From the print edition of The New American:
Abby Johnson was Planned Parenthood’s superstar. In eight years, she rose from a college volunteer to one of their youngest clinic directors to “Employee of the Year.”
Then she assisted with an ultrasound-guided abortion for the first time, and what she saw changed everything.
“We were expanding abortion services in our affiliates to perform abortions through six months of pregnancy,” Johnson told The New American. “I didn’t support abortion that far into the pregnancy. Then we were instructed to double our abortion quota — a certain number of abortions that we had to sell to women coming in, which was bothersome to me.”
At the time, Johnson believed, “foolishly,” what she had been told — that Planned Parenthood was “trying to keep abortion rare,” but the demand to double their abortion quota didn’t align with what she believed the nonprofit organization’s mission was.
Then, in October 2009, a co-worker asked her to assist with an abortion at the clinic in Texas.
“Ultimately, I left [Planned Parenthood] after witnessing a live ultrasound-guided abortion procedure where I saw a 13-week-old baby fight and struggle for his life against the abortion instruments only to lose his life, and I knew that there was humanity in the womb,” Johnson says. “I knew that for all these years I had essentially put the rights of the woman above the rights of the unborn child, and it became very clear to me in that moment that our rights should be equal — that one shouldn’t supersede the other.”
After Johnson quit her job, Planned Parenthood sued and tried to slap a gag order on her.
“They tried to get a permanent gag order against me so I wouldn’t be able to talk about my experiences and the things I knew about the organization,” Johnson says. “And that was actually what was picked up by the media and really propelled me to then start sharing my story publicly and then subsequently writing Unplanned [a best-selling book based on her experiences].”
Described as a “divinely orchestrated thing” by those involved, a film based off her book, also called Unplanned, opens March 29 amid a number of other pro-life films, as speculation grows that the U.S. Supreme Court may soon weigh in on the controversial 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in America. The decision ruled that state laws banning abortion are unconstitutional.
Since that time, more than 61 million unborn children have died, according to National Right to Life, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization.
Planned Parenthood, which reported more than $1.6 billion in revenues in 2017-18, while posting over $240 million in “excess revenues,” is estimated to have made nearly $160 million performing over 330,000 abortions last year, according to National Right to Life’s annual report.
“I went in really naïve about what abortion was, what the abortion industry was,” Johnson says. “I certainly learned that it is an industry, that they are in this for profit. I remember being told by a supervisor that nonprofit is a tax status, not a business status.”
“They’re not a charitable organization. Abortions are not done for free. They are not done because they are trying to help women. They are done because they are trying to exploit women and manipulate women in a very vulnerable time of their lives, and I think we need to talk more about that — what true women’s empowerment means because I don’t think Planned Parenthood really understands what that is, and I think to profit off the crisis of another human being is really the antithesis of what it means to empower someone.”
With President Trump’s appointment of conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the high court, and the possibility he may make other appointments if one or more of the aging, liberal justices die, concerns are growing among abortion supporters that the Supreme Court may weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade.
If Trump names a replacement for 86-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has suffered health-related setbacks over the years and had two malignant nodules removed from her left lung in December, Republican appointees to the high court would outnumber Democratic ones six to three.
At least 20 abortion-related cases are now in the pipeline to the Supreme Court, and legal experts say any one of them could be the one that results in a decision that would send shockwaves around the planet.
“I think we are living in times where we could see Roe v. Wade overturned in the Supreme Court and pro-choice legislators are saying that as well,” says Johnson, now an anti-abortion activist and the founder and chief executive officer of And Then There Were None, a nonprofit organ-ization that exists to help abortion-clinic workers leave the industry.
“I think the response that we have seen with these incredibly liberal abortion laws in states like New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Virginia and New Mexico are very reactionary to that line of thinking — that we are living in times where we could see an end to the federal legality of abortion and move it back to the states.”
The film Unplanned, made by the writers and co-producers of God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2 and distributed by Pure Flix, tells the inspiring true story of Johnson’s journey of transformation.
Throughout her life, Johnson wanted to help women. As one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation, she was involved in upward of 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women about their reproductive choices. Her passion for a women’s right to choose even led her to become a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, fighting to enact legislation for the cause she believed in.
But all that changed on the day she witnessed the tragic reality of what an abortion involves, leading her to join her former enemies at 40 Days for Life and become one of the most ardent pro-life speakers in America.
The film is one of several pro-life movies that have been released recently or will be released soon. Others include Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (October 12, 2018), Roe v. Wade (late 2019), Order of Rights (pre-production), and The Moral Outcry (pre-production).
Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the director of civil rights for the unborn at Priests for Life, and the executive producer of Roe v. Wade, told The New American that the film Roe v. Wade tells the real history of the landmark case.
“It highlights the main players of the time as well as the Supreme Court justices,” King says. “It also looks at Norma McCorvey, the woman who was the ‘Roe’ in Roe v. Wade, who never had an abortion and never desired an abortion. But she was set up to be a poster child for something that she could never imagine. Before Norma’s death, she repented of her participation in that whole scenario and of course wanted to see Roe v. Wade reversed.”
Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight, who plays Chief Justice Warren E. Burger in Roe v. Wade, told The New American at the Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala in February in Universal City, California, that it’s an important film for people to watch.
“People are emotionally upset about the issue,” Voight says.
They are locked into their point of view about this issue without knowing very much about it; I have to say — that’s all of us. We all must go and see exactly what happened, what the issues are, and then we can look at it and then we can we have a conversation about it.
Right now, we’re dealing with mostly folks who aren’t quite clear about what actually happened so let’s get a little history lesson and see the personalities that created this decision, and what their criteria was, and then we’ll see was it good, was it bad, what was it? So, I’m looking forward to the conversations after people see the film, not before.
The Moral Outcry
Unplanned, Roe v. Wade, and other pro-life films come as the debate over abortion has taken center stage in the national conversation following New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s order in January directing the One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink to celebrate the signing of a law permitting late-term abortions.
“The Reproductive Health Act is a historic victory for New Yorkers and for our progressive values,” Cuomo said in a statement. “In the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session — and we got it done.”
In his State of the Union Address in February, Trump spoke against the law:
There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days. Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.
To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.
Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Cuomo wrote that the law protects “against the Republicans’ efforts to pack the Supreme Court with extreme conservatives to overturn the constitutional protections recognized in Roe v. Wade.”
The Republicans’ “goal is to end all legal abortion in our nation,” Cuomo wrote. “The Reproductive Health Act guarantees a woman’s right to abortion in the first 24 weeks of a pregnancy or when the fetus is not viable and permits it afterward only when a woman’s life or health is threatened or at risk.”
In this increasingly fractious political environment, Cuomo wrote that there has been continual anxiety that the high court will overrule Roe v. Wade. “Most observers of the Supreme Court believe the question is not if Roe will be overturned, but when,” Cuomo wrote.
Allan Parker, president of The Justice Foundation, a Texas attorney who practices mostly before the Supreme Court, the lead counsel for McCorvey in her 2000-to-2012 effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, and an advisor to The Moral Outcry film, told The New American that five justices on the Supreme Court have “at least an open mind about reversing Roe.”
Parker has gathered more than 161,000 signatures for the Moral Outcry Petition, a multi-year, multi-phase, public-interest litigation strategy designed to win reversal of the Supreme Court’s abortion cases of Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton (1973), and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). A coalition of dozens of prominent pro-life groups announced on February 27 that they are supporting the Moral Outcry Petition as a national project. The petition calls on the Supreme Court to reverse its abortion cases, and gives all Americans an opportunity to voice their moral outrage over abortion by signing the petition at www.TheMoralOutcry.com. The goal is to collect over a million signatures on this petition, which would constitute severe criticism of the abortion cases, which is a reason under the law of judicial precedent for overturning Supreme Court decisions.
The petition argues, based on the law of judicial precedent, that Roe v. Wade should be overturned because abortion is a crime against humanity and results in a variety of health problems for women, and new scientific evidence shows life begins at conception.
For example, there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child can experience pain by at least 20 weeks after fertilization, according to the National Right to Life report.
Meanwhile, the Human Genome Project found that as soon as the human egg and sperm come together, they have a complete, unique human genetic code, demonstrating that “this is a brand new, unique human individual,” Parker says.
“DNA testing wasn’t used in the courts until the 1980s, and if you DNA tested the mother’s arm and the baby in the womb anonymously, a DNA lab would tell you that these are two separate human beings,” Parker says. “Another thing that scientifically didn’t exist [in 1973] is the sonogram. These were not used in American medicine until about 1985. A dozen years after Roe v. Wade, we began to be able to see what’s in the womb and the sonogram shows that you can detect a heartbeat at six weeks, but the heart actually starts beating at 12 to 21 days, so there is a lot of new scientific evidence.”
Confident that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, Parker has urged states to pass post-Roe activation laws that would ban abortion the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned. In February, Arkansas lawmakers approved the Arkansas Human Life Protection Act based on the the Moral Outcry petition, Parker says.
The act declares it is “time for the United States Supreme Court to redress and correct the grave injustice and the crime against humanity” that is abortion.
“States like New York are feverishly working to protect abortion in their state laws because they are desperately afraid that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to reverse Roe v. Wade within the next one to three years,” Parker says. “So, they are looking ahead and trying to protect it at the state level when [abortion] loses its federal protection. The Arkansas statute says when Roe v. Wade is reversed abortion will be automatically illegal in Arkansas.”
Meanwhile, a poll in late February confirmed that many people are horrified by what’s happened in New York, and other states and are now walking away from the “pro-choice” label.
“Current proposals that promote late-term abortion have reset the landscape and language on abortion in a pronounced — and very measurable way,” Barbara Carvalho, director of The Marist Poll, said in a statement. “In a substantial, double-digit shift, according to the poll, Americans are now as likely to identify as pro-life (47 percent) as pro-choice (47 percent). Just last month, a similar survey conducted by The Marist Poll found Americans more likely to identify as pro-choice than pro-life by 17 percentage points (55 to 38 percent).”
Many States Ready to Outlaw Abortion
The recent changes in the makeup of the Supreme Court have raised the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be “severely undermined — or even overturned — essentially leaving the legality of abortion to individual states,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization named after the former president of Planned Parenthood.
Currently, at least 20 cases that could prompt a reversal of Roe v. Wade are working their way up to the Supreme Court, Parker says.
One of these involves a Louisiana law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facilities where an abortion is to take place. It may seem innocuous, but it’s a TRAP (Targeted Restriction on Abortion Providers) law designed to protect women’s health, and may shut down unsafe abortion clinics. Several states have adopted TRAP laws in recent years, including Louisiana and Mississippi. A few years ago, the high court rejected a TRAP law in Texas, saying it was not medically justified and constituted an “undue burden” on abortion access, but that was in 2016, before the confirmations of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on the enforcement of the Louisiana law while the court considers whether to hear the case. If the court decides to do so, it could open the door to revisiting and potentially overturning the ruling in Roe v. Wade.
“If a state passes a 20-week abortion ban or a heartbeat bill, or even a fetal burial statute or a dismemberment ban, these are all cases the Supreme Court could use to reverse Roe,” Parker says. “It does not have to be a complete and total ban on abortion. Any case in which the other side is saying, ‘You can’t do this because of Roe v. Wade,’ which is [the proponents of abortion’s] basic argument in all these cases, could be the case in which the court says, ‘You’re right and therefore we’re going to reverse Roe. v. Wade.’”
A reversal of Roe v. Wade could establish a legal path for states’ pre-1973 abortion bans, as well as currently unenforced post-1973 bans, to take effect, according to Guttmacher.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Parker says, a “big battle” would surely ensue in state courts and legislatures. Some state judges have found a constitutional right to abortion in their state constitutions. Meanwhile, some states have found a right to life in their constitutions. These states would ban abortion. The states that found a right to abortion in their constitutions would protect abortion unless the constitution was amended.
“So, the battle might be in the state court or might be in the state legislature to determine what the state law on abortion is going to be,” Parker says. “That is the most probable result.”
“It is possible that the Supreme Court could reverse Roe v. Wade and find a right to life in the Constitution because the right to life is expressly guaranteed in the 5th Amendment and the 14th Amendment. The 5th Amendment says no person shall be deprived of life without due process of the law. So, they could go all the way to striking down every state law on abortion.”
Nullification Is Alive and Well in America
Even as hope rises that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, pro-life advocates note that the U.S. Supreme Court, like the two other branches of the federal government, may only exercise those powers delegated to it by the Constitution, and that the Constitution doesn’t give the Supreme Court the power to decide whether abortion is legal.
“People just don’t understand the Constitution if they agree to submit to unconstitutional rulings,” Dr. Matthew Clark, a South Carolina doctor and chairman of the Board of Personhood SC, told The New American. “The Supreme Court has been wrong over 200 times. They have reversed their own rulings over 200 times.”
“They were wrong about Dred Scott [the 1857 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that Americans of African descent were not American citizens and could not sue in federal court] and they were wrong about Roe v. Wade. They were wrong, and the states need to stand up and tell them so and refuse to submit. Ignore Roe v. Wade is what we need to be crying out across our country.”
Clark and others note that Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution could be used to take away the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction to hear abortion cases. Also, they say that America’s most influential Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — recognized the duty of state governments to protect citizens and their rights from unconstitutional or immoral federal actions, an idea commonly referred to as “nullification.” And the God-given right to life, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, should certainly affect abortion legislation.
In recent years, voters in a growing number of states have nullified unconstitutional federal statutes by officially ending marijuana prohibition.
The idea behind nullification is simple: Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government was delegated a few defined powers by the states and the people. Prohibiting substances was not among those powers, hence the need for the constitutional amendment to ban alcohol in the early 20th century. Known as Prohibition, the 18th Amendment banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors from 1920 to 1933.
“Nullification is happening with sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, it’s happening with marijuana states, so the question is, do we have the courage necessary to stand for innocent lives when in America there are people who have the courage to stand for illegal immigration and for marijuana? I mean, it’s already being done. Nullification is alive and well in the United States of America,” Clark says.
Mercy for Mothers and Healing for America
Even if abortion is ultimately banned throughout the nation, or just in some states, Parker says, women won’t have to care for a child that they don’t want to take care of.
Currently, all 50 states have safe-haven laws that decriminalize the leaving of a baby at a hospital, police or fire station, or with a statutorily designated private person. These babies become wards of the state.
“The time periods [to leave the baby at a hospital or other location] vary from three days in California to a year in North Dakota, so there will be no coat-hanger abortions, there will be no going back to 1973,” Parker says. “We’ll move forward to a time where we say, ‘We are going to give justice to the child and mercy for the mother,’ mercy that says, ‘Don’t hurt yourself,’ because abortion hurts women.”
“I have collected over 4,600 legally admissible testimonies of women hurt by abortion and we know from scientific evidence that abortion hurts millions of women to varying degrees. Right now, this is a secret pain they carry — they bury it; they bury it with their aborted babies; but they bury it in their heart as well.”
Parker says at any time there are about a million people waiting to adopt healthy, newborn infants.
“So, don’t kill the baby, don’t hurt yourself, and give the baby to the families that are desperately longing to adopt babies in this country,” Parker says.
While Johnson shares Parker’s confidence that abortion laws will be overturned in America, she says the nation is not yet prepared for the massive changes that would bring.
“Are we ready for that? I don’t know,” Johnson says. “I think that we culturally have a long way to go before abortion truly becomes unthinkable, not just illegal, because that’s really my end goal — it’s not just to see the overturning of legal abortion in the United States, but to really see a time when abortion is unthinkable, so when we look back at the times of legal abortion, we will look back similarly as the way we look back at slavery or the Jewish Holocaust; that we look back and say, ‘We cannot believe that happened. We cannot believe that was allowed to happen.’”
Johnson believes that time is coming, preceded by a national debate over -abortion.
“I think that changing society overall is a longer process and changing the resources’ structure and just the cultural thinking of a society does take longer, but many times our morality is dictated by legality,” she says. “There are many women who have walked into our offices and said, ‘Well, I’ve never liked abortion, but it’s legal so it must be okay.’ So, I do think that even as abortion becomes illegal that would move our society in a way that would make it morally reprehensible in the minds of some people.”
Julie Wilkinson, a Holdenville, Oklahoma, nurse who once worked at an abortion clinic in Colorado and plays the role of an abortion nurse in Unplanned, told The New American that she believes the film will help people heal, because statistics show that abortion affects at least a third of all people in the United States.
“Either a wife, daughter, granddaughter — somebody’s had one,” Wilkinson says. “And because of that many people feel some shame for it; they may not openly say that, but they have it in their past, and because of that, they’re reluctant to go all out [to make] abortion illegal because there is a little part of them that still thinks, ‘Maybe somebody like my daughter who is only 16 will need to have this.’”
“But I believe when they see Unplanned and what goes on in these clinics, and how generally poor the care is and that the after-effects are still lingering for people for the rest of their lives as far as what they’ve done, I think it’s going to make people think again and realize that this is something that isn’t a convenience and it needs to end.”
Wilkinson says it’s hard to describe how shocking an abortion really is.
“When you see the parts of human beings who have been killed, there just really is no words for it,” Wilkinson says. “You can see pictures of it, but when you see that these are babies…. It’s something that will affect me the rest of my life. I kept it a secret for a really, long time because I was ashamed, and when I met Abby, I, of course, had already left the business, but I became part of the group she has to help support former workers. She helps get people out of the business.”
Actress Ashley Bratcher, who plays Johnson in Unplanned, says she believes the film will help many women who have had abortions, along with fathers of the babies, begin the process of healing.
“I think that in order to heal you have to reveal,” Bratcher says. “The only way you can come up out of the darkness is to confess and say, ‘This horrible thing happened in my life, I experienced this.’ Otherwise, you are just carrying around this burden and you think nobody can understand it and nobody can forgive you. But that’s what this movie is here to say: That’s not the truth.”
“Abby facilitated 22,000 abortions during her time at Planned Parenthood. That’s a pretty heavy burden to carry. And through the film we show how that burden was lifted for her, how she found forgiveness, and how she ultimately became part of a movement that is bringing healing.”
Bratcher believes the movie will help bring healing to a nation where nearly one in four women will have an abortion by age 45.
“It will bring about healing because we’ll start talking,” Bratcher says. “People will start saying, ‘I had a similar experience,’ or ‘I can relate to Abby because I did this,’ or ‘I worked in an abortion clinic and I understand.’”
The movie shows the “humanity of people on both sides of the fence,” she says.
“It’s understood in our film that we’re not dehumanizing abortion workers,” Bratcher says. “We show their hearts, we show that they really do believe they are helping women, as misguided as that sounds.”
The film doesn’t “dehumanize anyone,” (including the pre-born babies)and because of that it will help open up a conversation in America and a “way for people to speak out and say, ‘Yeah, that was my experience.’”
“I think that the response is going to be more incredible than we could have ever imagined,” Bratcher says. “It already has been, and I really think it’s been a divinely orchestrated thing for it all to come together at the time that it has.”
Photo credit: Photo/Students for Life
This article originally appeared in the April 8, 2019 print edition of The New American. The New American publishes a print magazine twice a month, covering issues such as politics, money, foreign policy, environment, culture, and technology. To subscribe, click here.