Anti-Abortion Dream Team: Former P P Director Joins Lila Rose's Live Action
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:35:09 PM EST
Abby Johnson, a former director of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic, has been hired by Lila Rose's Live Action, the group surreptitiously video taping visits to Planned Parenthood clinics in order to entrap staffers into illegal behavior, as its Chief Research Strategist.

What if the heart-wrenching story she's been telling for more than a year about the event that changed her from being a pro-choice advocate to becoming an anti-abortion spokesperson isn't true? As a result of her story, she's gained a measure of celebrity, financial security and has become a sought after speaker at anti-abortion events and a frequent guest on conservative radio and television programs. Now, her story, as explained in her new memoir, has led her to Lila Rose's anti-abortion group, Live Action.  

Welcome to the new world of Abby Johnson.

Abby Johnson leaves Planned Parenthood

An ordinary citizen going about his/her daily life, perhaps working long hours at a difficult job to put food on the table for their families, rarely gets (or wants) the celebrity treatment. Often, one either has to make an ass out of oneself, or do something really out of the ordinary to merit media attention. And Abby Johnson did something out of the ordinary. In the fall of 2009, she quit her job as director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, and almost over night, went from being an under-appreciated, over-worked, pro-choice Planned Parenthood staffer having to face harassing anti-abortion picketers and protesters, to being a rising star in the anti-abortion community.

With the assistance of Shawn Carney, the director of the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life, as Nate Blakeslee pointed out in a February 2010 piece in the Texas Monthly titled "The Convert," Johnson signed on with Ambassador Speakers Bureau, "a Christian publicity agency, and the company began booking paid engagements for her. Her job became, in essence, being Abby Johnson."

According to its website, which features Johnson on the front page, Ambassador Speakers Bureau - Literary Agency, founded in 1973 by Wes Yoder, "is the oldest and most established Christian-based talent agency in the United States," which, early on focused on representing Christian musicians and artists. The Speakers Bureau, founded in 1984, is "the leading provider of speakers for the Christian and faith-based community and ... [it] provid[es] speakers to university, education, religious, non-profit, political and business meetings."

During the subsequent nearly 18 months since Johnson left Planned Parenthood, she has became an anti-abortion celebrity, speaking at a number of rallies and demonstrations; appearing on numerous Christian-based radio and television programs including Mike Huckabee's Fox News Channel program, Bryan Fischer's American Family Association's Focal Point program, and the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club"; and establishing her own no-holds-barred blog (

Johnson joins Lila Rose's Live Action

These days, Johnson is out promoting her new book titled Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line (SaltRiver, January 2011), and she is getting glowing reviews from the anti-abortion community.

Late last week, Johnson joined forces with what could be considered the most happening, media-savvy, and buzz-creating anti-abortion group around, as she was hired by Lila Rose's Live Action to be the organization's Chief Research Strategist.

Switching sides on the abortion issue is not a new phenomenon. Many have done it before Johnson - think Norma Rae McCorvey, the original Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade, who was disillusioned with the pro-choice movement and has become an anti-abortion spokesperson - and no doubt many more will follow. And there is usually a compelling narrative that accompanies the change of heart.

Late last month, in an interview with - an affiliate of Focus on the Family - Johnson explained her moment of change: "There are many people that believed I was going to be a lifetime employee at Planned Parenthood. There are people that believed that my heart was hardened to the point that I would never leave. But God can penetrate any heart. There is no heart that is too hard for God."

According to Charisma News Online, Johnson "worked and volunteered for Planned Parenthood until October of 2009 when she witnessed a 13-week old baby in an ultrasound-guided abortion lose the fight for its life in the womb. She is now a pro-life advocate. Since her conversion of heart, Johnson has also confirmed that the alarming incidents revealed by Live Action's undercover investigations are not isolated incidents."

"I can tell you from experience that Planned Parenthood often turns a blind eye to sexual abuse and trafficking - what you see in Live Action's videos is not a rare occurrence. But ignorance is no defense, especially when it has turned their clinics into a safe haven for those who sexually exploit women and girls," Johnson says. "This is not a training problem so much as it is an ideology problem. I am humbled and eager to begin this partnership with Live Action so that together we can expose the serious harm Planned Parenthood poses to the most vulnerable among us."

Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, welcomed Johnson with open arms, saying that she "has seen the abuses inside Planned Parenthood with her own eyes and confirms the danger its clinics pose to women and young girls. She is a courageous trailblazer despite Planned Parenthood's desperate attempts to attack her and silence the truth. We are thrilled and very thankful to have Abby join our team and are confident that her first-hand experience, conviction and guidance will provide invaluable counsel to Live Action as we advance our common goal of protecting women and children from the abuses of Planned Parenthood."

Johnson's story may not be entirely true

That's Abby Johnson's story and she's sticking to it. However, Johnson's story, as examined by the Texas Monthly's Blakeslee, appears not only to be a bit more nuanced, but parts of it may not be true. Blakeslee reported, "At a court hearing for an injunction sought by Planned Parenthood to prevent Johnson from divulging confidential information to her new allies [the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life], two of Johnson's former co-workers testified that she told them in the days before she resigned that she was afraid she was about to be fired. At one time, Johnson, who was named the regional Planned Parenthood affiliate's employee of the year in 2008, seemed to have a promising future with the organization. By mid-2009, however, her relationship with her employer had begun to deteriorate. Salon reported that on October 2, Johnson was summoned to Houston to meet with her supervisors to discuss problems with her job performance. She was placed on what Planned Parenthood calls a 'performance improvement plan.'"

In a she said, it said, Johnson claimed, according to Blakeslee, "that she was disciplined by her employer because she objected to what she described as pressure to increase the number of abortions performed at the clinic," a story she tells often during her media and movement appearances. Blakeslee pointed out that while "the number of abortions ... increase[d] ... [it was] because the clinic" went from performing "surgical abortions every other Saturday," to "offering the abortion pill to patients on a daily basis," a "decision," Planned Parenthood told Blakeslee, that "was driven by patient demand, not, as Johnson has claimed, by a desire to increase revenue."

An apparently exhausted Johnson, "feeling hurt, angry, and unappreciated" posted a note on her Facebook page two weeks before she resigned, saying: "So tired. Want a day off. Too busy. Blah." The night she quit, she wrote: "Alright. Here's the deal. I have been doing the work of two full-time people for two years. Then, after I have been working my whole big butt off for them and prioritizing that company over my family, my friends and pretty much everything else in my life, they have the nerve to tell me that my job performance is 'slipping.' WHAT???!!! That is crazy. Anyone that knows me knows how committed I was to that job. They obviously do not value me at all. So, I'm out and I feel really great about it!"

In a later interview with Blakeslee, Johnson told him that the Facebook posting was a cover story designed to buy her time to figure out how she would tell her real story. "It's not about being disgruntled," Johnson told Blakeslee. "If I was disgruntled, I would have come over and said, 'Shawn, let's really stick it to Planned Parenthood.' If I was angry about being written up, that's what I would have done, because I have a ton of stuff that I could have disclosed to the media. But I've never done that, because that was never my intention."

Finally, Blakeslee pointed out, despite Johnson's poignant, oft-repeated story of the incident that apparently sparked her conversion, that incident may never have happened.

At Blakeslee's request, Planned Parenthood examined its records and found that "there is no record of an ultrasound-guided abortion performed on September 26. The physician on duty told the organization that he did not use an ultrasound that day, nor did Johnson assist on any abortion procedure.... It's difficult to imagine that Johnson simply got the date wrong; September 12 was the only other day that month that the clinic performed surgical abortions.

"Could clinic staff and the physician be mistaken?" Blakeslee asks. "The Texas Department of State Health Services requires abortion providers to fill out a form documenting basic information about each procedure performed at a clinic. This document is known as the Induced Abortion Report Form. The Bryan clinic reported performing fifteen surgical abortions on September 26. Johnson has consistently said that the patient in question was thirteen weeks pregnant, which is plausible, since thirteen weeks is right at the cusp of when physicians will consider using an ultrasound to assist with the procedure. Yet none of the patients listed on the report for that day were thirteen weeks pregnant; in fact, none were beyond ten weeks."

A blog post dated February 6 of this year, had a confident Johnson sticking it to Planned Parenthood, warning that the organization "better be scared," because "We are closing in on them. We are cornering them. We are catching them at their very worst...and we are exposing them. ... Planned Parenthood's 'repugnant behavior' is now for everyone to see.  Yes, they better be scared. We are winning. We will win. Planned Parenthood...we are no longer a 'fringe.' We are the majority."

Over the course of her work with Planned Parenthood Abby Johnson apparently received a series of threatening letters, a fact that she denied when asked by Blakeslee, although she did admit that security cameras were placed at her home.  I don't know if her home was ever picketed, if her husband or her young child was ever harassed, if her neighbors were given leaflets describing her as a baby killer, or if anti-abortion protesters were satiated by screaming at her as she entered the clinic to do her job. I only hope she remembers how she felt when aggressive anti-abortion protesters appeared outside her Bryan, Texas clinic.

I don't know what is in the heart of Abby Johnson. I don't know if she is still ticked off at Planned Parenthood. I don't know if she had a profound conversion experience and found her calling, or is riding the anti-abortion gravy train to celebrity and greater financial rewards. I do hope, however, that somewhere along the way that she will remember the stories of the desperate young women whose health care needs she helped serve, and deem them worthy of respect, worthy of not being harassed or intimidated outside Planned Parenthood or any other health care clinics by her new comrades.

powerless is a thankless job. And there's no money in it. At all. Money, money, money. It not only makes the world go 'round, it helps people decide whether to help the poor, or themselves.

"Hey, I can't feed my fambly with "good deeds", unless those deeds are financed by rich people.

by trog69 on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 04:26:05 AM EST

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