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Good morning! It‟s so good to be back in England. I was here in February 2012. It‟s always – we receive such good hospitality when we come to England. Robert, the 40 Days for Life leader, his wife Kara, have been so generous to us. Robert brought 40 Days for Life to England first in 2010 after he went on a mission trip to Canada and visited that country and saw 40 Days for Life and was introduced to it. He had the courage to bring it to the U.K. where it has since absolutely exploded. It is such a joy to be here. I have – I‟m married and have four beautiful children, 3 girls and a boy. The girls particularly are always excited when I come to the U.K. They are convinced that Robert knows the Queen and meets with her regularly. So it‟s always wonderful to be here. Coming to a place where so many of you are studying and a place where we‟re supposed to be learning and finding, seeking truth, that was the place where I first got involved in the pro-life movement. When I went to University I went to Texas A&M University, which is the third largest university in America. There are 60,000 students in the town where Abby and I both lived, College Station, Texas. The whole town is about 200,000 people, but 60,000 of those are university students. That‟s where I first got involved in the pro-life movement. I‟ll never forget one of the first times I was ever asked to speak at an event outside of the state of Texas was in Washington State, an area that is extremely hostile to the pro-life movement. I gave a speech and the next day I was being driven back to the airport. I was 22 years old at the time. I had just gotten out of college and gotten married. I asked the guy driving me a very naïve question that sort of woke me up to the reality of what we face in the U.K. and in the United States of abortion. I asked him how he got involved in the pro-life movement. I was doing so just to make conversation and make the time pass on the way to the airport. This gentleman immediately began to tear up. I could tell that I was in for a story. He shared with me how he had left his Catholic faith many years ago, left the church. He worked in a Catholic hospital examining organs that were removed from people – appendixes, livers, and so forth. He would have to examine them in the lab and then send them off. They would arrive by FedEx. There was a confusion one day at his lab and he received the shipment that was supposed to go to the secular hospital. In that shipment he saw a ziplock bag that had a perfectly formed 13 week old baby boy sitting in this ziplock plastic bag. That was the product of a saline abortion. The man immediately was taken back by what he was looking at. He supported abortion, but like most people, it was very passive and something at a distance that he didn‟t really talk about on a daily basis. Here he was looking at this beautiful baby boy who was dead. What really struck him, which really speaks to us and the reality that we face today is how that bag was labeled. On the bag was “POC.” “Product of Conception.” When he read that, looking at this beautiful baby boy, his heart just sank. He ended up – that was the starting point of him returning to his faith and getting very involved in the pro-life movement. As we look at the pro-life movemment at large, and certainly having the joy of Abby here over in the United Kingdom, we see that our movement is a movement of converts. We are not selfrighteous Christians standing on the street corners telling the world what to do. We are following the convictions not only of science and reason, but of natural law and faith to defend the most obvious thing that needs to be defended. That gentleman was hit over the head by a 2x4. That was sort of his leap into the pro-life movement. OXFORD TALK Page 3 of 10
But for most of us, God ticks away at us throughout our life. That was certainly the case for me. I went to a Catholic high school in East Texas. When you go to a Catholic High School in East Texas, 92% of the students are Southern Baptist. So I was one of the few Catholics. We had wonderful, wonderful Irish priests in that school. They gave me a great example. So when I was at University my then-girlfriend, now wife, got me involved in the pro-life movement. It was there that we led the first ever 40 Days for Life campaign, which was 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil, and 40 days of community outreach. The peaceful vigil took place outside of our local Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Planned Parenthood in the United States is the largest abortion provider in the country. That was the Planned Parenthood where Abby also volunteered and eventually worked at for 8 years. She was actually the 2008 Planned Parenthood Employee of the Year. When we launched 40 Days for Life in the fall of 2007 it has since gone to 522 cities, 21 different countries, including the explosive growth in the United Kingdom under Robert‟s leadership. Abby witnessed that growth, leaving her abortion facility in Texas and being spread around the world. We‟ve seen 88 abortion facility workers who have had a change of heart, had a conversion and left their jobs during a 40 Days for Life campaign. Abby is actually the 26th worker that left when she left back in 2009. We‟ve also had the joy of seeing 8,245 moms choose life at the very last moment. We actually got to meet one of the babies that was saved here in the U.K. Thursday night at the banquet. It was so beautiful. We have these over 8,245 children that are spared. It is so easy when you look at the 190,000 that are aborted every year in the United Kingdom, or the 1.2 million every year in the United States, and it‟s so easy to get lost in those statistics and to forget that yes, in the midst of an argument or a healthy debate, or a prayer or a sermon that these ultimately are people that we are talking about – made in the image and likeness of God. Dangerous things happen when people are simply referred to as mere statistics. Abortion certainly reminds us of that. It reminded this gentleman who was driving me to the airport that children are not statistics and that we are not made to be products of conception. We are made to be saints. It was a very beautiful to see 40 Days for Life spread throughout the world because it‟s always a cliché to say this is about hearts and minds, but it really is about hearts and minds. Abby‟s story, which she‟ll share here in a moment, really points to that of why we go out there and peacefully pray at an aboriton facility, but particularly why in an academic setting we need to discuss this issue. The first course I took when I was in college, I was a philosophy major, it was modern day moral controversies. The first day the professor announced that we would discuss everything – the just war theory, the death penalty (which we have in the United States), we would discuss everything EXCEPT abortion, because it was too controversial. I‟m sure you‟ve never encountered professors like this so it‟s so foreign to you. The setting where we are supposed to be seeking truth, where we are supposed to be arguing and bickering and putting forth respectable points to come to a conclusion, abortion is not allowed in those settings. That speaks to the reality of how personally that we take this. We have removed it from its proper place in our culture because it is so detrimental to our society that we can‟t even talk about it. We have to talk about it in the abstract.
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That‟s how it survives. That‟s how it survived for 46 years here in the U.K. and for 40 years in the United States. Our two countries that have brought so much good and justice to the world, we now find ourselves in the midst of a new enemy, and that enemy is within our countries. It‟s within our cultures, and a radicle, personal autonomy that we have granted ourselves to once again make people property. That‟s really the approach, the reason that during a 40 Days for Life campaign we take the approach that we do. That it‟s truth in love, and certainly truth in action to show the compassion for the women, for the workers, and yes, for these unborn children. Abby and I never would‟ve imagined we‟d be at Oxford together, at least not on the same side, maybe debating each other. She was the director of the Planned Parenthood in Texas and I was the director of the local pro-life organization, the Coalition for Life. We both did media interviews against one another‟s points many, many times. After Abby, for the first time after working at Planned Parenthood for 8 years, after being their employee of the year, she was asked to assist with an ultrasound guided abortion where she witnessed a 13 week old baby boy fight for his life and lose it right before her eyes. She had the courage to resign from her position and leave that industry. Now, in the United States, she is one of the biggest advocates for the unborn, and a powerful voice. It‟s such a joy to have her. I want to introduce her so she can share some of her story with you. We want to be sure that we take questions and try to provide answers. ABBY: Hi! It is good to be here with all of you. I remember when I worked at Planned Parenthood in 2004 I was at the clinic. It was a day we were doing abortions. We had clinic escorts. People that were volunteers for Planned Parenthood would escort women from their car to the front door so that they wouldn‟t be able to talk to the people on the other side of the fence. Because they‟re all about choice. I was talking with one of the escorts and she said, “Shawn Carney came to my house yesterday.” I said, “What? Why?” She said, “They‟re doing some kind of prayer thing.” This was before 40 Days ever happened, this was just kind of an idea to them. She said, “They‟re doing some kind of prayer thing outside of our clinic.” I said, “Really?” She said, “Yeah, he gave me a flyer.” I said, “Well, what did it say?” She said, “It just said, „Pray to end abortion‟ and he asked me to pray to end abortion.” I said, “Well, what did you say?” She said, “I just said, „ok.‟” Because it was a new concept at that time. We had people outside of the clinic for years since it opened in 1998. There had not been this peaceful prayer movement outside of the clinic. It was a very aggressive scene outside of the clinic. Probably one of the reasons that I continued to volunteer with Planned Parenthood, I first volunteered with them in 2001. I remember not really knowing how I felt about abortion, not really knowing how I felt about volunteering at the abortion facility, but I drove up that day and I saw people outside with really large graphic signs and I saw them outside with signs saying, “You‟re a murderer!” I heard them yelling to women and calling them names as they walked in. It was at that moment where I thought, if this is what it means to be a Christian pro-lifer then I didn‟t want any part of it.
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It was at that moment where I became very protective of the women going into the clinic. I often wonder if it would‟ve been different for me if I would‟ve gone to volunteer the first time and would‟ve seen a 40 Days for Life presence outside instead of an angry mob essentially, outside of the abortion clinic. I wonder if I would‟ve just turned around and said, “I don‟t get it. They‟re out here peacefully praying. Why do you need us out here? This seems ridiculous.” I often wonder – I had an abortion in 2000, and I often wonder if 40 Days for Life had been outside of the abortion where I had my first abortion, would my life have been different. Would I have made a diffent choice? Instead, I walked in alone, with absolutely no opposition. So we never know how our lives could be different based on the actions of others around us. That‟s really our responsibility, isn‟t it? That‟s one of our responsibilities is to be our brother‟s keeper and to share Christ everywhere we go. Sometimes it‟s with our words and sometimes it‟s with our actions. Many times with 40 Days for Life, it is solely with our actions and our prayers and just showing up outside of these places where abortions are taking place. I began working with Planned Parenthood in 2001. As much as I would like to tell you that I had a lot of internal turmoil or inner angst about what I was doing, I didn‟t. I enjoyed my job. I enjoyed what I did. I believed that I was there to help women. I didn‟t get involved with Planned Parenthood because I was this blood thirsty person who just loved abortion. That was never it for me. I believed that at Planned Parenthood we were trying to reduce the number of abortions. That‟s what they say. You‟ll never see a Planned Parenthood commercial or Marie Stopes commercial that says, “We are really excited about all of the abortions we provided last year.” That‟s not how they come off, right? They come off as a charitable and giving organization, almost like a benefactor to the masses, and providing all this healthcare for women. So I believed that we were there to provide safe alternatives for women and that we were there to reduce the abortion rate. That‟s what I believed for years. It wasn‟t until I had a budget meeting with my supervisor in 2009 where I was looking at my budget from the previous year and the upcoming fiscal year and inside of every abortion clinic there is a quota for the amount of abortions this facility must sell. Abortion is a product that the industry is selling. There was a quota there. I knew the quota existed, but we never had a hard time meeting the quota so it had never come up. It was never really in the back of my mind. But this year I was looking at these pieces of paper and I noticed that our abortion quota for the upcoming fiscal year had doubled. I was confused by that. That didn‟t make sense to me. If our goal as we said at Planned Parenthood was to reduce the number of abortions, then why are we doubling this quota? Why do we have a quota in the first place? If our goal is to reduce the number of abortions, then really it would be fantastic if that number was zero. But we know that that is not in fact their goal. Their goal is to sell abortion to the masses and to normalize abortion really is their primary goal, to normalize it so when women are seeking abortion services it feels like something normal to do. It feels like it is not morally objectionable. I don‟t know if anyone heard me on BBC Women‟s Hour yesterday? But the woman who was on it – it was interesting the things that she said. I was laughing to myself when she was talking because this one particular thing that she said, she was talking about how abortion is an unselfish OXFORD TALK Page 6 of 10
decision for women. They asked me why I had had two abortions. I said it was two selfish decision that I made, two mistakes. She was talking about how abortion is unselfish and how it is a decision that women make unselfishly to better themselves, to better their current families, and to better their future families. I was laughing to myself when she said that because I helped develop that talking point at Planned Parenthood. I used to say that often. That‟s really all it is. It‟s rhetoric. It‟s propaganda on their side. It‟s a talking point. Everything that they say is a talking point because it‟s not something you can really believe in your heart. So it‟s something that they can only believe in their head. No one can believe in their heart that killing a vulnerable defenseless person would be the right thing to do. So they believe it in their head, but they try to convince their heart but their heart won‟t allow it. That‟s why all the talk – when I talk about abortion, it‟s from the heart for me because it‟s real and it‟s something that I believe. It‟s not just up here (in my head), but it‟s in here (in my heart.) It‟s the opposite for those that support abortion. It was interesting to me because she knew all the Planned Parenthood talking points. I just found it interesting to see how even Planned Parenthood‟s culture that‟s so pervasive in the United States, has even seeped over here into the culture of the United Kingdom. I walked away from that budget meeting with my supervisor feeling confused. But after eight years of justifying my sin, my participation in abortion, I somehow justified that meeting and walked away. About a month later we had a visiting physician come into town. He was going to do an ultrasound guided abortion procedure. That‟s not something that‟s common inside of abortion clinics. Most abortions are done in a blind fashion. So they have a suction tube that is inserted into the woman‟s womb. The physician will blindly probe around in the woman‟s uterus until they think they have enough blood and tissue in the jar. That was the way that I knew abortion to take place. It was the only way that I had ever seen abortion take place. So when I was asked to assist in this I thought sure, this would be a wonderful learning opportunity for me to see a different type of abortion procedure. So, as Shawn said, during the abortion procedure I was holding the ultrasound probe in place. I watched as this 13 week old boy was fighting and struggling for his life during the abortion procedure. He was flailing his arms and legs. It was apparent that he was trying to move away from the probe, but there was nowhere for him to go. After the procedure was over, I can‟t say that I walked out of the room feeling sad or feeling a sort of devastation. I walked out feeling shocked. I walked out feeling very numb. I was shocked because Planned Parenthood had told me and I had then in turn told thousands of women, that the fetus had no sensory development or did not feel anything until 28 weeks. So as I‟m watching this 13 week old child fight and struggle for his life, that was shocking to me. I walked out feeling betrayed. I walked out knowing that I had betrayed thousands of women because I had spoken a lie. They asked me the question, and I had given them a lie in response. I hate liars. I realized that I was one of the biggest ones ever. It took a week. I didn‟t want to leave my job. I made great money at Planned Parenthood. It would be a lie to say that I was just really excited about leaving that part of my life behind me. I OXFORD TALK Page 7 of 10
wasn‟t. I didn‟t know what that would look like. I knew that I would be leaving all my friends. I knew that I would be leaving a very generous and stable income. I knew that I would be leaving different various perks, retirement and all these things behind. I didn‟t know what that would look like. So I didn‟t want to. I tried to make it ok in my head. I tried to make what I saw on the screen ok. But in the end, I just couldn‟t. So about a week later on a Monday I was sitting in my office. It was during 40 Days for Life. There were these two women that always took this shift in the morning. I knew them and recognized them. I guess for the first time I was really praying. I was trying to connect with God in a way I had not actively been trying to connect. I put on a front. I went to church every Sunday and I pretended that I was a follower of Christ, because that made everybody feel better that there were Christians working in the abortion industry and it made our point more effective to be a Christian and be directing an abortion clinic. But I guess for the first time I really tried to connect with God. I was praying and I felt like – I was just asking him. I need someone to talk to. I need somewhere to go. My husband who‟s here with me, he was always pro-life so we didn‟t really talk about my work. That was always a source of tension in our marriage. My parents were on vacation, and my mom is terrible in a crisis, so I‟m not calling her. So I thought, I‟m not going to call my parents, so who am I going to talk to? All my friends worked in the abortion industry. I was looking out my window and I felt like God was telling me to go to these people that were outside with 40 Days for Life. I thought, no, give me somebody else. Anybody! I do not want to go to these people. I didn‟t know, at that moment, I didn‟t know if I had the guts to do it. I didn‟t know if I had the courage to walk over there and say, “You‟ve been right and I‟ve been wrong all these years.” I didn‟t know if I had that type of humility to admit that I had been wrong for all these years. I ended up, I said, alright, I‟ll go. So I got in my car and I drove the 50 yards down the street, because their office was conveniently located next to our abortion clinic. I drove into their parking lot. I called the office. I didn‟t just want to walk in. That would be strange. So I wanted to call. So I called. This woman named Heather picked up the phone. I said, “Hi, this is Abby Johnson of Planned Parenthood.” She knew who I was obviously. I said, “I‟m in your parking lot. I would really like to come in the back door and talk to you guys.” I said, “Would that be possible?” She said, “Can you hold please?” So I said, “Yes.” About 30 seconds later she picked up the phone and said, “Ok, we‟re going to open the back door.” They opened the back door. They‟re all three standing there like a statue staring at me and looking quite fearful. So I went in. That was it. They – I didn‟t know how they were going to react. I started talking about my story and talking about what I had seen and saying I wanted to leave. I didn‟t know how they were going to respond. I didn‟t know if they were going to look at me and say, “That‟s great, but you‟ve been really rude to us the past 8 years and so you owe us a big ol‟ apology.” I didn‟t know if they were going to say, “It‟s too late. You‟ve been doin g this for 8 years and we‟re not interested in helping you.” I didn‟t know what they were going to say. Honestly, they could‟ve legitimately said either of those. Those answers would‟ve been justified. I walked out of there feeling like I had just experienced the closest thing that I will ever experience to Christ‟s forgiveness in human form. It was over. That was it. OXFORD TALK Page 8 of 10
After my story went public, thanks to Planned Parenthood, one of the gals who was there, Karen, was interviewed by a reporter. He was trying to get the dirt on Abby Johnson. “We want to know what she was really like before she became pro-life.” So he was asking her all of these questions and wanting to get all this information. She finally just looked at him and said, “I can‟t answer that question for you because I don‟t know who that person is anymore. She‟s a new creation in Christ.” That was literally how it was after I left the industry. I certainly didn‟t expect this for my life. I didn‟t expect to be speaking publicly and doing this type of work. I didn‟t expect to be a public pro-life figure for sure, that‟s not what I would‟ve wanted for my life. I didn‟t know what I wanted to do. I felt like when I left the clinic that God had kind of rolled out this plan, but I wasn‟t sure what the plan really looked like. I knew I was going to be doing speaking, things like that, but I didn‟t know what else it would involve. I was approached, or my agent was approached by a publisher and said, “Would Abby consider writing her story and writing a book?” I hate writing, so I said, “No, absolutely not.” Then a few months later they were approached again. My agent came, it was a different publisher. “Would you consider writing a book?” “No, never.” Then about eight months later I had written a book. So we got the book published. Really, I only wrote it for one reason. That was, when I worked in the industry, I kept thinking while I was working in the industry if someone like me had come out and had defected from the organization and they had been a clinic director, would I pick up their book and read it? I thought yes, I would. I know I would. I would pick it up and read it as a critic to say how wrong they were. But I knew I would pick it up and read it. I thought, if I write this book and just one abortion clinic worker picks up the book and reads it, finds some truth in it and leaves their job, then that would be worth me taking the time to write this book. I didn‟t know if it would happen, but that was my whole intention for writing it. My book came out, UnPlanned came out in January 2011. Within about six months I had been contacted by 17 abortion clinic workers who had read the book or heard of my story because of the book and had left. So I was trying to help them on my own. My husband and I were helping them financially on our own. When it got up to 17 I thought I actually need to do something with this. I didn‟t know how to start an organization, but I knew that something was needed. I was looking around trying to find an organization for abortion clinic workers, but there was none that was specifically for them. I started this organization called And Then There Were None. We ended up having, we thought that if we had 12 workers come to us in a year that we would consider ourselves very blessed. We thought it would be a hard sell to the abortion clinic workers. In 17 months we‟ve had 91 workers come to us. That‟s been surprising, but it‟s also been affirmation to us that this was not my idea but something that truly was God-breathed and something that needed to happen inside the pro-life movement. My ministry provides emotional support and financial support during their transition out of the industry and legal support. There are many times a lot of legal issues that follow clinic workers around after they leave. And spiritual support. We‟ve just been very blessed to see the fruits of our labor and feel like tis was really a missing piece of the pro-life puzzle in the United States. I‟m just honored to be doing it and doing this work. OXFORD TALK Page 9 of 10
If you guys have any questions, we‟d be happy to answer them for you. [End of Transcript.]
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