Satan wants us. The enemy wants us to live in our past. Because that’s the place that we cannot change. We cannot change our past. And so, that’s why He brings it to mind so often, because that’s where he wants us to live. That is his playground.

Jim: Right.

Abby: And- and so he wants to keep us there, because it keeps us in bondage.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: It keeps us chained up. The Lord says, “I don’t want you to stay in bondage. I want you to live in freedom. And that’s why I want you to live in the present, in this gift that I have given you every single day.”

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And it takes- y- you know, it’s- it’s like a habit. You have to- you have to wake up every day and say, “Okay, am I gonna live in the past, where Satan wants me to live? Or am I gonna wake up today and am I gonna live in the present? Am I gonna live in freedom-

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: …with the Lord? Am I going to live in this blessing that He has given me? And am I going to allow God to use my past for His glory?” And eventually, if you choose Him, every day, and you do it enough, eventually you won’t even have to wake up and make the choice. You just- you won’t even think about living in your past every day.

Jim: You’re different.

Abby: You won’t want to make that choice, because it just becomes a part of who you are: living for the Lord.

Jim: The new you.

Abby: Yes.

John: This is Focus on the Family, with Jim Daly. And what we just heard was Part One of the Best of 2023 broadcasts with Abby Johnson. She’s the author of the book Fierce Mercy: Daring to Live Out God’s Compassion in Bold and Practical Ways.

Jim: (laughs) It is amazing, John, how God stepped in and redeemed Abby’s heart, and how He’s using her story and passion to transform lives. Here at Focus on the Family, at the end of the year, we’ve been inviting you to partner with Focus to help us give families hope as we head into the New Year. That includes people who, like Abby was, are clueless about the sacred value of human life, created in the image of God. Each of us. And we want to share the Gospel with them, and through compassion and grace, introduce them to Jesus Christ. You can be a part of that. In fact, you can do ministry through Focus on the Family today with your financial gifts. We welcome your support, especially now, while we have a matching opportunity going on where generous friends are willing to match your gift, dollar for dollar. And that is a great way to inspire everyone to give.

John: Hm. Donate, uh, generously as you can. And when you do, uh, we’ll say “Thank you” for joining the support team, uh, by sending a copy of Abby’s book. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you can donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And, uh, those who support Focus are having a tremendous impact through our Option Ultrasound Program. Now, that program recently passed an important milestone: more than half a million babies have been saved from abortion, thanks to the generosity of friends like you.

Jim: (laughs) Man, that is right. Through, uh, Option Ultrasound, we provide training and ultrasound equipment to pregnancy resource centers across the country, where abortion-minded women are learning the truth, uh, like Abby did, that they have a living child in their womb. And with the combination of Christian counseling and that ultrasound, many abortion-minded women are choosing life for their baby.

John: And, uh, once more you can join, uh, our efforts and do ministry with us, uh, as Jim says. Uh, when you donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow as we continue the conversation with Abby Johnson. And once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Fierce Mercy Book Cover

Fierce Mercy: Daring to Live Out God's Compassion in Bold and Practical Ways

Receive the book Fierce Mercy and a free audio download of “Celebrating the True Meaning of Advent” for your donation of any amount! Right now, you can DOUBLE YOUR DOLLARS to GIVE FAMILIES HOPE through our YEAR-END MATCH provided by generous friends of the ministry.

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