Abby Johnson reminds herself of greater good as ‘Unplanned’ delves into darker side of her past

by Jerry Circelli

North Texas Catholic

Abby Johnson, Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life activist, said she hopes the transparency and honesty of Unplanned will reach abortion advocates. (Photo courtesy Abby Johnson)

Imagine the darkest, most vulnerable, and undeniably regrettable times of your life. Now imagine a movie being made for the whole world to see that part of your history that might be better left forgotten.

So goes the true story of Abby Johnson, who worked nine years for Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. Starting as a volunteer, she eventually became its director. During Johnson’s time with Planned Parenthood, she was involved with an organization that carried out more than 22,000 abortions. As a tireless advocate for “a woman’s right to choose,” she was outspoken about her cause and fought hard to enact legislation to support abortion.

Johnson’s life totally changed, however, on Sept. 26, 2009, when she was asked to hold a probe during an ultrasound-guided abortion. On that day Johnson witnessed what was really happening inside the womb of a mother during an abortion — the destruction of a 13-week-old fetus.

Specifically, Johnson saw the child try to move to the other side of its mother’s uterus after a straw-shaped instrument attached to a suction tube poked his side. She watched in horror as she saw the baby twisting and fighting for its life after the doctor said, “Beam me up, Scotty,” to the nurse who activated the suction. The lies that Johnson had believed and espoused, that this was just a mass of tissue, were totally and graphically exposed to her at that moment. The callousness disgusted her.

Johnson became sick to her stomach, but a greater healing was about to take place.

No longer could she be a part of the murder of babies in which Planned Parenthood participated. When Johnson experienced her conversion in 2009, nearly 785,000 babies had been aborted in the United States that year, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since 2009, Johnson has been a staunch pro-life advocate, traveling across the world to defend the unborn. She also founded And Then There Were None, a ministry to help abortion clinic workers transition out of their line of work. To date, according to Johnson, nearly 500 people have left those jobs.

None of this, however, makes parts of the new movie easy for Johnson to watch.

“It is definitely very vulnerable seeing someone on this big screen acting out the worst version of who you have ever been,” Johnson told the North Texas Catholic.

“But I am not doing it for my own glory or to make myself feel good. I am really doing it to share the miracle that God has done in my life and what He can do in the lives of others.

“In the beginning, I had to keep that at the forefront of my mind — that I am not doing it for me, I’m doing it for Him, and that’s worth feeling uncomfortable or feeling really vulnerable.”

Unplanned, the story of Abby Johnson's journey from Planned Parenthood director to pro-life activist, opens March 29. (courtesy photo)

Johnson added, “I hope the transparency and the honesty in the film will really resonate with people who have also gone down that same path.”

The fact that nearly 500 people have followed Johnson out of Planned Parenthood through her ministry is proof that others have heard her message.

It also gives credibility to the upcoming Unplanned movie. Some of those former workers saw a pre-screening of the film, Johnson explained, “and they said, ‘This is so right on. This could have been my story, too.’  

“The content in this film is accurate,” Johnson continued. “It’s not just me, as a lone voice, saying this is how it was. We have nearly 500 people to attest to it as well.”

Once the film is released, Johnson said she is prepared for the backlash from Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates.

“But honestly, I just don’t worry about it. I am not a person who is bothered by what other people think of me or what they say of me, which I think is a gift.

“I am just not really concerned about other people’s opinions. I know who I am, and I know who I am in God’s eyes.”

Faith, said Johnson, will carry her and the message she delivered in the 2011 publication of her Unplanned book and now movie of the same name.

In 2012, Johnson and her husband were welcomed into the Catholic Church. The pro-life advocate said that through the sacraments, she has received great healing.

She said she hopes the new movie will show men and women that forgiveness is available for those who seek it.

Sins of the past for many people, she said, “may be messy, but they may be used for God’s glory and can be used for something really beautiful.”

“I think the forgiveness piece is really the biggest part of the movie,” Johnson said.  “It shows how ready God is to forgive us of any sin that we have committed.”

Imagine the darkest, most vulnerable, and undeniably regrettable times of your life. Now imagine a movie being made for the whole world to see that part of your history that might be better left forgotten.