Abby Johnson

Confessions of a former Planned Parenthood director

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We were looking forward to adopting her baby. Then I got the devastating phone call: ‘I had an abortion’

Years ago, I had convinced her to abort her first baby. Now, she had aborted her second...and all because of a terrible secret.
Wed Mar 25, 2015 - 10:45 am EST
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I don’t remember the exact year. I wasn’t running the clinic yet. I was still working as an “abortion counselor.” I was contacted one day by a friend of mine who had a 18-year-old daughter. He was telling me about how wild his daughter was…she was into drugs, very sexually promiscuous and had now found herself pregnant. He needed me to talk her into having an abortion. 

That was a normal scenario for me. Parents would call or come in. They would try to convince me that having an abortion was absolutely the best thing for their daughters. It didn’t take much to convince me. I was confident that no teenager needed to be a parent. I was sure that abortion was pretty much always in their best interest. 

My friend and his daughter came into the clinic and when I saw her, I was absolutely sure she needed to have an abortion. She had tattoos all over her arms and chest. I could tell she had gotten them to cover up her cutting scars. She had dyed, jet-black hair, piercings in her face, and it appeared as though she had not taken a shower in about a week. Yes, this poor girl did NOT need to have a baby. It looked like she couldn’t even take care of herself. It wasn’t tough to convince her that an abortion was really the only option that made sense. She was 18…she had no job, she had no money, she was already failing at school, she did drugs, she hung out with the wrong people, not to mention that her dad had threatened to throw her out of the house if she didn’t have the abortion. 

I could tell that she really didn’t want to go through with it. But I just tried to ignore the tears that were welling up in her eyes. She didn’t know what she wanted and she certainly didn’t know what was best for herself…that’s what I told myself. 

They came back a couple days later for the actual procedure. Labs were done, paperwork was complete, and money was collected. I remember her asking me if I could come back and hold her hand during the abortion procedure. I could tell she was pretty nervous. “It will only take about five minutes,” I reassured her. 

For a fleeting moment, I wondered if this was my punishment. I had convinced her to kill her first baby. Now she had killed her second baby...the baby who I had already grown to love in just a few short days…a baby that I was going to raise as my own.

We got her back to the procedure room and got her hooked up to our monitors. The IV sedation was administered. Because she used recreational drugs, we had to give her a few more vials of the sedation in order for it to take effect. The ultrasound showed that she was about 10 weeks pregnant. Phew. I was glad she wasn’t too far along to have the abortion at our clinic. I wanted to make sure that we took care of this for her since I knew her dad. 

The procedure was done in just a few minutes and I wheeled her back to the recovery room. I got her all set up with a warm blanket, put her feet up and let her rest. I knew the recovery room nurse would be getting her up in about 20 minutes, so I figured I would come back to check on her around then. 

About 15 minutes later, I walked into the recovery room and she was still sleeping. The room had gotten pretty full, so the nurse asked if I could get her dressed and give her the discharge instructions. I had done that hundreds of times before, so I said that I would be glad to help. I grabbed her brown paper bag and sat down on a stool beside her and woke her up. After I gave her the instructions, I checked her vitals. Everything seemed to be pretty normal and she said she felt okay to stand up. I grabbed her arm to help her stand and I heard a literal splash on the floor. I looked down and saw blood everywhere. It was running down her leg, like water out of a faucet. I looked at her face and she was white as a ghost. She looked like she was either about to faint or vomit. I started yelling for the nurse…she had stepped out for a minute to grab a taco to snack on. I sat her back down in the chair. I knew both of our procedure rooms were full. I needed to get her back into one so the doctor could see her. I grabbed a wheelchair in the hall and kept yelling for someone to help me. 

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Finally, with a mouth full of food, I saw the nurse casually walking back to the room. I guess when she saw me she realized there was an emergency, as I was outwardly panicked. I had stepped in the blood all over the floor. My bloody shoeprints were everywhere. It looked like a crime scene. I put her in the wheelchair and she fainted. 

The doctor had just completed an abortion on the patient in exam room number 2, so I knew I needed to get her in that room immediately. But there was all that blood in the recovery room. I told the nurse to stay with her. I ran back to the recovery room, grabbed two handfuls of blue absorbent pads and started spreading them all over the floor. I couldn’t clean it up at the moment, but I could at least cover it up. 

We carried her out of the wheelchair and set her up on the exam table. Blood was still pouring out of her. The doctor’s assistant put the ultrasound probe on her belly and the image of her uterus we saw on the screen was black…it was completely filled with blood. The doctor turned on the suction and started suctioning the blood. Within seconds, we watched her uterus fill back up with blood. More suctioning…more blood. Soon, the doctor had filled a whole jar of blood. I unhooked the tubing, ran into the POC lab and dumped the blood into a biohazard bag. Blood splashed all over my arms and scrubs. I ran back into the room and hooked the jar back up to the tubing. 

She had regained consciousness, but was in and out. I knew we needed to call an ambulance. I was begging to call. “NO, no ambulance,” our doctor said. They were pushing more and more vials of sedation into her IV. I knew she was WAY over the maximum dose, but they just kept giving her more and more. Her blood pressure was dangerously low. I looked at my supervisor and said, “Please let me call the ambulance.” She was quick to tell me no. “We don’t need an ambulance pulling into our parking lot with all of those protestors outside.” I remember yelling back at her, “I don’t need my friend’s kid dying on this table.” The doctor started giving injections of a blood coagulant directly into her cervix. He was packing her uterus full of gauze. 

Finally after about an hour, the bleeding stopped. The doctor had perforated her uterus during the abortion procedure. I got a wet towel and wiped her off. I wanted to get as much blood off of her as I could. I wheeled her back into the recovery room. 

I knew we needed to clean up the exam room. I knew we had more patients to see. We were now backed up and behind on our schedule because of this mishap. I turned the corner and I’m pretty sure I let out an audible gasp. The exam room looked like a war zone. There was blood soaked gauze all over the floor. Blood had splattered everywhere. The end of the table was covered in dried blood. The ultrasound machine had blood all over it. I didn’t even know where to begin. After about 30 minutes, the room was back to normal. Our receptionist came to tell me that her dad was asking about the time. He wanted to make sure everything was okay since it was taking so long. I couldn’t tell him the truth. I was counting on her not remembering because of the amount of sedation she received. I was covered in blood, so I knew I had to change before I went to talk to him. Luckily, I kept a pair of extra scrubs in my desk for situations just like this one. 

I changed my clothes and walked out to the waiting room. I reassured my friend that everything was totally fine. I told him that we were just really busy and had gotten really behind. He accepted that answer…because of course he would never suspect that his friend would lie to him. 

Another hour went by and I saw that she wasn’t in her recovery room chair anymore. I was so pleased to find out that she was getting dressed and was about to leave. “We dodged a bullet on that one,” I thought to myself. But I was still really bothered that we didn’t call the ambulance when I had KNOWN that she needed it. Oh well. She was going to be fine. And my boss was right; those protestors would have had a field day if an ambulance pulled up at our clinic. Better not give them another reason to make us look bad. I assured myself that we did the right thing. 

After she was dressed, I sat down at the table with her while she was eating crackers and drinking juice. I asked her how she felt. I remember her saying that she felt really tired…and that she was “surprised” that the sedation had actually worked on her. Thank goodness. She didn’t remember a thing. We had really gotten away with it this time. I walked her out to door, gave her to her dad and they left. I knew I would see her dad soon, but I would just act like nothing happened. We didn’t need to talk about it anyway. It was over. 

A few months later, I got a call from this young woman. She started telling me horrific details about her life…things that were honestly hard to believe at first. To make a long story short, it turned out that she had been terribly abused by her father…my “friend.” He turned out to be a person who I really didn’t know at all. 

She came to live with me and Doug for quite some time. She would come, she would get her life in order, she would move out and then she would fall back into the same dangerous lifestyle. Then she would come back. I kept telling myself that one day, she would really work everything out for good. She would get thrown in jail, and I would bail her out. I just couldn’t give up on her. I grew to love her very much; like a little sister. I felt like I needed to protect her. She had been hurt by so many people. And I think I knew in the back of my mind, that I was also guilty of hurting her. 

This relationship went on for years. Things had appeared to get a little more stable in her life and I was really proud of her. Yes, she was still a little rough around the edges, but I had complete faith that she was going to be a success story. 

In January 2012, I got a phone call from her early in the morning. Doug and I were off to the West Coast Walk for Life in San Francisco. We had just gotten into our car and were headed to the airport. I had just entered my second trimester with my son, Alex. When I answered the phone, I could tell something was wrong. 

“I’m pregnant,” she said. I wasn’t prepared for those words at 8am…not from her. I looked at Doug and told him what she said. I wanted to be careful with my reaction, so I just asked her, “How are you feeling?” She told me that she was really scared, but that she wanted to have the baby. She said she didn’t know how she was going to raise a baby, but that she didn’t want to have an abortion. I felt a huge sense of relief. I asked her if she knew how far along she was and it turned out that she was two weeks ahead of me. We started talking about options. We ended up deciding that maybe open adoption would be the best option. But she wanted me and Doug to adopt her baby. I thought that was a great idea. I told her that we would start gathering information about private adoption. I still remember the last thing I told her on that call, “I will be back in two days. Try not to worry. We will discuss all of this as a family when we get back. I love you so much.” 

We got off the phone and I think Doug and I sat in silence for about two minutes. We would have two babies…maybe two weeks apart. The reality was sinking in for both of us. Finally, Doug said, “This will be great! It will be like having twins!” I couldn’t help but laugh at his optimism. But yes, it would be great. A baby is always great. 

When we got to San Francisco, we started talking to some adoption attorneys that we knew. It seemed like the whole process would be a piece of cake. I think Doug and I were actually getting really excited about the idea. Things seemed to be falling into place in just a few short days. I knew I still wanted her to talk to an adoption counselor. I wanted to make sure that she was comfortable with this decision, so I started lining up that meeting. 

About 48 hours later, we were on our way back to Texas. I called her to let her know. No answer. No big deal. I figured she may be at work. I left a message and told her I would call her as soon as we landed. And I did. Again, no answer. I left another message. I felt sick. I tried to shoo off my fears. 

I could hardly sleep that night. I woke up and called again. No answer. I left another messge. I knew. I knew in my heart what had happened. She had an abortion. I didn’t want to know it. I didn’t want to even consider it. But I just knew. Another call. Another message. And again. And again. 

Three days had gone by. She finally called. She was crying. “You are going to hate me,” were the first words out of her mouth. I remember fighting back tears as I said, “I will never hate you.” 

“I had an abortion.” I felt like my heart stopped for just a second. I couldn’t get any words to come out. She said she was going to come over. 

A few minutes later, I heard her come in the front door. I wanted to hug her…but I wanted to slap her. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay…but I wanted to scream at her. How could she do this? She knows what I do. She knows that we are pro-life now. She knew that we were going to do everything we could for her and her baby. I hated her selfishness. I knew what this was about. She didn’t want the lifestyle change. She just couldn’t stand the thought of going without drinking and partying for nine months. It felt like she had taken something that was mine. 

I quickly reigned in my judgmental thoughts as soon as I felt her fall into my arms. She was sobbing. I realized at that moment that the “why” didn’t matter. I had to focus on her in this moment. I had to meet her in her brokenness. 

We sat down on the couch and she just laid her head on my lap. I just kept running my fingers through her hair. I didn’t need to say anything. It felt like we sat there in silence forever. Her baby was gone. She couldn’t go back now. 

She ended up telling me about how her boyfriend really wanted her to have the abortion. I thought back in my own life and knew that feeling all too well. I also had a boyfriend who pushed me to have an abortion many years before. I always said that I looked at her like my little sister. But instead of learning from my poor decisions like I had hoped she would, she had followed in my misguided footsteps…unstable relationships, controlling boyfriends and now two abortions. 

I couldn’t help but wonder about the “what ifs.” The biggest “what if” that plagued my mind was this: what if I had told her the truth about her first abortion? What if I hadn’t kept that a secret from her? What if she knew the harrowing details that I had failed to disclose to her? 

For a fleeting moment, I wondered if this was my punishment. I had convinced her to kill her first baby. Now she had killed her second baby...the baby who I had already grown to love in just a few short days…a baby that I was going to raise as my own. Maybe God was getting me back. But I knew God didn’t work that way. I pushed that thought to the side. 

There were two things behind her decision to abort: free will and secrecy. Her free will…my secrecy. She deserved to know what happened during her first abortion. She deserved to know how we had damaged her body. But I was too cowardly to tell her. 

I have since told her everything that I just wrote above, but sadly, it was too late. Now, she and I are sharing this story together in hopes that it will shatter any secrecy that you hold on to. Scripture is clear about secrecy. When we hold onto secrecy in our lives, Satan has power of it. 

Maybe you have an abortion in your past. Maybe you talked a friend into getting an abortion. Maybe you drove a family member to an abortion clinic. And now, maybe that secrecy is between you. Secrecy changed the path of my friend’s life. You have heard the childhood saying that “secrets hurt.” Yes, secrets can hurt, and they can also be deadly. If I hadn’t held on to my secret, maybe her child would be alive today. Maybe we would have another child in our family. Maybe my children would have another sibling. I will never know. 

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