OpinionFri Nov 11, 2011 - 12:04 pm EST
Abby Johnson: When I was a Planned Parenthood manager, I would have died for abortion
November 11, 2011 (AbbyJohnson.org) - I am going to be honest, when I first left Planned Parenthood, I hated the idea of the “rescue” movement. I didn’t see the point. I thought it was a black mark against the pro-life movement.
Then I started meeting people who had once rescued. I started to see something that I had not before…these were normal people. Men, women, old, young, White, Black, Hispanic, priests, pastors, laity…so different, but all sharing one goal…to save babies. These people had been convicted to do SOMETHING because nothing was being done. There were no peaceful vigils, very limited sidewalk counseling, not many laws to guide pro-life activity. I started to wonder: what if I had been pro-life during the rescue movement? Would I have been willing to sacrifice my freedom in order to save babies and take a stand against abortion?
When I became director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, my life changed. All of a sudden, I was acutely aware of the responsibility that sat on my shoulders. I was now the face of that clinic. If something went wrong, it was now on my head. I worked all the time, usually about 70 hours per week. I was addicted to my job, addicted to the responsibility. I carried heavy burdens…many were self inflicted. I will share with you my heaviest.
Every day I would arrive at work and check the schedule. Not because I had an enormous amount of employees or because I wanted to micromanage and see who was late…nothing like that. I wanted to look and see who was there that day. I wanted to place them in the clinic…where would they usually be?
Why would that be important? Every day I prepared for someone to come in and harm us. Maybe they would bomb our clinic. Maybe they would shoot us. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I was ready. I wanted to know where my employees would be in the clinic so I could rapidly get them out and keep me in. I figured that if someone wanted to harm one of us, it would be best to go after me…I was the most responsible for the abortions that happened in that clinic. Surely I would be a good enough sacrifice. That was my burden every day. I was willing to DIE for the sake of abortion. I look back now and realize how selfish I was. I had a child. I am a wife…a daughter. How could I have even entertained that thought? Be a martyr for abortion? Ridiculous. But back then, I would have done it without question.
So, would I have been involved in the rescue movement? You bet. I was willing to DIE for abortion when I was pro-choice. It would have been an honor to risk jail time in order to save lives if I would have been pro-life.
Luckily, I don’t have to worry about that risk. None of us do. We are able to go and peacefully pray outside of abortion clinics whenever we choose. We are able to sidewalk counsel. We can thank the rescue movement for that. The rescue movement came about like most…people were frustrated and they wanted to do something…anything. There was no such thing as effective and strategic sidewalk counseling. There were few places where you could go and stand in a “public right of way.” Abortions were happening and there seemed to be nothing anyone could do about it.
How could pro-lifers reach the women? If they stood out on the sidewalks, they would most likely be arrested and they wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone. How ccould they talk to them inside the clinics? They had to get in those abortion clinics. Yes, it was trespassing…yes, it was illegal…but so was standing out on the sidewalks in most cases. So, they organized and they went. They trespassed…they broke the law…they were arrested…they saved thousands of babies. They were not violent. How could they be? They were there to show women the alternative to abortion…the most violent act committed against a child. In fact, during the rescue movement, 75,000 arrests were made…not one of those arrests was made for any violent act.
The rescue movement came, laws were broken, new laws were made, organized sidewalk counseling began to form, and the rescue movement died. The pro-life movement evolved, as it should. The pro-life movement continues to get better. If we were still doing the same thing from 20 years ago it would show failure. Ideas change. Technology changes. Laws change. People change. If there is one thing we can be sure of it is this…never be sure of anything. This world is constantly evolving…just like this movement. Some things work, some things don’t. The rescue movement worked for the time. It is not a viable option now…not in this country.
I am so grateful for those that risked their freedom to save the lives of children. I wish all pro-lifers had that same courage. I am thankful that they did something…they didn’t just sit around and wait for abortion to resolve itself. They made a difference. They saved lives. I don’t think many of us realize how much we owe to this group of pro-lifers. My life was changed because of an ultrasound and sidewalk counselors. Both parts were equally important in my story. Without the laws that came about from the rescue movement, those sidewalk counselors probably wouldn’t have been there. And without those sidewalk counselors, their prayers and their constant outreach, I couldn’t have crossed that line.
It takes all of us fighting this battle…different techniques, different groups, different types of people. And even now, many of us are “rescuers.” We just rescue in a different way. We are out on the sidewalks, talking to women moments before they walk into an abortion clinic. Or maybe we are counselors in a pregnancy center who talk to women after they have a positive pregnancy test. Maybe we are hotline operators who counsel young women during a time of crisis. Yes, rescues still happen, but they happen in a very different way now. And even though times have changed, we must look back and be thankful for our past and for those dedicated pro-lifers who paved the way for us today.
Reprinted with permission from AbbyJohnson.org