In her eight years working at Planned Parenthood, Abby Johnson helped facilitate 22,000 abortions. She quit after she watched a 13-week-old fetus struggle for its life in an ultrasound-guided abortion before it was killed by being suctioned out of its mother’s womb.
At least several great rabbis from yesteryear – including Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik – called abortion “murder.” Not all halachic authorities agree that abortion meets that level of sin (some believe it constitutes a less severe violation), but no one who values the sanctity of life can take abortion lightly.
Unfortunately, as Johnson discovered in her time at Planned Parenthood, many in the abortion industry do just that, treating abortion as if it were nothing more than an operation to remove an annoying pimple from one’s face. On March 29, some of the stark realities of abortion will receive greater exposure when a new film, “Unplanned,” is released in theaters.
Filmed at a secret location with significant financial help from My Pillow founder Mike Lindell, “Unplanned” is based on Abby Johnson’s book of the same name. The Jewish Press recently met Johnson at the CPAC convention in Washington DC, and interviewed her about her experiences at Planned Parenthood shortly thereafter.
The Jewish Press: You worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years, including two as a clinic director. What led you to apply for a job there?
Johnson: I thought I was helping women.
What changed? You’ve said that the ultrasound-guided abortion horrified you, but how did you go from believing that you were generally helping women to believing the opposite?
I just started to think about all the times we had not been honest with patients about fetal development and what was taking place in their womb. I started to see that we were exploiting them at a very vulnerable time in their life, and that’s not what I had gotten involved to do.
We thought we were helping them, but by taking the life of their child, we were actually just compounding their problems.
You say you weren’t honest with patients. How so?
Well, many women would ask if [their fetus] looked like a baby, and we would knowingly lie to them and tell them it didn’t. We would say that it is just fetal tissue – that it isn’t developed.
We would also tell them that women never regret having abortions and that women who have abortions always feel relief, and that they can go back to normal right after their procedure.
I mean, we basically normalized abortion. We talked about how many women had abortions in the country, trying to help them understand that they were one of many. The idea was to make them feel more comfortable with their decision, especially if they were feeling uncomfortable with it. Our goal was to normalize abortion so that it would be an easier decision for them to make.
You said you would knowingly lie to patients. What do you mean?
Well, what we told them wasn’t true. Many women do regret their abortions, and it’s very rare for women to just go back to normal after having an abortion. It’s also not just a mass of fetal tissue there. There is a formed baby there, and we didn’t talk to them about those things.
When does a fetus start looking like a baby?
Around nine weeks. When you abort a baby at that stage, there are parts – arms, legs, torso, and head – that you have to put back together afterwards outside the womb to ensure that everything was suctioned out of the uterus.
When does a fetus have a beating heart?
Between 18-21 days post-conception.
What kind of women walk through the doors of Planned Parenthood? Are they mainly young teenagers who are vulnerable and can be easily convinced to have an abortion?
It’s really across the board. We saw girls as young as 10 and women in their early 50s. But it’s pretty easy to convince any vulnerable woman to have an abortion – no matter her age, education level, or socio-economic status. If she’s scared, vulnerable, or feeling alone, it’s pretty easy to talk a woman into it.
And that’s what you did at Planned Parenthood?
Yes. I mean, that’s why we had abortion quotas. We had to sell a certain number of abortions to women to meet our quota every month, so you become a sales person trying to meet that quota.
Why is there a quota?
That’s how Planned Parenthood makes their money.
In the film, there’s a scene in which one of your superiors at Planned Parenthood yells at you after you question her directive to double the amount of abortions your clinic performed. Did that really take place in real life?
Yes. Abortion makes up about 50 percent of Planned Parenthood’s income, so they need those abortion numbers to continue to increase in order to keep the doors open. If you look at Planned Parenthood’s annual reports, you’ll see that their abortion numbers are going up while the other services they provide are steadily decreasing.
In the film, the character who plays you says that Planned Parenthood does an ultrasound on every woman who comes in for an abortion, but it intentionally hides the image of the fetus from the mother. Is that true?
Yes, we would do an ultrasound before each abortion to determine how far along the woman was in her pregnancy so we would know how much to charge her for the abortion.
But we didn’t let her see the ultrasound – or even tell her we would be doing one – because if she saw the ultrasound, you’re taking a chance that she might [change her mind and] not go through with the abortion, which would be loss of revenue for you.
Is it really all about the bottom dollar? Is Planned Parenthood really that cold and heartless?
The people who work in the clinics are really kind and believe they’re helping women. But once you get up into management with the organization, you really start to see what the motivation is, and it’s really just to increase the bottom line, and the easiest way to do that is to increase abortion.
In a recent speech, you said that every American is partially responsible for the staggering number of abortions in this country – 3,000 a day. What did you mean by that?
I think if a woman feels like abortion is her only option, then we as a society have failed her. And I think many people say they’re pro-life but haven’t done anything to advance the pro-life cause. Our apathy has really led to this systemic injustice….
Planned Parenthood also receives more than a half-billion dollars of our tax money each year. So whether we like it or not, we are funding abortion through our taxes.
“Unplanned” received an R rating even though it doesn’t features excessive immodesty or curse words. Some conservatives believe this rating was unjust and reflects bias against the pro-life movement. What’s your opinion?
I think there’s definitely an agenda. I also don’t think the irony is lost on anyone that a 15-year-old girl cannot watch a movie about abortion without her parents’ consent, but she can have an abortion at an abortion clinic without her parents’ consent. So I think they were definitely trying to keep the truth away from people who really need to see it.
But in the end, it’s almost like the MPAA stumbled backwards into the truth by admitting with its R rating that abortion is an act of violence and that it’s disturbing.
You said a 15-year-old can have an abortion without her parents consenting to it. But don’t many states have laws requiring consent?
The Supreme Court ruled that wherever there are parental consent laws, there must be something called judicial bypass, which allows a minor to obtain a court order to have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.
Aren’t there rules that govern when a judge can give this order?
In most places, there are organizations within the state that help girls find a judge who will just rubber-stamp the application for them.
Last question: In a recent interview, the actress who plays you in “Unplanned” relates that her mother, remarkably, told her recently that she almost aborted her, only changing her mind at the last second as she was lying in an abortion clinic. What do you make of this fact?
I think it just shows that G-d can really use any part of our past to glorify Him in the end.