Mrs. Abby Johnson: I would wake up every day and I would have to make a decision. I could either live my life in my past. I could live my life in my past sin where Satan runs rampant…
Jim Daly: Right.
Abby: …Because he wants to remind us of our past, or I could live in the present. I could live in this gift that God had given me, and I could allow Him to transform my past into something for His glory.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, that’s Abby Johnson. And she’s back with us today on Focus on the Family along with Sue Thayer and Annette Lancaster. And they have incredible stories to share with you today. This is Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim: Uh, John, I love that verse in Revelation that says, uh, “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” because it gives such weight to the fact that God works in our lives. He creates a story and in His word, He’s giving that weight that their testimony is a big part of convincing other people about who He is as God and Jesus who died for our sins. Uh, you know, in our fight to show the world that pre-born babies are worth saving, our personal testimonies – particularly of women who have gone through this and they now see that life begins at conception – it’s so critical and so compelling. And that’s why we are here and that’s why we’re talking today as we did last time with Abby, Sue and Annette, um, who have joined us to share their stories. As we heard in the first part of our conversation, all three of these women spent time working in abortion clinics. They have the street cred. They were there. Understandably, it was difficult, and they then began to see a different path for themselves and for other women that they can talk to about the abortion industry. Uh, you’re gonna hear more of that story today, and, if you missed last time, get the download, uh, get the app for your smartphone, whatever you need to do. It was very powerful.
John: Yeah, we have that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Now, Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinical director and Sue Thayer and Annette Lancaster are both, uh, former clinic managers. And they’re all now speakers for the pro-life cause. They’re advocates for life. And Abby has written a book called The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories. Of course, we have the book and details at the website.
Jim: Abby, Sue, Annette, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Mrs. Annette Lancaster: Thank you.
Abby: Thank you.
Mrs. Sue Thayer: Thank you.
Jim: There’s a part of me that – I know this is heavy. But I want to dance…
Jim: …’Cause I’m so grateful to all three of you and all the other women that you’ve convinced to come out of the industry and to persuade women to make a better choice for themselves, for their baby, for their spiritual journey, right? And it’s so good. Um, for those just joining us this time and they haven’t had a chance yet to listen to yesterday’s program, briefly describe what initially brought you to work at Planned Parenthood, that passion. I think one of the things we have to understand in the pro-life movement is, what are women thinking when they sign up to work for Planned Parenthood?
Abby: I mean, I think that for probably all of us, it was just we were all sort of drawn to Planned Parenthood because we believed that we were going to be helping women. And that’s what you want to do as women…
Abby: …Is help other women.
Annette: Um, I think what really drew me, just like Abby said, is I wanted to help. I wanted to be that person that was going to be there holding someone’s hand when they were going through what they thought was the most difficult time of their life and be there to encourage them at – for what I thought at that time was the right decision.
Sue: I would agree with that. But, um, also, it was great pay, right?
Sue: Yeah. So I mean…
Abby: Money was good.
Sue: …It was a lot of money and great benefits and flexible hours and, uh…
Annette: And the benefits.
Sue: …Pretty much the best – best job I ever had up to that point.
Abby: Yeah. And I think, for me, as well – I mean, I thought, “We’re going to reduce the abortion number…”
Abby: I mean, we’re – we’re not wanting to sell abortion. I mean, that was – I – I came in pretty naive about Planned Parenthood – very naive. And – and I thought, you know, “Hey, we’re going to make abortion safe, legal and rare.”
Jim: Yeah, the old language.
Jim: They’ve kind of done away with that. But, uh…
Abby: They don’t talk about that anymore.
Jim: All right. There’s a point when all three of you had to observe an abortion when you went to work at the clinics. Um, you all experienced kind of different reactions. Sue, I want to start with you. Describe that experience when you had to actually participate in doing an abortion. What did you take away from that experience?
Sue: It was very difficult. You know, I was not prepared for what I saw. I had started there in April of 1991. So, this was the early ’90s when, um, I saw my first surgical abortion. And that was before they did ultrasound. Women knew that the later they were in their pregnancy, the more expensive it would be. So, they were not always forthcoming about their dates. And so, we would expect that we were going to be doing like a 12-week and, instead, it would be 15 or 16, uh, which is developmentally a huge difference. And I just remember standing there thinking, “Wow. I made it. I made it through the day.” But, um, you know, I remember the little bowl like we saw in Abby’s movie and, you know, standing there and looking at that and piecing it back together and – and I remember driving home thinking all those babies are, you know, in the sewer system under Des Moines. And nobody knows that. Does anybody care? Does anybody know? And what it did for me – personally, I’ve had people say, “Why didn’t you just quit then?” Well, it made me really commit more to the family planning part of Planned Parenthood without really realizing, you know, the trap that that is and how easily women become pregnant on birth control and – and all of that. But, um, it was a very difficult day. I had two biological kids at the time. And I just went home and held them and cried and thought, “Oh, man. What a mess. What kind of an awful thing.”
Jim: Sue, let me ask you this. And Annette, we’re going to come to you next with your first time in the clinic in watching the abortion or participating in it. But Sue, let me ask you. That first response – some people would say, “Well, that’s societal norms being, you know, pressed upon you. That’s because we don’t embrace abortion – religious reasons, whatever it might be.” But that’s just your heart response to what you’re seeing. I mean, it’s all this – this kind of, uh, twisting of the truth…
Sue: Mm hmm.
Jim: …That they’re trying to do rather than just own up to it. If this is what you want to promote, be honest about it. But let us confront it. But you feel that heart I’ve got there for that. I just…
Sue: Oh, yeah. It’s hard to explain, um, when – that very first day, they had me stand against the wall on the opposite side. And I was like, “Why do I have to do this?” And they said, “Well, most people faint.” And I thought, “Oh, okay.” And there’s a…
Jim: So sad.
Sue: …There’s a very distinctive sound, the sound of the suction machine. And, um, like, you don’t hear that anywhere else except in the surgical suite. And I remember hearing that and thinking, “Whoa.” But I made it. I didn’t pass out. I’d worked in hospice and been a nurse’s aide before that. And I ended up around, of course, at the foot of the bed. But, you know, I watched the doctor come in. And the room is – the lights are dim. And she doesn’t speak to the patient. You know, I’d say, “Why doesn’t she talk to, you know, the client?” And they’d say, “Well, she doesn’t want to be approached in the grocery store. You know, she doesn’t want anybody to recognize her.” And I thought, “Huh.”
Jim: All of that.
Sue: Yeah. And so, when – when people say, “Well, that’s a choice between a woman and her doctor,” I thought, in all those thousands of abortions that I witnessed or was a part of at Planned Parenthood, I don’t think I ever saw the doctor talk to the patient ever.
Sue: It – all the counseling is done by just…
Abby: Non-medical staff.
Sue: Non-medical staff – yeah. So…
Jim: Well, and Sue, the fact that you survived the day, that you’re shown and then, because you survived it, you’re now part of the inner circle – I mean, that’s a….
Sue: Right. Well, it’s a litmus test. I mean…
Sue: …If you can’t survive that – just like, you know, Abby’s book and movie – if you can’t survive that, you are out.
Jim: Right. Right. Annette, uh, what’s your story there, the first time you had to participate in the actual abortion?
Annette: So, the first time I participated, it was very shocking. Um, but what I did was just push it down. Um, kind of like Sue was saying, I thought, you know, “I’ve worked in the medical field. I’ve been around cadavers. I’ve seen open-heart surgery.”
Jim: I can be a big girl.
Annette: Yeah. I can do this. I can…
Annette: …I can do this. And, um, I was actually told by senior leadership later on, you know, “You just don’t fit in here” – because they could see the change and how it was starting to affect me.
Jim: Because you weren’t embracing it.
Jim: Something was wrong in your heart.
Annette: But in the beginning, I thought something was wrong with me because it bothered me.
Annette: I thought, you know, “It’s not bothering anyone else here in the clinic. It’s me. Something must be wrong with me.”
Jim: How long was that process for you, that first abortion that you participated in, the unsettledness of it and then them noticing you’re – you’re not quite our star employees?
Jim: How long was that – eight months, nine months, a year?
Annette: Well, I was only there for a total of nine months (laughter).
Jim: Okay. Wow. Isn’t that an irony?
Annette: Right, very ironic. But it took about a month, um, several weeks for just the whole thought change process to take place in me. Um, it was really bothering me spiritually to the point where, in order to be able to participate, I had to start consuming and, really, abusing alcohol.
Jim: So, you’re medicating with alcohol.
Annette: Oh, yes. I was self-medicating with alcohol.
Jim: Calming your nerves and…
Annette: That was the only way I could get through the day. And after finishing a day of tons of abortion procedures, that was what I did to end the day.
Jim: How common is that?
Abby: Very common.
Jim: I hadn’t even thought of it.
Sue: Oh, it’s very common.
Jim: Very common?
Sue: Oh, yeah.
Abby: We – after we were done with the day of abortions, every single day that we were finished, we would go out and drink.
Annette: Yeah, we did the same thing.
Abby: I mean as a team.
Jim: Boy, there’s a quiet, dirty secret.
Jim: I mean, I’ve never really heard that.
Annette: We called it – in our clinic, we call it a staff meeting.
Abby: Yeah, staff meetings (laughter).
Annette: We would say we were having a staff meeting, and we’d meet at the bar.
Jim: Yeah. But you connected that it was really to calm that sense that, you know, something bad is happening here…
Jim: …Not just to have fun.
Sue: Well, and I think the people that come out – Abby, you could probably speak to this better. But the ones that I know that haven’t really found forgiveness in the Lord are not doing well today yet.
Abby: No, they’re not. And, uh…
Jim: Describe that.
Abby: Forgiveness is key, right? So, and sometimes, it’s easy to say, “Well, okay. I know God forgives me, right? – because God is all forgiving, right? (Laughter). And, uh, He forgives everybody. And He forgives everything.” So, it’s easy. But it’s hard sometimes to internalize that forgiveness and to really accept it. So, we can know it. We can say it. Like, “I know He forgives me. But what does that look like for me?” And so, you know, we’ve got women – I mean, look. Our ultimate goal at our ministry at And Then There Were None is to get people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Abby: That is the ultimate goal because we know that that is the only place where true healing will come. But until that relationship is formed, they struggle. And they struggle with addiction. They struggle with suicidal ideation. Um, we survey the women who come through our ministry. And over 30% of them have attempted suicide…
Abby: …After leaving the facility. That is so much higher than the national average.
Abby: And it’s because it’s just all-consuming. You dream about it. You dream about the things that you saw there – terrible dreams. Um, it affects them in their daily life, and it’s trauma.
Abby: It’s trauma. It’s like PTSD.
Abby: It is PTSD.
Jim: Correct. It’s a battlefield.
John: Yeah. Well, if you’re struggling and, uh, need someone to talk to, we have caring Christian counselors here. We’ve got resources. We want to help at, uh, your point of pain. Our number here at Focus on the Family is 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Annette, um, you described yourself as, you know, going out and drinking afterward to numb the pain of what you’d been doing, et cetera. Um, you say if you stayed working there, you might not be alive today.
Annette: That’s correct.
Jim: I mean, that’s quite a powerful statement. Fill the blanks in there for us.
Annette: Oh, absolutely. I had about a 30-minute commute from the clinic to my house. So, if I’m going out drinking at the bar right across the street from the clinic, I’m driving home three to four days a week intoxicated. So, if it had not been me, uh, I could have killed or injured someone else. Um, and just the depression that came with it, uh, with working there, with seeing what I saw, participating in the activities because it was not just the abortion. But there were other, um, illegal activities that took place. It was just a gamut…
Annette: …Of things.
Jim: In that context, let me ask you the – those that work in the abortion business, those that are the lobbyists for it – Planned Parenthood and the top brass there and how they approach these things – how do they differentiate between a breathing human being and a non-breathing human being and a human being still in the womb? In other words, you dying in an accident – Okay. That’s just, you know, that’s what happens. I guess what I’m getting at is this dehumanizing of life.
Jim: What did you see there in that regard in terms of that numbness – that once you start taking innocent human life, you dying on the highway -“Oh, it happens”?
Abby: Well, the whole – the abortion industry is a dehumanizing cycle. Okay? So, we have to dehumanize the unborn child in order to do what we do every day. But in this cycle of dehumanization, we ourselves become dehumanized.
Jim: There’s no way to draw that line.
Abby: Absolutely not. Um, and, uh, I mean, I remember working there. And I remember seeing people praying outside of my facility. And I remember – I mean, I grew up, you know, Christian. I remember thinking, “If I die today, would I go to hell?” And I remember thinking, “Yeah. I think I would.”
Abby: “And I’m okay with that.” That can only happen if you are so incredibly dehumanized. You’re okay with an eternity in hell?
Abby: I mean, that warped sense of humanity for myself. Only very deep sin can get you to a place where you care so little about yourself…
Abby: …And about others.
Jim: Well, there’s so much in that. That’s been one of the arguments I’ve made from time to time when you look at the debate. Uh, you look at 50 to 60 million children being taken through abortion. And, in comparison, even on, you know, the issues with gun fatalities is minuscule. And there’s no – it’s like, they can’t open their eyes up to the fact of the level, the immenseness of death that they’ve leveled on the culture through abortion. It’s the greatest Holocaust that we face, really.
Jim: Sue, let me – let ask you. Um, there was a moment when you decided that you couldn’t handle working at the clinic anymore as well. So, what happened for those scales falling off your eyes? What was that moment?
Sue: It was kind of a process. But, um, I found a church, a great church I ended up going to. And they, um – they mercifully kind of pretended like they didn’t know me and didn’t know where I worked and (laughter) didn’t say anything bad to me. They treated me with the love of Christ, so that was huge. I also found Christian radio and a, uh, small station in northwest Iowa that’s grown and grown now. But, um…
Jim: (Laughter) I love it.
Sue: Yeah. The continual, um, word of God that I would get through this radio ministry. And, you know, they would be talking about abortion. And I would just turn it down because I was comfortable, you know, in my little box. And I was starting to know that what I was doing was wrong. But I really was quite comfortable there, so I didn’t want to be convicted. So, I would turn it down when they talked about abortion. And then I’d turn it back up. You know, so I was listening to the word of God. Listen to Focus on the Family all the time. Got a bunch of resources from here and started reading and, um, getting in the word of God. And I knew that my days there were numbered and finally did end up getting fired. And it was really quite a relief, uh, you know, to get out and be away from it and such a freeing experience.
Jim: Man, again, that says volumes, doesn’t it…?
Sue: Yeah. Right.
Jim: …That you felt free when they let you go.
Jim: That should communicate to everybody.
Abby: And that’s one of the things that we ask the women who come through our ministry. We say, “What is the thing that you felt when you left?” And you would expect them to say, “I was so scared.” Or, you know, “I didn’t – I don’t know. I just lost this paycheck,” right? Or whatever. But every single one of them said, “I was so relieved whenever I left.”
Jim: And that’s over 500.
Jim: That’s – I mean, that right there is something. Let me get all of your responses. Annette, I’ll start with you. Once your eyes were opened to the reality of abortion, um, and it was no longer kind of, uh, obscure – you knew what was going on in your heart – how did you begin to forgive yourself? Abby, you’ve touched on this. But I want, for women particularly but some men, too, to really hear how you personally found forgiveness for what role you had in abortion.
Annette: That was a long journey for me. Um, it actually started with the women from And Then There Were None. Um, when I couldn’t pray for myself, they were praying for me. There’s a running joke because I said, “Every time, I went to a spiritual healing retreat or an event – I said, “These crazy ladies are – are always around here and like praying for me. They won’t go away and they won’t stop praying (laughter) for me.” Um, but…
Jim: (Laughter) God bless ’em.
Annette: …Absolutely. Because they were there praying for me and praying for my strength when I was too weak to do it for myself. And just getting into the word of God, really studying it and my husband was there for me a lot to really just tell me, “God forgives you. I forgive you. Our children forgive you. And those women will forgive you.” So, that’s how I came to…
Annette: …Forgive myself.
Jim: And you really were able to feel it from the Lord particularly?
Annette: Absolutely, but it took a good while.
Abby: And it’s still a journey.
Abby: I mean, some days, you know, I’m struck by something that really makes me sad about my participation in the abortion industry. And I – you know, I remember when I left, I just I would wake up every day and I would have to make a decision. I could either live my life in my past. I could live my life in my past sin where Satan runs rampant…
Abby: …Because he wants to remind us of our past, or I could live in the present. I could live in this gift that God had given me, and I could allow Him to transform my past into something for His glory. And you know what? There were days where I woke up and I said, “I’m gonna live in my past. I’m gonna wallow in my grief today”…
Annette: Mm hmm.
Abby: “And I’m gonna throw myself a big old pity party.” And eventually, though, I didn’t have to make the choice anymore. I would wake up and I – I would just say, “Oh, of course, I want to live for You, Lord.” But it was a process. It took time. And for me, I had to memorialize the life that was taken. That was a big part of my healing. So, I’ve had two abortions. So, I had to memorialize. I needed to memorialize those two lives that were lost.
Jim: Mm hmm.
Abby: And so, I did that. And…
Jim: What is that process? How did you do that?
Abby: You know, um, there is a – a memorial – a national memorial for the unborn. And they have a wall. It used to be an abortion facility and it’s now a place of healing.
Abby: And they have a wall with thousands and thousands of little metal plaques with aborted babies’ names on them. It’s really something to behold, uh, when you see it – just the lives that have been lost but haven’t been forgotten.
Abby: And so, I wanted my baby’s name to be there. And so, I – I contacted them. And when you decide that you want to do that, they will actually send you a copy of the plate that’s up on the wall. And so I have, uh, these plates in my home – in a prominent place in my home. And so, you know, I walk by them every day. I see them every day. And it doesn’t make me sad anymore. It’s just such a beautiful reminder of God’s redemption in my life. And it’s a reminder that one day I will see those children again.
Jim: Yeah. Um, I want to come back, Abby, right at the end here. And we’ve talked about this so many times – our attitude toward that clinic worker. Give us that instruction on what opens a human heart – a clinic worker’s heart – because they don’t see.
Abby: Love, genuineness and relationship. There were people who consistently reached out to me on the sidewalk. It wasn’t just in passing. Uh, they knew my name. They knew who I was. They would – uh, I’d get out of my car and they would say, “Abby, we hope you have a great day today.”
Jim: “We’re praying for you” (laughter).
Abby: “We’re praying for you.”
Jim: That must have been unnerving, really.
Abby: And, uh, (laughter) one time I got out of my car and they said, “Hey Abby, uh, I just want to remind you your inspection sticker is almost out on your car.”
Abby: And I thought, “What am I do – what am I living right now? This is crazy.”
Jim: Even helpful advice.
Abby: And, um, you know, now when I go out to the clinics and pray, I always tell the workers, “Hey, I’m out here praying. So, if you ever have a prayer intention, something you need me to pray about for you, let me know. I – it would be an honor…”
Abby: “…To pray for you.”
Jim: That’s gotta melt people.
Abby: And you have no idea the amount of workers who have come to me and said, “My grandma is having surgery” or…
Abby: …”I’m really struggling with this.” It’s relationship and it’s genuine.
Abby: It’s not phony. It’s not fake. They can see through that, but it’s showing them the love of Christ. Look, we all sin. We just sin differently.
Abby: And I don’t hate them because of their sin. I love them because God loves them, and God wants all of His children to return to Him.
Jim: Well, and that’s what I so appreciate about your testimony is what you’re doing, the ministry, Abby, that you have, the book that you have – all of us trying to help people see a more Godly approach to this whole issue of life. And this has been really great having you here and – and, um, just hearing what the Lord has done in your life. I think it’s been great. Thank you for being with us.
Sue: Thank you.
Annette: Thank you.
Abby: Thank you so much.
John: What an encouraging end to our two-part conversation with Abby Johnson, Sue Thayer, and Annette Lancaster.
Jim: John, when we air broadcasts like this one, we almost always hear from women, and men, who have experienced or had some part in an abortion. To you the listener, if that describes you, you’re not alone and you’re not too far from God’s forgiveness. He loves you. He is not mad at you. And He wants to heal your heart. And if you struggle with believing that, let me urge you to give us a call. We have a team of caring, Christian counselors on staff right here at Focus to give you a safe place to tell your story and find that pathway to healing.
John: And our number to schedule a consultation with one of our counselors is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can find help at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And to those of you who have a heart for saving women from the heartbreak of abortion and giving pre-born babies a chance for life, I want to let you know that pregnancy centers across the U.S. and Canada need your help more than ever right now. These centers, which are the loving alternative to abortion clinics we’ve talked about today, tell us they’ve seen a record number of women with crisis pregnancies recently.
John: And, Jim, this seems to be to related to the baby boom that researchers said might come after the stay-at-home orders earlier this year.
Jim: I think so, John. So, it’s crucial that our Option Ultrasound ministry receive the funding that it needs to get the job done. Our team of supporters makes it possible for pregnancy care centers to get ultrasound machines and nurse training and so much more. And because of that support, women who are understandably scared about having a baby during a global pandemic can receive real comfort and assurance. See their baby on that ultrasound machine and get practical help for moving forward.
John: And the research – I love this Jim. The research is pretty clear that when women see that ultrasound image of their baby, they choose life – over half of them choose life.
Jim: And just as importantly, those women are saved from the heartbreak and lie that abortion will bring them relief and solve what, uh, the world calls a problem. We’ve worked out the numbers and it takes $60 to save a baby’s life and spare a women’s broken heart through the use of ultrasound technology. And I – I – I just need to ask you. Would you please join us in giving hope to desperate women during this intense time around the world?
John: Right now we are so grateful to some passionate pro-life donors who are willing to match every dollar given to the Option Ultrasound program right now. So, please, contribute today and know that they’ll match your gift dollar-for-dollar and help us reach that goal and fuel this crucial ministry. When you donate, we’ll send a copy of Abby’s book, The Walls are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories. Again, our number is 800-A-FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, be sure to join us next time as Jonathan McKee talks about the importance of finding a good balance between bonding and boundaries.
Mr. Jonathan McKee: As we bond with our kids and hang out with our kids and they get to know us, they’re going to glean so much from us. They’re going to glean so many values that sometimes that rule of go to bed at this time or, you know, can’t load – download this app or – isn’t going to teach them.