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Abby Johnson

Nationality: American

Occupation: Author, Senior Policy Advisor at Americans United for Life, Live Action research director

Known for: Pro-life activism


Abby Johnson (born c. 1980) is an American pro-life activist. Johnson had previously worked a Planned Parenthood clinic director, but resigned in October 2009. She later stated that she resigned after watching an abortion on ultrasound.

Johnson is the chief research strategist for Live Action, a pro-life organization that is known for conducting sting operations against Planned Parenthood clinics. She holds a B.S. (psychology) from Texas A&M University and an M.A. (counseling) from Sam Houston State University.

Work at Planned Parenthood

Born and raised in a "conservative, pro-life family" from Texas, Johnson began volunteering for Planned Parenthood after seeing their booth at a fair at her college. She said she hadn't heard of the group before and didn't know they performed abortions, and Planned Parenthood told her they wanted to reduce the number of abortions. Johnson volunteered in 2001, and progressed to the position of community services director. She worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas for eight years, escorting women into the clinic from their cars and eventually working as director of the clinic. Johnson regularly encountered activists from the local pro-life group who waited at the clinic's fence to talk to clients, and described extensive harassment of clinic staff by antiabortion activists. Describing death threats against herself and her family, she stated: "It's very scary, this group of people that claim to be these peaceful prayer warriors, or whatever they call themselves, it's kind of ironic that some of them would be sending death threats." The Planned Parenthood clinic named Johnson "Employee of the Year" in 2008.


Johnson says that in September 2009, due to a personnel shortage she was called in to assist in an ultrasound-guided abortion of a fetus was at 13 weeks gestation. She said she was disconcerted to see how similar the ultrasound image looked to one of her own daughter. Johnson, who previously believed fetuses could not feel anything while being aborted, says she saw the fetus squirming and twisting to avoid the vacuum tube which would be used to suck and destroy the fetus.

"For the briefest moment," she wrote in her memoir, Unplanned, "the baby looked as if it were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then it crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then it was gone."

"I just thought I can't do this anymore, and it was just like a flash that hit me, and I thought that's it," Johnson said. She continued working at the clinic, but soon met with Shawn Carney, leader of the local pro-life group Coalition for Life and now a leader of 40 Days for Life, with whom she was well-acquainted after his years of activism against Planned Parenthood. She told him she could no longer continue assisting women in getting abortions. She resigned on October 6, 2009. "I feel so pure in heart [since leaving her job]. I don't have this guilt, I don't have this burden on me any more, that's how I know this conversion was a spiritual conversion," she said.

Johnson said after her resignation that her bosses had pressured her to increase profits by performing more and more abortions at the clinic. "Every meeting that we had was, 'We don't have enough money, we don't have enough money — we've got to keep these abortions coming.' It's a very lucrative business and that's why they want to increase numbers," she said. Johnson estimated the clinic profited $350 on every abortion. An article on questioned Johnson's statements regarding financial incentives for abortions, noting that abortions comprise only 3% of Planned Parenthood's services. Fox News reported that Johnson was unable to provide any emails, letters, or other evidence to support her allegations about pressure to perform abortions.

Johnson's description of her conversion has been questioned. Planned Parenthood stated that its records do not show any ultrasound-guided abortions performed on the date when Johnson says she witnessed the procedure, and the physician who performed abortions at the Bryan clinic stated that Johnson had never been asked to assist in an abortion. Although Johnson said the abortion was of a 13-week-old fetus, records from the Texas Department of Health show no such abortions performed at the Bryan Clinic on the date in question.

According to a court petition filed by Planned Parenthood, Johnson was put on a "performance improvement plan" four days before her resignation. The petition says that following this she was seen "removing items" from the clinic and copying "confidential files" and had given the résumé, home address and phone number of an abortion provider to Coalition for Life. Planned Parenthood was granted a temporary restraining order against Johnson and Coalition for Life after Johnson's resignation. The order was lifted by a court a week later. Johnson herself says the "performance improvement plan" was due to her reluctance to increase the number of abortions performed at her facility. Johnson also denies the accusations that she removed, copied, or distributed any confidential information and said in her book that her attorney disproved them at the time that the temporary restraining order was lifted.

Johnson's story received national coverage. She was embraced by the pro-life movement after her story went national in November 2009 and compared to Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in 1973. McCorvey joined the pro-life movement in 1995.

Pro-life activism

Soon after her resignation, Johnson joined Coalition for Life, which regularly prays outside her former clinic. She has also worked with 40 Days for Life.

Johnson released a book, Unplanned, in January 2011, detailing her work at Planned Parenthood and her conversion to the pro-life cause. She is the chief research strategist for Live Action, a pro-life organization best known for its campaigns and sting operations against Planned Parenthood.

In December 2011, it was announced that Johnson had been hired by Americans United for Life as Senior Policy Advisor.

Personal life and religion

Johnson revealed in January 2011 that she had had two abortions herself before the birth of her daughter, Grace. She is married and has one daughter.

Johnson was raised as a Southern Baptist, but left the church because it objected to her work at Planned Parenthood. She and her husband Doug, who was raised as a Lutheran, stopped attending church altogether for two years before joining the Episcopal Church, which has one of the most liberal stances on abortion of any Mainline Protestant denomination. After she went public with her conversion to the pro-life position, Johnson said she felt unwelcome at this church. She was received into the Roman Catholic Church on December 4, 2011.


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