Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic HeraldWednesday, 25 September 2013 15:05
The last thing she remembered was the doctor saying, “Beam me up, Scotty,” as the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and disappeared. The once active uterus was empty, still.
Those unsettling words describe a live, ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week old unborn baby, as witnessed by former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson. That experience changed Johnson forever.
“I realized at that moment that human life ends each time an abortion occurs,” she said.
After that incident, the once active pro-choice advocate, the one who oversaw thousands of abortions of pre-born babies, and counseled women who faced difficult pregnancies, went home, shaking and in tears, to tell her husband she had to find a new job.
Days later, as she exited the clinic, Johnson, now 33, walked into the arms of members of a 40 Days for Life group who held prayer vigils outside her clinic, and whose headquarters was a few doors away.
Book details conversion
If you want to go:
The Other Side of the Fence
Eastbrook Church Theater
5358 N. Green Bay Ave., Milwaukee
Oct. 4, 5, 10, 11, 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Her experience leaving Planned Parenthood in 2009 and becoming a pro-life advocate is chronicled in her book, “Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of the Planned Parenthood Leader who Crossed the Life Line to Fight for Women in Crisis.” In her book, she shares her reasons for becoming involved in Planned Parenthood, as well as her conversion to Catholicism after she was no longer welcomed at her pro-choice church.
“We had actually been asked not to attend our church and it was so lonely for us, as we left all of our friends behind,” Johnson explained.
“My husband and I started looking for places to go and our new friends from 40 Days invited us to the Catholic Church. We started going and liked it.”
While the couple initially had questions about Catholicism, they were answered through private RCIA instruction from the RCIA director in the Diocese of Austin, Texas.
“We had some myths in our head by society and others,” she said, adding, “But we fell in love with the church and started going regularly. It is where we needed to be and we both joined together at the Easter Vigil in 2012.”
Play tells Johnson’s story
Next week, a play about Johnson’s experience, written by Alan Atwood, artistic director of Morningstar Productions, and playwright, will be performed at the Eastbrook Church Theater in Milwaukee.
The drama, titled “The Other Side of the Fence,” portrays the story of Johnson, who had a passion for helping women in crisis, but after experiencing the shocking realities of abortion, became an advocate for life.
Atwood’s decision to tell this story stemmed from his pro-life stance and his desire to write a play that deals with abortion.
“You can’t really write a play about an issue,” he explained. “But this was a situation where Abby was changed from one side of the fence to the other and now could see both sides.”
Bringing Johnson’s story to the stage was not too challenging, said Atwood, as Johnson had written so clearly about the events in her book.
“She wrote about seeing the ultrasound abortion, and events with her mother and going to the Coalition for Life Office to talk with them,” he said. “I took those events, and took a bit of liberty with the order to make and build the play. But everything is pretty much in there the way Abby describes them in the book.”
Playwright hopes viewers ‘experience God’
While the play does not cover Johnson’s conversion to Catholicism, Atwood hopes viewers experience God in a profound manner as she did.
“This is ultimately a God story and I love the fact that God was speaking to her in the pro-choice Episcopal Church,” he said. “She was having such a personal
Ministry helps former abortion workers
If you or someone you know has left the abortion industry and needs help, Abby Johnson encourages you to contact her at www.abortionworker.com.
And Then There Were None offers the following to those leaving the abortion industry:
Phone: (888) 570-5501
P.O. Box 2571
struggle with God and avoiding him because she was afraid, and in the book she speaks of being afraid of going to hell.
When she did go to church the Sunday after the ultrasound abortion, the liturgy was from Mark 9: 43: ‘And if your hand should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that can never be put out.’
That did it; God was speaking to her and she had a conversion of heart.”
It is important to understand abortion is killing babies, Atwood emphasized. Most women, after having an abortion, do not consider that they have committed a murder, but he would like those who have participated in an abortion to make a confession and receive forgiveness for what they have done.
“Abby openly will tell you that she has five children and killed two of them; she is so open and honest,” he said. “One of the things Abby talks about is that she saw a nun come to the abortion clinic in full habit and kneel in the parking lot.
She cried while praying and when Abby saw her, she thought of confession. At the end of the play, we portray her confessing her sin.”
While Johnson felt no initial regret for her two abortions and for participating in thousands of abortions, she faced extreme grief and a sense of loss once she realized she was guilty of killing babies. It was nearly too much for her to handle, but she had help with the grieving process.
“I had an amazing spiritual director to help me,” she said. “I had to work through it, and had to make a decision if I am going to allow this to affect me in a negative way where I would sit and grieve the loss in my life, or am I going to go there and do something that could help change the lives of others and to glorify God.”
Ministers to those in abortion industry
Johnson became involved in 40 Days for Life to educate women on abortion, and started abortionworker.com to minister to those who work in the abortion clinics and help them transition into a line of work that does not destroy life.
“Since June, we have had 82 people contact us and leave the abortion industry,” she said. “I am also on the road speaking to groups all over and trying to get the word out. It is definitely my heart and helping people like I was who were so alone and scared and offering them a place of refuge. We get them connected with support from the pro-life community and with a spiritual director.”
When Atwood approached Johnson about the play and a possible movie, she was honored because she said she is eager to get the word out about the reality of the abortion industry and the graphic nature of abortion.
“I believe that a lot of people will be reached through the play and through a movie, if it happens,” she said.
Johnson has been criticized by the pro-life sector for her past pro-choice stance.
“I usually just say, ‘Gosh, how do you sin every day?’ I, as a Catholic, believe in the degrees of sin, but I believe that all sin separates us from Christ, no matter if it is abortion or lying to your parents,” she said.
“People forget when talking to others about abortions, or those who have worked in the industry, that they are also sinners, too, and we can all be forgiven, and while there are various degrees of sin, all of the forgiveness is exactly the same.
We can use our past to glorify God and I think he blesses us when we do this. God doesn’t work in the form of restitution. There is nothing I can do to make up for the lives that were taken from my hand, but God said, ‘You don’t have to. It is done. It is finished.’” Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic Herald