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Why I Left the Abortion Industry (Part 1 of 2)

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Why I Left the Abortion Industry (Part 1 of 2)

Abby Johnson, Annette Lancaster, and Sue Thayer offer a behind-the-scenes look at the abortion industry as they describe their past work for Planned Parenthood wherein they initially believed they were helping women in need, but later experienced a radical transformation of their perspective which led them to become the passionate pro-life advocates they are today. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: July 29, 2020

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Abby Johnson, Annette Lancaster, and Sue Thayer offer a behind-the-scenes look at the abortion industry as they describe their past work for Planned Parenthood wherein they initially believed they were helping women in need, but later experienced a radical transformation of their perspective which led them to become the passionate pro-life advocates they are today. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: July 29, 2020

Episode Transcript

(Sound of baby’s heartbeat)

John Fuller: That sound, a pre-born baby’s heartbeat, may be one of the most hopeful sounds there is. There is no doubt that a brand-new life is beginning. And today, we’re going to hear from three ladies who had their eyes opened to that truth in a really powerful way. This is Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Well, also, John, that sound of the heartbeat brings so much clarity to the pro-life situation. I’ve mentioned this before, but it still fascinates me. When we did our Alive from New York event last year, even the protestors fell silent when they heard that pre-born baby’s heartbeat over the loudspeakers throughout Times Square. There’s something about that sound that fills you with a sense of awe and wonder. And that’s why our slogan for our pro-life event this year is “Love Every Heartbeat” and our online event called See Life 2020 will kick off on September 26th. It’s going to feature interviews, great music and, of course, an ultrasound of a pre-born baby.

John: Find out more about See Life 2020 at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: And today, we’re going to share a very eye-opening conversation about the abortion industry from three people who once worked in it. One of those people is Abby Johnson. She was passionately pro-choice and worked as a clinic manager at a Planned Parenthood office until her eyes were opened to the reality of abortion. Um, she left her job to become a pro-life advocate and she’s actually the mom that we did the ultrasound on in Times Square a year ago.

John: That was an incredible moment when she came out and that was kind of a big reveal moment, if you will.

Jim: It was.

John: Uh, now in the studio we also had former abortion clinic managers with us. Sue Thayer and Annette Lancaster. Sue is the director of outreach for 40 Days for Life and Annette is the director of clinical placement operations at the Duke University School of Nursing. And our conversation today will feature Abby’s new book, The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories. And we do have that available here if you want to call or hit the website. As you can probably guess, a warning here that we will be covering some mature and difficult topics today, and, uh, next time as well, which will involve pregnancy loss so you might want to use your earbuds or listen later online or use our daily app.

Jim: I also want to mention that these women are part of Abby’s ministry, called “And Then There Were None”. Her ministry reaches out to abortion clinic workers and helps them transition out of the industry to find hope and healing.

John: Here’s how we started that conversation, Jim, as you asked Abby about our event in Times Square.

Jim: You know, for the listener, this is powerful – the testimony of what you’ve gone through. And that’s the spirit in which we want to have this discussion today. I mean, you’ve seen so much – so much that we have not seen. You’ve experienced so much. You’ve been in the conversations. You’ve sat with these women in the clinics as pro-choice people. Uh, and we’re going to unpack that today and give people a real idea of what goes on. I’m so grateful for you. Abby, let’s start with you. Just a few weeks after that ultrasound in Times Square, you gave birth – I got a big smile on my face – to that little baby boy named Fulton. Uh, how’s he going? How old is he now?

Mrs. Abby Johnson: He is seven months old, and he is just perfect. When I heard the heartbeat at the beginning of the program, it just…

Jim: Right? That’s his heartbeat.

Abby: …It – I mean, it just sort of…

Jim: (Laughter).

Abby: …It almost – it made me tear up because I thought…

Jim: Aw.

Abby: …Oh, my gosh, that’s his little heartbeat. And, uh, it was such a special moment. And you’re right. I mean, it was just sort of like this holy hush that went over Times Square. And it was – it was beautiful to be there. Um, and it was funny because I had always thought to myself, you know, it’d be neat if – I have all these kids. I mean, I have eight kids. So, I remember thinking, it would be neat, you know, if one of my kids could, you know, do something to sort of…

Jim: (Laughter).

Abby: …Change people’s opinions or…

Jim: Finally (laughter).

Abby: And then – and then here, in the womb, Fulton…

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: …I believe that day…

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Abby: …That hearts were softened. Maybe they weren’t changed, but I believe that hearts were softened…

Jim: Well…

Abby: …That day toward life.

Jim: And I believe some were. If you remember, some of the protest zone with the Black Lives Matters community. They dropped their signs and walked in with us. And I thought that was a victory right there.

Abby: Hmm.

Jim: What a powerful story. But let’s jump in with your stories. Uh, Abby, when you started working at Planned Parenthood you were excited about being a part of that organization. I’m assuming all three of you actually had that perspective. And I really want to paint that picture, uh, for those of us that have always been perhaps on the pro-life side. We don’t understand the argument. We don’t know what would attract a person to that venture, to that effort. So, paint that picture for us. Why – as a college young woman – Abby, did you feel like abortion was something to defend?

Abby: You know, when I first got involved with Planned Parenthood, I really – I didn’t have, uh, a really solid opinion either way about abortion. But the woman that I met with at Planned Parenthood was really emphatic that abortion needed to be safe and it needed to be legal and that Planned Parenthood was helping women. And, you know, as a – a young woman – I was 21 – and, you know, sort of this ideal (laughter) (unintelligible) at the time, I’m thinking…

Jim: Sure.

Abby: …”OK. Well, I wanna help women.” Right? (Laughter). “Who doesn’t wanna help women?” And I remember the first day that I went to the clinic. And I showed up, and it was just – it was sort of like a circus outside. So, you know, you had people who were praying quietly and were trying to reach out, but you had people who were yelling. And you had people with, you know, really huge signs that were graphic. And then you had people with signs that said, you know, “Ask me about a free pregnancy test.” (Laughter) You know, so it was just…

Jim: Yeah, kind of calm things…

Abby: It was very…

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: Yeah, so it was this contrast on the sidewalk, but it made it look very chaotic. But I remember that first day, my job was to escort women from their car to the front door of the facility. And, you know, the other volunteers and the staff, they’re telling me, you know, “This is so that, you know, they won’t really hear the voices on the other side of the fence.” And I just remember thinking at the time, “Okay. So, if we’re pro-choice – right? – which I’m here, so I guess I’m pro-choice now. If we’re pro-choice, what’s the big deal? I mean, okay. They think they want an abortion, but let’s say that they hear a voice on the other side of the fence, and it calls to them. And they go to the fence and this person offers them resources or they say, ‘Have you thought about adoption’ or whatever? I mean, we’re for choice, right?”…

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: …”So, so what if she goes to the fence and she makes a different choice, she gets in her car and leaves?”

Jim: But for clarification, um, Planned Parenthood management didn’t have your view there, right? (Laughter).

Abby: Right. So I mean, I…

(LAUGHTER)

Jim: They were saying…

Abby: …I – I said that.

Jim: Right.

Abby: I mean, I remember saying that to someone. “So what’s the big deal…”

Jim: Right.

Abby: “…If – if they do go talk to somebody?” And, you know, I was immediately met with, “Abby, they are terrible. They are manipulating these women.”

Jim: Huh.

Abby: “They say they’re gonna help them, but they don’t. They’re pro-birth. They’re not pro-life.” You know, and all – and so, I thought, “Well, I mean, they’re the experts…”

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: “…Right? They know what they’re talking about…”

Jim: This was your…

Abby: “…I’m new here.”

Jim: …First day, right? (Laughter).

Abby: This was my first day. Um, and so, I just – I thought, “Okay. Well, then, if they’re the bad guys…” I mean, from day one they were painted as the enemy.

Jim: Well, and that’s so often what needs to happen in this – in this environment particularly, both sides can paint both sides, either side, as bad guys…

Abby: Absolutely.

Jim: …Rather than a tragic situation. And, uh, Annette, let’s pick up where you came into Planned Parenthood and a bit of that story. And then Sue, I’m coming to you. So, Annette, what was your story?

Mrs. Annette Lancaster: Sure. So, my story is very similar to Abby’s. Um, I – I came in – um, I actually was sought out by a headhunter.

Jim: Wow.

Annette: So, I – I wasn’t looking for Planned Parenthood. Um, but when the opportunity presented itself, I thought, “This is something that I can do.” But eventually I realized that it was something that I couldn’t do. I didn’t have people telling me or I didn’t voice the opinion like Abby did about the choice.  You know, thinking, you know, “Well, if these women want to make a different choice why can’t they?” But I did think that a lot. Like, “What – what is the problem?” I was always told that the protesters or the people even praying on the sidewalks needed to be trespassed from the property, make sure that they get away from the clients that were coming into the facility. And it – now that I think back on it – hindsight being 20/20 – it just never really made sense.

Jim: Yeah. Well, and one of the things maybe, Sue, you can elaborate on this, is, again, that consistent thought that Planned Parenthood, and other clinics too, downplay the abortion, “You know, that’s only a must-do” that “You know, we’re really here to help women with their health issues” and things like that. But in reality, that’s the cash flow. I mean, that’s where the dollars come in and is that a fair assessment? I mean, all three of you worked in the industry, but, Sue, what was your…

Mrs. Sue Thayer: I would say…

Jim: Experience?

Sue: …Abortion is really the bottom line, um, for them. Uh, we had goals always for number of abortions done…

Jim: Right.

Sue: …Each month or number of referrals done. Um, and if you didn’t hit it, you had to explain why you didn’t hit it and what you would do differently, you know, the next month so you would hit your goal.

Jim: I mean, that’s amazing if you think about it. You – you would think that if, uh, this were purist help, it would be what it would be.

Sue: Mm hmm.

Jim: You wouldn’t have to have targets, which means toward the end of the month – I mean, I used to be in sales years ago in the paper industry.

Sue: Mm hmm.

Jim: And, uh, you know, if you were getting low in that month, you would be more aggressive…

Sue: Mm hmm.

Jim: …With selling more product. And that is what you’re talking about. Just so people listening get it…

Abby: Yes.

Jim: …That what they’re saying like on the 20th of the month if they’re behind by 20%, “Hey, we need more abortion activity because we’re not hitting our numbers.”

Abby: Yes.

Sue: That is exactly what we did.

Jim: That’s…

Sue: You know, a woman would come in for a pregnancy test and it’d be positive. And we’d be saying, “You know, how are you going to pay for diapers? Have you priced, you know, a car seat?”

Jim: So fear.

Sue: Fear – you know, fear-based stuff about, “You’re not gonna be able to take care of this baby. Let’s go ahead and get this set for you today and, um, you know, if you wait any longer the price is gonna go up.” So, we would typically have that appointment in place before she left.

Jim: One thing that you mentioned – I – somewhere I found this, Abby, but – and any of you can respond to this, but actually if you were ahead of your goals, you’d have pizza parties.

Abby: Yeah, we did.

Jim: I mean, they’d throw a celebration.

Abby: We did.

Jim: That’s unbelievable, again.

Abby: Yeah, we did. Um, if we met our goals, we would get some sort of reward. So, as the manager, if we met our yearly goal – so, um, financial goal, quotas, you know, things like that, then I would get a very large bonus as the manager and then, uh, monthly if we met our goals, then I was allowed to reward my staff in some way.

Jim: You know, and I want to make sure people are hearing this. I mean, incentivizing the taking of human life. I mean, that’s what that is. It’s – I know that it didn’t connect when you were working there, and it obviously began to connect for all three of you. But I – I just I think most of us hearing this are just dumbfounded. It’s not what the media presents as Planned Parenthood’s image, right?

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: We downplay this, “We’re only looking for the health and welfare of the woman. If we have to do abortion, we do it.” No.

Abby: Yeah.

Jim: They’re counting the number. They want the cash.

Abby: And, you know, as I look back and I think for Annette and Sue and myself, all three of us, I sit here and I say these things about incentivizing (laughter) –  selling abortion, incentivizing the destruction of human life and how I participated in that. I didn’t think really anything about it at the time. And I think, “What was going on in my mind that I allowed that to take place?” That was normal to me. And – and I – the only explanation – people will say, you know, “Gosh, Abby, how did you do that?” And I’m like, “I – I don’t know. It’s just – that’s the power of sin.”

Annette: Absolutely.

Sue: Right.

Annette: And I think I was really manipulated, um, because my facility was a little bit different. We were told we did not have quotas, but at the same time we were being charged with aggressively getting higher numbers of abortions. And so, that didn’t sit well with me. And I asked one day at a meeting – asked the manager – I said, “So, I’m not understanding. You’re telling me I don’t have a quota but then you’re telling me that my numbers are dropping. So, what are they dropping from? What’s the standard I – I’m…”

Jim: Yeah. Well, you might call that a quiet quota.

Annette: Right.

Jim: But they even – if I remember correctly looking at the material, they would even instruct you on how to manipulate, ironically…

Annette: Absolutely.

Jim: …You know, as you said a moment ago, Abby, you know, they said that the pro-life community manipulated women. But here this woman comes in and you’re giving her phraseology…

Annette: Yes.

Jim: …That points her toward the abortion decision rather than a different decision.

Annette: I called it emotional manipulation.

Jim: What did that sound like? Give me an example of how you would do that.

Annette: “This is the best thing for you and your other children. This is the best thing that you can do right now, um, for your career.”

John: Hmm.

Jim: Yeah.

Annette: Things like that.

Jim: One of you had the story where, uh, they instructed you if a woman were to say, “Will God forgive me for this?” – what were you told to say?

Annette: That was me. I was told to say, “Well, what type of God do you believe in? Do you believe in a forgiving God?”

Abby: Right.

Jim: Right, think of that.

Abby: And that was a training – that was a training. Actually, Sue, I don’t know if you did this training. But that was a training that was put out by CAPS, the Consortium of Abortion Providers. And it was called, uh, DVIS training.

Annette: Yes.

Abby: It was – I don’t remember what it all stood for. It was like, “Destigmatizing” and anyway – and so, it was basically it instructed us on how to be better salespeople.

Jim: Hmm.

Abby: So, it scripted us on what to say back to women. So, overcoming any objection that they may have.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And one of – I mean, what I heard in my experience, the objection that I heard the most had to do with God and religion and, you know, “I’m still struggling. Is this a sin? I’ve been taught to believe this is a sin.” And that was exactly what we told everybody. “Well, don’t you believe in a forgiving God? Don’t you believe that God understands your struggle right now…”

Annette: Right.

Abby: “…And that He understands that you’re just trying to do what’s best for your family?” And, you know – and the women are like, “Well, yeah, God does forgive.” So, it’s this idea of presumptive forgiveness which that in itself is a sin.

Annette: Is a sin. Yes.

Jim: Well, right. And I – I want to make sure we’re clear on this now that you’re on the other side of all of this and that the scales have fallen from your eyes.

Jim: Um, how would you frame that today if someone were to talk in those terms about God? How – if a woman came to you today and said, “Is – is God gonna forgive me for this?” The answer is “Yes, of course…”

Abby: Of course.

Jim: “…But there is a better choice.”

Abby: Right. “You don’t have to make this choice today. You don’t have to make a choice where God has to give forgiveness.” Right? “You can make a choice for life where you don’t have to live with regret. You don’t have to live with sin, and we’re gonna help you make that choice. We’re gonna live life with you. We’re gonna walk with you.”

John: That’s Abby Johnson. And, uh, we’re joined as well here on Focus on the Family by Sue Thayer and Annette Lancaster. And, um, we’re gonna encourage you to get a download or, uh, hit YouTube and watch the video of this, um, and get Abby’s book, The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories. All of this is available when you call 800-A-FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Abby, um, I want to zero in for a minute because it’s not all theoretical for you. And I’m not sure, Annette and Sue, of your story and I want you to add to this – but you had two abortions personally…

Abby: Right.

Jim: …And the impact of that on you. Describe, you know, briefly, what happened and what state of mind were you in – what, um, state of life were you in? Just give the listener some perspective on your own abortions.

Abby: I was in college and, uh, with a guy that, you know, I probably shouldn’t have been with. And we had a physical relationship very quickly. And I – the first time I found out I was pregnant, I just remember thinking, “This can’t happen to me because I’m a good Christian girl…”

Jim: Mm.

Abby: “…And this doesn’t happen to good…” And I was on birth control. So, you know, birth control is supposed to hide my sin (laughter), right?

Jim: Wow.

Abby: And so I – “This can’t be happening to me.”

Jim: Mm.

Abby: And I was so afraid of disappointing my parents. And, you know, my dad – like a deacon in their church…

Jim: Mm.

Abby: …You know, and, um – you know, good Southern Baptist. And I just thought, “They can’t know that this is who I am.” And I wished that someone would have asked the question. I wish that someone would have said to me, “Okay, Abby. Yes, your parents may be disappointed that you didn’t follow the plan.” Right?

Jim: Yeah…

Abby: “That they taught you your whole life.”

Jim: …The formula.

Abby: The formula for marriage. Right? “But do you think they’re gonna be more disappointed to find out that, okay, you messed up, you didn’t follow the plan. Or are they going to be more disappointed to find out that you took the life of their grandchild?”

Jim: Hm.

Abby: And if somebody would have phrased that to me, I would have known the answer. I would have known that my parents would have wanted the opportunity to save the life of their grandchild. But I took that opportunity away from them.

Jim: So, you quietly had that first abortion.

Abby: I quietly had my first abortion and I would love to tell you that I thought about adoption or parenting or anything like that. But the guy that I was with, he told me, “I’ve taken other girls to this clinic before. I can take you.” And we went. I had the abortion. I had a surgical abortion. And I thought, “Okay, well, I’m going to never talk about this again. I’m gonna stuff it down.” Abortion – I – I remember thinking at the time, “Abortion is not right.” But this time it was me.

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And, you know, “People just wouldn’t understand my situation.”

Jim: Yeah.

Abby: And so, uh, then about three years later with the same guy – married him. He decided that, uh, he didn’t want to be in our marriage anymore. And after he left, I found out I was pregnant again.

Jim: Mm.

Abby: And I thought, “Oh, my gosh. I cannot be stuck with this man for the rest of my life.” And by that time, I was working at Planned Parenthood. And if you were working at Planned Parenthood and you needed an abortion, it was free. And so, I thought, “Well, okay. You know, this will be easier for me this time.” And I chose the medication abortion because that seemed more natural. You know, we were telling everyone, “Oh, it’s just like a heavy cycle. It’s no big deal.”

Jim: This is where you take, uh, an oral…

Abby: A pill.

Jim: …Pill.

Abby: You take a series of pills.

Jim: And then it induces…

Abby: Right. You know, and at the time I just thought, “Okay. Well, no big deal, right? I mean, it’ll just be like a cycle that I have every month and no big deal.” And, um, I didn’t think in advance of what this would look like. I didn’t think, “Okay, I’m going to essentially labor at home. I’m going to pass a baby. And then I’m gonna have to make a decision about what to do with that baby.” And, you know, medication abortion is on the rise. And Sue can talk about that because that ’cause, uh, that’s – that’s really her story as well. We don’t know the long-term effects yet of a generation of women who took a series of pills, were told this was gonna be “no big deal” and then looked at their baby in the toilet. We don’t know emotionally what that is doing to our women.

Jim: Or to our culture.

Abby: Yes.

Jim: The desensitization of human life.

Abby: Absolutely.

Jim: And I think that plays into this. Um, and there’s so many questions. And we’ve covered some of that story in a previous broadcast, Abby, but, you know, so many people are I’m sure asking themselves questions right now about the change and all that. And we’ll get to that, uh, next time most likely. Sue, let me ask you about your experience with that, uh, medication abortion. Um, you’d been working either in the abortion industry or for the pro-life community most of your life. So, what are you seeing taking place today?

Sue: Well, part of the reason I started working at Planned Parenthood was because the clinic that I was at didn’t do abortions. But then, um, in 2007, they came up with the idea to do, uh, chemical or medication abortions like what Abby just described only by, uh, computer-type connections. So, a – a Skype connection. So, no doctor or medical people on staff. Non-medical people like managers and clinic assistants were trained in a day to do transvaginal ultrasounds which is a really bad idea. Um, and then, for example, in Iowa there is no waiting period for a woman seeking abortion. So, a woman could come in, have the three-minute urine pregnancy test, find out it’s positive and we could literally say, “Hey, we can take care of the problem for you today – 45 minutes in and out. All you need to do is take these pills.” So, aside from the fact of the non-medical staff and just the danger of it all, um, on top of it, there was no time at all for a mom to really ponder that. So, um, we would have women that went to other clinics – um, other Planned Parenthood facilities in Iowa, take the first set of pills and then come back to – to my center at Storm Lake and say, “I can’t believe I did that. I wasn’t thinking.” You know, this was before the abortion pill reversal so there were a lot of regrets. But, you know, we had a – a list. I don’t know if you guys did too, but of, um, words never to use and then what we say instead. And, you know, I remember “baby” and “fetus” were on the never-say. We would call it “tissue” or a “heavy period.” Um, but when women would – would leave the clinic with their little brown bag of pills and – and take the – the pills at home that started the contractions, she would often see this little tiny, you know, eight- or nine-week baby. And, um, unprepared for that, we had women put them in little Ziploc bags and bring them back to the clinic and say, “You did not tell me it was a baby.”

Jim: Wow. I mean, and that’s the core issue and that’s why we fight in the pro-life community the way we do, hopefully with the gentleness of the heart of God. Uh, let’s come back next time. Man, we just got this rolling, didn’t we? And we want to hear about – uh, I want to hear about how those scales begin to fall from your eyes, how you transitioned into a different perspective and kind of the work that you’re doing now to help women. Abby, to tease this a little bit for the listener, your ministry has reached – I don’t know how many women now that have worked in the abortion industry. What’s the number that you’ve been able to, you know, convince that they could find a better vocation?

Abby: 554.

Jim: 554 women. I’m excited about that. It’s, I’m sure, a downward pressure for the abortion industry but for women to see and to know what they’re really a part of – to help them see it clearly, you might say. Uh, that’s a wonderful mission that you have, and I hope God continues to bless you in that. Let me turn to the listener. Um, we understand that this topic is probably one of the most painful in the culture. And you’re listening, you may be in tears because something you decided to do years ago is now back to the surface. Um, call us. We’re here for you. We have caring Christian counselors who can help. We can, uh, even refer you to someone in your area that can continue to have that discussion with you. We have additional resources, tools, to help you find that forgiveness that we talked about earlier and that’s our goal, uh, on this side of the debate. There is forgiveness in Christ, and we want you to know all about it.

John: Mm hmm. Help is a phone call away. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.  800-232-6459. Or online, uh, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: In addition, John, I think the average abortion is about six or $700.

Abby: Yes.

Jim: Well, we have a program here that we’ve been running here for over 15 years called Option Ultrasound and we’ve been able to get that cost to save a baby’s life to $60. Think of that. Take a baby’s life, $600. Save a baby’s life, $60. And right now, we estimate that 459,000 babies…

John: That’s great.

Jim: …Have been saved because of this program. I think the Lord is really pleased with that effort.

John: And I’d agree, Jim. Um, it really is awesome. And we have some passionate pro-life donors right now who want to match every dollar you give to Option Ultrasound. It’s a wonderful opportunity for you to double the impact of your giving, so please join the support team today. And when you contribute, we’ll send a copy of Abby’s book, The Walls are Talking to help you further your understanding and your pro-life ministry. Our number to donate and get that book is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can do so at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we hear more from Abby, Sue, and Annette and once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Abortion Survivors Tell Their Stories (Part 2 of 2)

Our guests share their dramatic stories of surviving the attempts to end their lives while in their mother’s womb, providing a stark and undeniable counter argument to pro-abortionists who argue that a fetus is not a living human being. (Part 2 of 2)

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