In a recent interview broadcast on Alpha News’ Facebook, pro-life advocate Abby Johnson shared her story and wisdom with Devin Foley, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Charlemagne Institute.
Johnson’s story inspired the 2019 movie “Unplanned.” As the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic director in the nation, Johnson experienced a life-changing event that radically shifted her perspective on the pro-choice movement and compelled her to advocate for the unborn.
“Immediately after ‘Unplanned’ was released, the response was overwhelming,” Johnson said. So many people emailed her, saying they had always been pro-choice and had never truly known what abortion was.
“I think that’s sort of something we don’t really understand in the pro-life movement,” Johnson said, noting that pro-life advocates shouldn’t assume everyone knows about the barbarity of abortion.
Johnson spoke at the Republican National Convention this year, and the day after speaking, she woke up to more than a thousand emails from pro-life conservatives who admitted to not knowing the truth about abortion. They had never heard it described the way Johnson described it.
“For us to say or believe that this is settled law, this is settled in our society, it’s just not true,” Johnson said.
A few years ago, the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom conducted a survey that showed only half of the country knew that Planned Parenthood performs abortions.
“People just don’t know … and that’s what I found when ‘Unplanned’ was released. People had never seen abortion for what it actually is. People didn’t know the reality of Planned Parenthood. They didn’t know that it is simply a business, that abortion is a product that they are selling to the masses,” said Johnson.
When asked how to engage the general public on abortion without scaring them off, Johnson said being approachable and having a dialogue with people is the most important thing.
“I’m not saying graphic images don’t have their place, but that does not create a space for dialogue whatsoever,” she said. Johnson encouraged having conversations with people, “planting seeds of truth through relationships … and being charitable when you do it.”
“It’s not your job to convince someone to become pro-life. You couldn’t even do that if you wanted to. That’s the job of the holy spirit,” Johnson said. A pro-lifer’s job is to speak the truth firmly when it is needed and then to walk away.
“We’re not here to lose an argument, and then to lose a soul,” she said.
She stressed that debates on social media are not productive. Sometimes only life experience will change someone’s mind, at which point, “those seeds of truth that you planted, maybe months ago, maybe years ago, will take root in their life.”
Johnson shared that much of the reason for her switch from the pro-choice camp to supporting life had to do with her relationships, specifically with the people advocating for the unborn outside of her clinic. She turned to them at the time in her life when her views on abortion were changing.
When Johnson finally felt she was living a lie by supporting the pro-choice cause, she realized the women coming into her facility had not “actually been wanting to exercise a right to choice.” But, rather, they felt they had no other choice.
“We had not offered them help, we had not offered them solutions, we had not talked to them about women’s empowerment. We had exploited them at a time of weakness,” Johnson said.
After joining the pro-life movement, Johnson came to learn that regretting abortions is, in fact, a reality for many women, something she thought was a lie when she worked at Planned Parenthood. Now, she meets thousands of women who attend post-abortion healing ministries.
Johnson also stressed the importance of men’s involvement in the pro-life movement. Radical feminism has told men to “shut up … and sit down,” but “men absolutely have a voice and a right to be heard,” Johnson said.
Since so many of the women going into abortion clinics have been utterly failed by the men in their lives, male sidewalk advocates can be a positive influence. “To have a strong male presence out in front of the clinic, reaching out to her and saying, ‘hey, you don’t have to do this, and I’ll help you, and there are resources for you,’” is powerful to the movement.
Johnson reminded viewers that the angry, volatile person on social media may have experienced abortion personally, and it is important to keep that in mind.
“We are walking among the wounded,” Johnson said. “We need to always be ambassadors of Christ when we are talking to them, and [remember] that we are a witness for Christ every time we engage with that person.”