Transcript of CS#130: unPlanned Abby Johnson

Transcript of Interview with Abby Johnson about unPlanned – The dramatic true story of a former planned parenthood leader’s eye-opening journey across the life line. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

unPlanned is available at The Catholic Company.


Chris Cash: This is the Catholic Spotlight, the show where we talk about what’s new, cool, and exciting in the Catholic world. Today, we have Abby Johnson on. She is one of the new prolife heroes that we have out here in the movement today. I don’t know, do you feel like a prolife hero at the moment, Abby?

Abby Johnson: No, I don’t. I do feel new and cool, though.

Chris Cash: That’s something.

Abby Johnson: Good thing I’m on the show.

Chris Cash: That’s positive. I know you’ve been keeping a grueling interview schedule over the last few days since the book has just recently come out. What was it? Twenty-one thousand people on your first interview? The webinar?

Abby Johnson: Yeah, on the webcast. It was amazing. Initially we thought there’d be, I don’t know, 5,000 and it was crazy enough on 8,000 and then like the end, right before, we had over 20,000 and it was just incredible.

Chris Cash: Well, I am so glad to see such a huge response to this book. By the way, the book Unplanned is somewhat of a history, somewhat of an expose of your experience with Planned Parenthood as well as the reasons why Abby left Planned Parenthood and came over to prolife side. So why don’t you just give us a brief synopsis of what we’re going to find, what we’re going to learn by reading the book.

Abby Johnson: I think that you’re going to kind of learn what motivates people to work at Planned Parenthood. I think you’re going to learn what motivated me to leave. I know you’re aware of that. I think that you’re going to see, in my opinion and from my perspective, the best way to reach people that are working in the clinic and the best way to reach people that are going into the clinic for services. There’s a lot of different approaches out there. I’ve seen several even out in front of the clinic where I work and I know what reached me and so I think that you’ll see that definitely. And I think that you will find out some new information about Planned Parenthood, things that you may not have known which is one of the reasons that I think people were so excited about the book is because people want to know what’s going on at Planned Parenthood. They want to know about the inside of the abortion industry because it’s a place for most people, they don’t get to go.

Chris Cash: Or they don’t want to go.

Abby Johnson: Yeah, they don’t want to go. They don’t want to go and I think that people…

Chris Cash: I know a lot of people who are even pro-choice that wouldn’t even think of getting near a Planned Parenthood clinic for many various reasons.

Abby Johnson: Yeah, I think people though, they kind of, they want to get into the head of women that choose abortion or people that work inside the clinic and I think here in the book, I’m able to kind of give them some perspective on that.

Chris Cash: So what do you think is going to be the most surprising thing that somebody’s going to find out from reading your book?

Abby Johnson: I don’t know, I think that a lot of people, they want to villainize the pro-choice movement and people there in Planned Parenthood and they’re not going to find that in the book.

Chris Cash: Well, they’re real people. I believe that a lot of the people who are in Planned Parenthood and the pro-choicers, that they are very sincere in their beliefs, at least that’s what I found in dealing with the family members and friends who are of that opinion. They’re sincere in their beliefs.

Abby Johnson: Absolutely. And they believe that they are helping women and listen, there’s passion on both sides of the issue, as there should be. And any time that this type of passion is fueled, it can turn bad, it can ugly. I think that as pro-lifers, we have to always keep in mind that our fight is not against them. The clinic workers are not our enemies. The abortionists are not our enemy. The sin of abortion is our enemy and we have to keep that at the forefront of our minds at all times.

Chris Cash: Now, one thing that I have to say is, in my mind, you have to have had a tremendous amount of just bravery and courage to do what you’ve done. It’s one thing to walk out of the clinic and say, “Okay, I don’t want to be associated with that anymore. I’m going to be pro-life and I’m going to just walk away from it all.” But to actually stand up with the pro-life groups and to put yourself out on such a public forum just seems to me to have required a lot of bravery. In fact, we even got a question in from one of our fans, Robin Seamas, sorry Robin, if I’m butchering your name but she asks, “Do you ever worry that your life could be in danger for exposing information about Planned Parenthood?”

Abby Johnson: That’s a good question. I’m not going to say it never crossed my mind. It does every once in a while but it’s not something that I worry about. It’s not a debilitating thought for me. I guess, because I feel like I’m doing the right thing now and I do feel protected. I do feel God’s protection and if something were to happen to me, then I would know that I left this earth on the right side of this issue and I would know where I was going. I would know that I was going to spend the rest of my life with Christ and I can say that I don’t know if that would have been the case before. And I remember at times and I said this in the book, I remember at times wondering when I was working at Planned Parenthood if I would go to hell. And just never really reconciling that worry or that thought and just kind of thinking, “Well gosh, I just hope I don’t die. I hope I don’t die any time soon.” And that was kind of the end of the thought process. But that was troublesome for me. It was the thought, I worried about it. Now, I don’t worry because I just feel like if something did happen to me, I have that assurance.

Chris Cash: Now, I want to take that thought process just a little further in that you obviously felt like what you were doing personally was wrong. So do you feel like that’s a pervasive feeling among people who work in the clinics that they, at some level know that what they’re doing is wrong?

Abby Johnson: Well, I feel like most people think it’s the lesser of two evils so you provide a safe place for women to have abortion or you leave them out and they have an illegal abortion and they possibly lose their life from it. And so I think that that is where a lot of workers stand. So they’re not making the choice for them but they do feel like that as long as the abortion is legal, that there should be a safe place for them to go. And I feel like that’s where a lot of the workers are with their thought process.

Chris Cash: Now, I also want to turn around that question from Robin a minute ago, from the standpoint of when you were working in the clinic and walking by the pro-life picket lines every day, did you ever feel like your life was in danger from that standpoint?

Abby Johnson: I did not feel like my life was in danger from the people that were out front at the clinic because I knew them. I knew who they were. I knew their names. I had relationships with some of them. But yeah, I did at times feel like something could happen to me. Every day when I was going to work, I would go up to the front, I made the schedule every day, to remind myself, “Okay, who’s on schedule today?” and I would plan out, I would kind of think about, okay, where are these people usually during the day? Where their offices were and everything and where they would usually be and I would plan out a route to get them out of the clinic safely, if someone were to come in with a gun or a bomb, someone who wanted to threaten them and I would try to plan out how to get them out safely and how to leave me in the building. Because I figured that if someone were to come in and wanted to harm someone in the clinic, it would be me because I was the director. And so that was I did. That was the first thing I did every morning was to go in and figure out, okay, what staff do I have here? How would I get them out? How would I route them out of the building to get them out safely and leave me in here. It’s a weird thought to think about now but I just figured that’s my responsibility. That’s the responsibility that I’ve taken on. And I didn’t really think much about it. It’s just something that I went through every day.

Chris Cash: And how many years were you directing the clinic?

Abby Johnson: A little over two.

Chris Cash: Did you actually have any instances where you had to evacuate people or get people out of the way or it was just something that you felt like you should always be prepared for?

Abby Johnson: No, we always thought we should be prepared for it because it’s something that is very instilled in the workers. We had training. We had the FBI involved especially after Dr. Tiller’s murder. We had the FBI involved with our clinic. The police were very involved with us. We had training from US Marshalls. So it was very pounded in our brains that the pro-lifers wanted to kill us and that they were following us around town and that we weren’t to take the same way home every day from work and that the safest place for us was actually at the clinic and we really weren’t safe outside of there.

Chris Cash: So you might even feel safer now than you did then?

Abby Johnson: Yeah. It’s an interesting thought now looking back on it but that was the way that we had thought and some of it is because of anti-abortion violence that takes place and there are some people that are against abortion that honestly make the pro-life movement look really, really bad. But there are people on the fringe in every movement and what happens though is those people, the media allows them to speak for the entire movement and so the clinic workers, when security comes and when the Planned Parenthood national security team, when they’re training new employees, they are using those people on the fringe to say this is how the whole pro-life movement is. This is why you can’t trust them. And that’s very intentional.

Chris Cash: Now, you mentioned having relationships with some of the pro-life protesters outside the facility. How did that develop over time and how close as friends did you become with some of those people?

Abby Johnson: Well, there was one…I had cordial relationships with some of them outside the building. It’s one girl in particular, Elizabeth, who I mentioned in the book pretty frequently. She and I did develop a relationship, I mean kind of a fringe, kind of a weird awkward friendship. She just started talking to me one day and it just snowballed into more and more conversations every day. And I remember thinking if there wasn’t a fence between us, I think we’d be really good friends. And I remember telling people. I told my husband that and told some of the people that I worked with at the clinic. I remember looking her up on Facebook and trying to see some of the activities she was involved in and things like that. I remember one time, when I would be at college, she said, “If you ever wanted to go hang out, have coffee, go out to lunch or something, or dinner, we could go and do that.” I remember that day she went to our office and almost picking up the phone to call the coalition because she was working there at the time. Because I really just felt like there could be a solid friendship between us. But I never did because I thought, “Oh, if anybody found out, that would be really bad.” And so, I never did but now, Elizabeth is one of my best friends. Thank God that I had left. She didn’t know back in 2007 that that friendship that she worked on and developed with me was going to go anywhere but it was huge. It made a huge difference in the leaving of Planned Parenthood and me turning to the pro-lifers for help when I left.

Chris Cash: Was it just having that sense of I know somebody and I know I can belong there?

Abby Johnson: Yeah, well that and one day when I’m pulled in, she had actually brought me flowers to work and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I cannot accept those flowers because that’s a little weird and everybody’s going to know that we’ve been talking and everything. I can’t do that.” So I just ran in the building really quick and just left her out there looking sad, holding the flowers. And I felt really bad. Well, she ended up leaving the flowers there and I went out and got them and she had attached a little card on the flowers and it had a bible verse on it and it had “I’m praying for you every day. Love, Elizabeth.” And I kept that card. This was back in 2007 and the flowers eventually died but I kept the card. And I kept it on my desk for two years. And whenever the Monday before I resigned, the Monday that I actually went to the coalition for help, I didn’t know where to go. Most of my friends were in…all my close friends were involved with Planned Parenthood and I didn’t know where to go and I was very scared and thought, “Who can I talk to about this?” I looked out the window and I saw *** [00:18:14] and she ended up praying and I felt like God was kind of urging me to go to them and I thought, “No way. I’ve been here for eight years and people know who I am. If I walk in that door, they’re going to think, this is not legit. They’re going to think, this girl is trying to pull one over on us. But I looked on my desk and I saw that card from Elizabeth that was still there after those two years. And I thought, well why did I keep this stupid card? Because obviously, it means something and that Elizabeth cared enough to do this for me and they will be there for me. And I know they will. And so that was just the encouragement I needed because of that little card on my desk and that was what pushed me over the edge to finally go to them and reach out.

Chris Cash: Now, what did Elizabeth say to you to really strike up this conversation over time? Obviously, she wasn’t…I imagined she didn’t say, “Why don’t you stop killing babies?” or something like that.

Abby Johnson: Oh no. No, no, no. It was just like, “Hey, how are you doing?” And I would say, “Hey, I’m fine.” I walked in and it was kind of like, “Hey, hope you have a good day.” She just kind of added to it and then all of a sudden, it was like, “ Hey, hope you have a good day. I just wanted to let you know, I’m going to be praying for you.” And not praying for you by name. I mean, that’s so powerful for somebody to hear. And it just kind of got snowballed and we just kept talking and we just kept building from there and we would talk at the fence for a little bit and it just kind of developed into this trusting relationship and she never was ugly to me. She was always respectful and she listens to whatever I had to say. There was never an argument or anything. But I remember liking her immediately because I thought she’s a lot like me. I knew that she had a strong personality. I could tell she was assertive and I could just tell she was like me. And I liked that about her. She wouldn’t back down for me. A lot of the people out there, I could kind of say something, kind of smart off to them and they would back down. They wouldn’t talk to me anymore. But she didn’t. She kept at it and I liked that about her. I respected her and that came across me and so we just kind of developed a relationship from there and I trusted her.

Chris Cash: Now, I have another question from someone in our audience who asked, “What kind of advice would you give to girls who wants to follow their heart instead of what’s popular?”

Abby Johnson: Well, that’s hard because I know that it’s…*** [00:21:47] is not popular to be pro-life. It was not popular to not be sexually active. I guess it’s not popular to be a lot of things but sometimes, people would say, “Well, these are words from heaven.” All right, great but everybody hates to hear it right now. And so, a lot of people don’t want to hear that right now but I think it’s important. I really feel like that if I would stayed, if I would have kept my heart guarded, I wouldn’t have fallen into the hooks of Planned Parenthood. But I did it. I didn’t guard my heart. I didn’t keep those walls up. I didn’t keep an open line of communication with Christ and I ultimately shut Him out and I think that it’s important for young women and young men both equally, I think it’s important to choose people to be around that have the moral belief that you do and that way, you’re not just swimming around on your own. It’s been, I have a lot of people that criticize me for what I’ve done but I have a lot of people that support me and that’s what helps get you through it. And I would encourage young men and women to keep yourself protected and surround yourself with people who are like-minded and who share your beliefs about Christ and what’s important and whether you’re talking about abstinence or whether you’re talking about pro-life issues or whether you’re talking about drugs or whatever it is, surround yourself with like-minded people and people who love the Lord and people who are going to help guard your heart and guard your thinking and help protect you.

Chris Cash: Well, we’re running out of time here. So I just wanted to give you an opportunity. Was there anything else that you felt like you just wanted to share with our listeners about the book, about the experience, just kind of wide open there?

Abby Johnson: Well, I want to encourage people to get out there and be pro-life. It’s not enough. We just got a report from Planned Parenthood that shows for the first time in a couple of years, abortion rates are on the rise. It’s not enough to just sit at home and pray. It’s not enough anymore. We are in a critical time right now in the United States and in the world. We have got to be get out there in the clinics and pray. We’ve got to pray more than we ever had. We’ve got to volunteer our crisis pregnancy centers. We have to do more than we ever have and it’s not enough to check a box and say we’re pro-life. It’s not enough to vote pro-life. We’ve got to be active in this fight and active in this movement and I encourage everybody to do that. There’s a place for every single person, no matter how old and no matter how young. There’s a place for you in this movement.

Chris Cash: And you’re involved with Forty Days for Life which, by the way, is doing an excellent job of getting people out into the clinics for prolonged periods of time.

Abby Johnson: Yes, it’s an amazing group.

Chris Cash: Our local Knights of Columbus chapter has commitments with Forty Days for Life to have a night out there every single day of the 40-day period that they set up. So it’s been a great thing to have those encouraging reminders that we’ve got to be out there and be a presence. Even if you’re not sidewalk counseling, even if you’re just standing there. That presence still makes a difference.

Abby Johnson: Yeah, everybody has a call. Some people are prayer warriors. And some people are counselors and prayer is just as effective as sidewalk counseling so you’ve got to have both. And you don’t have to reach out to the women but prayer is just as effective.

Chris Cash: Well, thank you so much, Abby, for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. Everybody out there, make sure that you go out now. Pick up a copy of Unplanned, Abby Johnson’s story, I think you will find it very encouraging and it will open your eyes on quite a few fronts, probably find out quite a few things you didn’t know about Planned Parenthood but also find out some ways to reach out and make a difference. This is the Catholic Spotlight. Thank you very much for listening and God bless! Be sure to check out our baltimore catechism and Sacred Heart of Jesus gifts.


Transcript of Interview with Abby Johnson about unPlanned – The dramatic true story of a former planned parenthood leader’s eye-opening journey across the life line. This interview and others like it can be found at

Listen Now to the audio version of the show.

unPlanned is available at The Catholic Company.

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