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Focus on the Family Broadcast

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

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

Abby Johnson recounts what God has done in her life since she originally released her book Unplanned and shares stories of the ways she’s helped women leave the abortion industry through her ministry, And Then There Were None. She shares stories about women she’s counseled, how God restored her desire to have children after leaving Planned Parenthood, and how she had to lean on God’s mercy while following the Kermit Gosnell trial. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: March 20, 2023

John Fuller: Abby Johnson worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic for eight years before she came face to face with the horror of what she was really doing. And in that moment, God transformed her life.

Abby Johnson: I knew standing there holding that ultrasound probe and ha-, I ha- 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.

John: Mm-hmm.

Abby: And just thinking, uh, 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: Hm. Well, you’ll hear more from Abby and her amazing journey, and, uh, about her pro-life ministry now on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. Thanks for joining us. Uh, we’re gonna be covering some content that is really for adults only. Uh, so get the kids elsewhere probably for some of this. Uh, I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, whenever we address pro-life issues, uh, we’re aware, uh, that there are many women and men who are listening or viewing this and it has impacted them. They have been part of an abortion.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And we wanna make sure that we say right at the front that there is forgiveness in Christ. I mean, come on, that is what the Lord died for-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … is our sins. And we get that. The question is what you do with it and how it changes your heart. And, uh, the Lord’s heart is always open to you. And I wanna make sure we make that statement right at the beginning. Uh, the pro-life community hasn’t always done a great job in, uh, recognizing these past wounds, and I’m so proud of ministries like Abby Johnson’s, who embrace the women and the men to look at it differently, to experience the Lord’s blessing differently.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I am so proud of Abby Johnson. I mean, her message, she’s coming out of, uh, uh, being an employee of Planned Parenthood. Think of the testimony of that. And it always is an encouragement to me to have Abby with us.

John: Hm. And Abby, uh, has shared her story countless times. Uh, she was a, a clinical director for Planned Parenthood until that profound moment, uh, that we heard, uh, about there in the opening clip. Uh, and there was a movie by the title of her book, Unplanned. And today, we’re gonna have kind of a sequel to that story, the rest of the story, if you will, with Abby. And we’re so glad to have her back. She’s written a new book. It’s called Fierce Mercy: Daring to Live Out God’s Compassion in Bold and Practical Ways.

Jim: Hm.

John: You can get your copy from us here at the ministry. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Abby, welcome back to Focus. So good to see you.

Abby: Thank you. I’m always so glad to be here.

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, i- it’s like a Paul thing. I mean, Paul was the persecutor of the Christians. You were in that clinic defending a woman’s right to choose, and then, bang, it’s like 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 lotta people listening that don’t know you, don’t know your background, summarize, uh, in addition to what that clip captured, summarize what you experienced and how God did kinda tear the scales off your eyes.

Abby: Hm, 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 debates. I grew-

Jim: Hm.

Abby: … 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, 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: … which I can’t even believe that, but this is 20 (laughs) years-

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: … ago. 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: Right, 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, per- 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 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) y-, Hillary Clinton and actresses and, you know-

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: … 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, I really don’t have any business being in an abortion clinic room, but at Planned Parenthood and 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 a 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: Hm. That’s bizarre. Sorry.

Abby: Right.

Jim: But that’s just crazy.

Abby: Yes. 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 even though it looked like a baby and it had every human characteristic (laughs) 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 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 to 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 wanna teach you something,” he probably had no clue-

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: … what you were about to learn.

John: Mm-hmm.

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

Jim: What’d you walk out with that change of heart?

Abby: I just remember 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.

John: Right.

Jim: Hm.

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.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: This baby was trying to survive. I’m no different than this child in the womb. We’re just different sizes, and this baby is in a different location, but we’re the same.”

Jim: Yeah. Hm.

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, uh, 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-

John: Hm.

Jim: … 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 is a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood, and I remember her very clearly saying to me one day, this was 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 (laughs) baby.”

Jim: Right.

Abby: I mean, right-

Jim: You’re just-

Abby: … because-

Jim: … taking 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 no- 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, uh, 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 depravation 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’s happening, like you’ve described here, uh, certainly this isn’t a political issue. They’ve reduced it to that. This is a moral problem-

Abby: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … 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 wanna move to the book, Fierce Mercy. Um, ho- how do you define that title-

Abby: Hm.

Jim: … 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. He- You know, and I, I kind of ran back to the Lord. I had 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 and (laughs) quietly say, you know, “Come back to me, Abby.” (laughs) It was like a, a loud thunderous lion, right, roaring back into my life.

John: Hm, 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. You know, he is jealous of me, he, for me. He is jealous for my soul-

John: Hm.

Abby: … for my life. And, and I think that sometimes we miss that.

Jim: Mm-hmm. 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 and help teach you. And then, bang, I mean, the Lord got your heart, right?

Abby: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: I mean, that’s what happened.

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: The Lord got ahold of your soul-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and said, “Really? Is this what you wanna do?”

Abby: Right.

John: Hm.

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 sort of 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 shower, (laughs) actually. And I was praying to the Lord. I was still trying to really get reacquainted with the Lord, you know? I had been actively not praying to him (laughs) because I didn’t wanna hear what he had to say.

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 one night, and I, I, I said whi-, 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: … and just kinda, you know, was wondering-

Jim: I love how the Lord does this.

John: Mm-hmm.

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 drops into my heart, “Go now.”

Jim: Wow.

John: Hm.

Abby: “Go now.” It was 10:00 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 is still wet. I go (laughs) … I 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: And Doug (laughs) says to me, “Are you gonna vandalize it?” (laughs)

Jim: Oh, right.

Abby: And I said-

John: Oh my.

Abby: … “No!” I said, “I think I need to go to pray.”

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, “Oh, I, I should probably tell them who I am, because if they recognize me and they say, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s Abby Johnson’ that-”

Jim: One of them.

Abby: Yeah, the clinic director.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: They’re gonna … I’m gonna make them nervous. You know, why is she out here? So I thought, “Oh, my gosh. I’m gonna have to tell them that I 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’m, I’m working with the Coalition for Life now.” And they looked at me-

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: … they looked at each other, and they just started jumping up and down-

Jim: Yeah.

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, “Okay, what’s going on?” You know?

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And they’re just like, “Thank you. We’re just so excited. Thank you for leaving, and we’re gonna be praying,” and, and all of this. And-

Jim: Yeah, talk about getting a boost.

Abby: Yes.

Jim: (laughs)

Abby: And so they said, “Do you want us to pray with you?” And 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 sin just washed-

Jim: Hm.

Abby: … over me. 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-

Jim: Hm.

Abby: … 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.

Abby: … really facing that sin.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: Yeah, and, and feeling like God was doing something in my heart and healing me of that. And it was really in 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: … and just 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 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- It- 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: Uh-

Abby: And-

Jim: … right.

Abby: …. you know, healing from your past sin, it’s, 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: Yeah. Abby, I, I, I really want to allow you a, a few seconds here to speak to that woman, or that man, ’cause 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, I, I kind of joke. I hear people, people, women and, and men will come up to me and say that, you know, “I’ve had an abortion or I, you know, had an adulterous relationship” or … and whatever it may be. And they say, “Can, can he really forgive me?” And I, I always kinda laugh and say, “I’ve had two abortions and participated in 22,000 abortions.

Jim: Hm.

Abby: If he can forgive, he can forgive you.”

Jim: Hm, yeah.

Abby: He can forgive anything. And not just that he can, but he wants to.

Jim: Right.

Abby: That’s his desire. And, 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: Yeah.

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

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Abby: … 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 … It, 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 wanna make that choice because it just becomes a part of who you are-

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: … living for the Lord.

Jim: The new you.

Abby: Yes.

Jim: And that’s so good. Abby, uh, man, this has been so good. But we didn’t cover enough of the book content. So we were gonna do just one day, but I wanna come back, uh, for a second day, talk more in depth about the book, Fierce Mercy. And, uh, man, you have just touched my heart today, and I know, hopefully, thousands, hundreds of thousands of others who are listening. And I wanna recommend you get a copy of the book, Fierce Mercy: Daring to Live Out God’s Compassion in Bold and Practical Ways. And, again, even if you didn’t experience an abortion in your own testimony, I think this has great application to your walk with the Lord and what he, uh, wants from you. And so think of it in that context. And if you can make a monthly pledge of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Abby’s book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. Um, we are here. I will say to you that I will run Focus as effectively and efficiently as possible, and you can do ministry through it. I mean, this goes to your account with the Lord. But be a part of it. Uh, join us, uh, with that monthly gift, and we’ll send you a copy of the book to say thank you.

John: Yeah, we really do appreciate your generosity. And, uh, you can donate and learn more about Fierce Mercy, and, uh, also find out about a free booklet we have called Coming Home, which explains what the Christian life is all about. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Online you’ll find us at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: And John, let me remind viewers and listeners, uh, that over the last few months, uh, our research indicates that literally hundreds of thousands of people have contacted Focus for help. Um, that’s with their marriages, with parenting issues, and also in this area of pro-life.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And we wanna be there to give them the good news of the gospel. So we’re hopeful that we can touch a thousand people to say, “Hey, we wanna be part of the ministry at Focus,” and to join us as, uh, monthly sustainers. And that really does provide the fuel that we need, uh, to keep it all going and to reach people and touch people and work with people to get them into a better relationship with Jesus. I think you’d wanna be a part of that.

John: Yeah. Join us today. We need a thousand people to be part of that sustainer, uh, program. And the number is 800-A-FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today 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

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