Prominent activist Abby Johnson is calling on pro-lifers to practice “fierce mercy” by resisting the urge to dehumanize their opponents in the contentious national debate over abortion.
Once recognized as Planned Parenthood's employee of the year when she was the director of an abortion clinic in Texas, Johnson has since spoken publicly about the two abortions she had and the agony she's experienced knowing that she also played a role in the 22,000 abortions carried out at the facility she once ran.
The moment that led to Johnson walking away from the abortion industry to become a leading pro-life advocate was documented in the 2019 film "Unplanned." Now she's released a new book that details the “fierce mercy” she received from God and shares how Christians and pro-lifers can demonstrate that same mercy to those defending abortion.
As part of her work in the pro-life movement, Johnson founded a ministry called And Then There were None, which has helped over 430 abortion clinic workers leave the industry.
“I think the fact that I'm a person who worked in the abortion industry for eight years and then had two abortions of my own and helped to commit over 22,000 abortions, and now God has blessed me with eight beautiful children, [is] a perfect example of the mercy that He is willing and able to pour out on all of us,” said Johnson to The Christian Post during an interview about her book, Fierce Mercy: Daring to Live Out God’s Compassion in Bold and Practical Ways.
As one example of how Christians can "develop their skills of mercy and practically use those skills every day in their life," Johnson named pro-life pregnancy centers and Sidewalk Advocates for Life, a ministry that offers counseling and support to women seeking an abortion by “giving them some hope and a different option.” People who work at pregnancy centers and volunteer as sidewalk counselors are practitioners of “fierce mercy.”
That same mercy, she said, should be shown toward those on the opposite side of the abortion debate: “I think that because you’re so zealous for the unborn and protecting the unborn, I think that we can often get caught up in a cycle of dehumanization. And what I mean by that is, because we want to protect these children, we at times can dehumanize the mother that’s carrying this child. We can sometimes dehumanize those that work in the abortion clinic.”
“I think that we need to always remind ourselves that these people who are participating in an abortion, whether it’s the workers, whether it’s the mother who’s walking inside those doors, that they were also created in the image and likeness of our Lord,” she added. “They are worthy of mercy; they are worthy of redemption, and we need to really practice that in all areas of our life, particularly our pro-life activism.”
In the book, Johnson discusses her relationship with God and how it has evolved over the years as she began to embrace pro-life activism.
“I definitely fell out of relationship while I was working at Planned Parenthood," she told CP, noting that although she “went to church” while she worked at the abortion clinic, she had a “superficial” and “surface-level” relationship with God.
“You don’t want to really be in a relationship with God when you’re working in an abortion clinic because you don’t want to hear what He has to say back to you," she continued. "I think there’s … a part of you that knows what you’re doing is wrong. It wasn’t until I left the clinic that I really started refocusing on my relationship with God, and that was where I really had to learn how to experience the grace and mercy that He had for me.”
Johnson's reconnection to her faith also led her to convert to Roman Catholicism after she and he husband were banished from the Episcopal Church they had attended that was staunchly pro-choice.
“During my time at Planned Parenthood, we had been going to an Episcopalian church,” she recalled. “When I left Planned Parenthood, and when it became public that I was pro-life, we were called into our Episcopalian church and we were basically told that we were no longer welcome in the Episcopalian church and that we needed to leave. And so we started looking around for a new church community, and all of our new friends who were pro-life happened to be Catholic.”
Friends of the Johnsons encouraged them to attend Catholic mass. Even though they were initially reluctant to accept the invitation because they were both “raised kind of anti-Catholic,” they attended a few services and ultimately determined that they “wanted to learn more.”
“And so we found ourselves in an adult education class and we just knew that that was really where we belonged. We felt like that was where we felt Christ was really calling us to the Catholic Church, and so that’s where we stayed. It’s been a blessing. It hasn’t been an easy road for sure, but we love the church and we’re thankful that we made that decision.”
In addition to her new book, Johnson hosts a weekly podcast called "Politely Rude" on the Edifi Podcast Network, and will be launching a new TV program on Liftable TV, a project of the parent company that owns The Western Journal. She described the new endeavor as an opportunity to “allow me to be home more with my kids” and “give the public actually more access to me than they do have right now.”
In her interview with CP, Johnson also weighed in on the state of the pro-life movement nationwide and the debate about whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should receive communion. “I don’t think there should be any debate at all,” she asserted. “I think that if you are publicly going against Catholic teachings, whether it was me, whether it was a politician … anybody in the public space who [is] actively speaking against Catholic teachings, then I think that the bishops and priests should deny you communion.”
Johnson maintained that she was “hopeful” about the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, where the state of Mississippi is asking the justices to uphold a law that bans abortions after 15 weeks gestation. A ruling in favor of Mississippi would weaken the precedent set by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.
“I think it’s a very optimistic time for our movement, a very hopeful time. But also a time that people need to … get ready. They need to find their voice in the movement. They need to be sacrificing for the movement, sacrificing their time, sacrificing their finances.”
Johnson praised the response of the pro-life movement following the enactment of a six-week abortion ban in Texas, expressing gratitude that “the pregnancy centers have really had to step up and provide help to women in crisis, women in need and they have done that.”
She further predicted that a favorable ruling in Dobbs will require pro-lifers “to do that on a national level.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org