Tag Archives: abby johnson

WHAT TO SEE: View from the fence

Ashley Bratcher, Brooks Ryan
Run time: 106 min
Rated R

Abby Johnson went from volunteer escort to clinic director during her meteoric rise through the Planned Parenthood hierarchy. She even had a stint as a POC (“Products of Conception”) technician, responsible for reassembling body parts of aborted fetuses to ensure the womb had been emptied. But it was only after she assisted in an ultrasound-guided abortion for the first time that she was struck with the undeniable reality that abortion kills children.

Unplanned, just released nationwide March 29, is her story. It’s a powerful drama, and not just for its few particularly intense scenes. For many adult viewers, a Kleenex alert is in order

“My story is not a comfortable one to read… but honest and true,” writes Johnson, now an ardent pro-life activist, in her book of the same title. While retrospectively admitting her values and actions were inconsistent during her naïve years with Planned Parenthood, she also holds she was driven by true compassion for women.

But Johnson (Ashley Bratcher) gradually finds that the organization’s stated objective to “make abortions rare” doesn’t jibe with its relentless drive to “sell” abortions, Planned Parenthood’s bread and butter.

In the movie, pro-life advocates keep prayerful vigil at the fence, occasionally engaging clinic workers and clients in respectful dialogue.

Abby’s adoring husband (Brooks Ryan) and parents disapprove of her work but lovingly employ gentle reasoning.

Unplanned acknowledges there are pro-life extremists, and most clinic workers appear as genuinely nice people. This isn’t a propaganda piece; it doesn’t have to be. Presenting the simple facts from both sides of the fence already provides testimony sufficient for sparking serious reflection on what authentic respect for human life really means.

Unplanned received an “R” rating for “some disturbing/ bloody images” despite having no profanity, nudity, sex, or violence. The film reveals to viewers “exactly what abortion is — and abortion is disturbing. It’s violent,” said Abby Johnson in response. “No one will walk away from seeing this movie and say ‘I didn’t know.’”

Everyone needs to know. Your children need to know. Leave the pre-adolescents at home, but take your teens. Plan to see Unplanned.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.


The Walls Are Talking

Abby Johnson
Ignatius Press, 2016
157 pages, hardcover $17.95

The pro-life movement is winning — in part because of technology like ultrasound machines, but more importantly because God made the human heart to respond to truth. This book narrates the life-changing experiences of former abortion clinic workers. These individuals, whose names have been changed to protect their identities, left the abortion industry after experiencing a change of heart. Subtitled Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories, the book is often difficult to read because an abortion is an act of violence. But the stories also offer hope, for they show that anyone, no matter what part they have played in an abortion, can start anew.

OrderAmazon, Ignatius Press

Birth of a mission

David Bereit left a lucrative sales position to save babies and co-found 40 Days for Life . . .

David Bereit

David Bereit

David Bereit was a successful pharmaceutical sales rep with a company car, expense account, and substantial paycheck when he got a phone call that led him to give it all up for the pro-life cause.

“I will never forget,” Bereit explained. “It was June 26, 2001, and I was calling on doctors in Hearne, Texas, when my cell phone rang.” It was Lauren Gulde, executive director of the Coalition for Life, who told him that Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, had aborted 10 more children that day.

Bereit was crushed. Just three years earlier, he had joined the coalition formed to oppose the opening of the Planned Parenthood facility, eventually becoming board chairman. Once the clinic opened, the coalition put together a plan to close it, but within a month, nothing had been done.

“I knew we had things we could be doing and weren’t doing,” Bereit said. “Maybe,” he told Gulde, “I need to quit my job and do this — make it happen.”

He talked to his wife, Margaret, thinking she would object. But to his surprise, she signaled her support, saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Changing hearts

Little did Bereit know that his decision to become executive director of the coalition would lead three years later to 40 Days for Life — a prayer and fasting campaign outside abortion clinics that since has gone global, reaching 539 cities in every U.S. state and 24 other nations. With 625,000 volunteers and 3,039 campaigns, the effort has seen at least 8,973 lives saved, 56 clinics closed, and 101 clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis

Bishop Michael Sis, who got to know the Bereits while they were students and he was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish at Texas A&M University in College Station, said he could not have predicted that Bereit would take the route he did.

“David always came across as very professional and competent, but the career path I thought he was going to follow had to do with sales, marketing and corporate America,” said Bishop Sis, who heads the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas.

As he helped Bereit discern leaving his sales position, Bishop Sis said he could see that the young husband and father trusted in God’s providential care for his family and was guided by a sense of mission to defend the unborn.

Bishop Sis said he believes the 40 Days campaign that grew from Bereit’s decision has worked because it’s prayerful and peaceful.

“Sometimes you have protesters who kind of presume ill will in the hearts of those they’re opposing. This movement trusts in the power of God to change hearts through a loving, peaceful presence.”

That’s precisely what Abby Johnson, who left her job in 2009 as Planned Parenthood director in Bryan, Texas, noticed when 40 Days for Life began outside her clinic in 2004.

When she started working there, she said, pro-life advocates stationed outside tended to be more hostile toward the clients and the clinic workers. With the onset of 40 Days, she said, “It was as if they had reclaimed the sidewalk for peace. The people who were shouting and condemning were gone, along with their huge, graphic signs. What was left was a group of people who were prayerful, kind and peaceful.”

Those keeping vigil knew her name, told her they were praying for her, and offered her help if she ever wanted to leave. When she did decide to quit, she said, “I knew that I had a safe place to land.”

Praying for the vulnerable

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

David Bereit and Lila Rose speak at late-term abortionist Cesare Santangelo’s office in Washington, D.C.

The idea to fast and pray for 40 days outside abortion clinics was born when Bereit and several other Coalition for Life leaders gathered around a conference table in 2004 to pray for direction. Over the previous three years, they had maintained a presence outside Bryan’s Planned Parenthood and sought to educate the community, but their efforts had slowed while the number of abortions increased.

As they prayed, Bereit said, “There wasn’t some booming voice from on high, but we started having ideas pop into our heads.”

The first was to do something for 40 days because God had used that number in the Bible for periods of transformation. Next came a plan to maintain a 24-hour-a-day prayer vigil in the right-of-way outside the clinic. Finally, they knew they needed community outreach. One of their members, Shawn Carney, devised a plan to reach 35,000 households with a team of college students.

The coalition kicked off the campaign on Sept. 1 with more than 1,000 participants. At the end of 40 days, the number of abortions had decreased 28% in Bryan.

Over the next three years, the concept spread to Dallas, Houston, Green Bay, and Kitsap County, Washington. But when the coalition learned that a group in Charlotte, N.C., had organized a 40 Days for Life without any help from the Texas coalition, Bereit said, “That’s when we knew we’ve got something bigger than just three, four or five cities.”

Abby Johnson

Abby Johnson

By 2007, Bereit started organizing a nationwide 40 Days for Life while working for the American Life League. As the effort took off, ALL released him to set up a separate organization.

Catholic connection

In devoting himself to pro-life work and developing 40 Days, Bereit, the son of a Presbyterian minister, has kept his

Christian faith at the center. A winner of Legatus’ 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award, Bereit isn’t Catholic. His wife and two children are.

As he has learned more about Catholicism, Bereit said, he has come to admire the Church and to respect its commitment to human life. He continues to discern whether God may be calling him into the Church. “I always pray, ‘God, don’t let me stand in the way of where you want me to be.’”

Bereit said his wife has never pressured him to convert, but his daughter Claire is more aggressive.

A 16-year-old high school junior, Claire confesses she would like to see her father enter the Church. She said it’s been difficult knowing that he doesn’t share all her beliefs, especially when the family goes to Mass together and he cannot join them in receiving Communion.

“It makes me really sad sometimes, but I know he has a really strong faith and he is already an amazing man.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.


David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

David and Margaret Bereit pose with their children at Easter 2014

Legates for Life

Just as he was able to take what he learned in sales and transfer it to the pro-life movement, David Bereit said he believes Legatus members could employ their abilities to benefit ministries like 40 Days for Life.

Legates, he said, may not even recognize the skills they possess as valuable to the pro-life movement and other ministries, but most people doing such work don’t have high-level business skills.

“If Legates are willing to tithe some of their experiences, insights and incredible gifts to ministries promoting a Culture of Life, I think they could revolutionize the pro-life movement.”

Bereit said he also has been strongly influenced by the franchising model described in Legatus founder Tom Monaghan’s book, Pizza Tiger, and his idea of taking a concept and replicating it to build an effective organization.



Learn more:



Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-Life Award

David Bereit

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

David Bereit receives the 2013 Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award from Tom Monaghan and Joe Faricy

Reggie Littlejohn
Rita Marker
John Smeaton

Richard Doerflinger
Chuck Donovan
Michael Schwartz

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke
Steve & Vivian Koob
Thomas S. Monaghan
Dan Zeidler

Alveda King
Sam & Gloria Lee
Monsignor Philip Reilly

George W. Bush
Kathleen Eaton
Cardinal Francis George
Johnny Hunter
Dinah Monahan

John Haas
Molly Kelly
Janet Morana

Chris & Joan Bell
Denise Cocciolone
Sisters of Life
Sr. Paula Vandegaer

Joan Byrum
Peggy Hartshorn
Thomas W. Hilgers
Jerry Horn
James Hughes
Bernard Nathanson

James Bopp Jr.
Fr. Tom Euteneuer
Karen Garnett
Magaly Llaguno
Barbara Lyons
Germaine Wensley

Theresa Burke
Mark Crutcher
Nellie Gray
Fr. Frank Pavone
Austin Ruse

Sal Bando
Bishop Victor Galeone
Sen. Rick Santorum
Joseph Scheidler
Phyllis Schlafly
John & Barbara Willke

Judie Brown
Sam Brownback
Greg Cunningham
Fr. Paul Marx
Colleen Parro
Deby Schlapprizzi

Rep. Henry Hyde

Game changer: 40 Days for Life

Former abortion worker Abby Johnson writes that love and prayer will change hearts . . .

Abby Johnson

The 40 Days for Life campaign has garnered massive attention since it went nationwide in 2007. It is held each spring and fall in front of the most hopeless places our world has ever known — abortion mills that profit from the systematic killing of human beings at their most vulnerable stage of life.

This international pro-life campaign is rooted in peaceful and prayerful activism. It has united over 500,000 pro-life activists, spared the lives of 5,000 babies, shut down 21 abortion clinics, and led to the conversion of 61 abortion clinic workers. I am one of them. I was clinic director of a Planned Parenthood abortion-performing facility in Bryan, Texas, where 40 Days for Life was founded.

I had worked with Planned Parenthood for eight years and been the director for two of them when I felt God stir my heart. On an ultrasound, I witnessed a 13-week-old baby fight for and eventually lose his life to a surgical abortion in September 2009. I realized then that I had deceived and hurt countless women and played a pivotal role in ending the lives of their unborn children. Since I began working for Planned Parenthood, there had always been pro-life activists standing outside the clinic, greeting me in the mornings and waving goodbye to me when I left. They had always said they’d be there for me if I ever needed anything from them. More than ever, I needed something from them.

The staff at the Coalition for Life welcomed me with open arms when my pro-choice church no longer would. I had a safe haven, people I could trust to help me. Adjustment to a new life was a terrible struggle, but they stayed by my side along the way. Finally, I began telling my story. I wanted the world to know the horrible injustice that is being perpetrated inside clinics across the country right under our noses.

If it had not been for the peaceful and loving volunteers that stood outside of my clinic during 40 Days for Life, there is a good chance I’d still be working in the abortion industry. If I had been ridiculed and reprimanded by pro-lifers who stood outside the clinic, I would have had no one to turn to when I saw a baby violently lose his life in the name of “choice.” Because of the compassionate, heartfelt outreach from 40 Days for Life prayer warriors, I was able to get out of the abortion industry and tell my story to anyone who would listen.

This is why it’s so important that anyone who calls themselves pro-life engage in 40 Days for Life in all aspects — fasting, prayer and clinic outreach. We are out there to save the lives of the unborn and help their mothers in desperate need of love and understanding. But we’re also out there to love those who persecute us, including those who work in the abortion clinics. I am a living testimony that the persistent, loving prayers of those who stand in front of abortion facilities have an impact.

The face of the pro-life movement is changing, and it’s changing fast. It’s no longer about swarms of angry anti-abortion protesters who stand in front of abortion clinics, yelling at and demeaning women. It has become a movement of peace and understanding, one of offering hope to women in a crisis. As Christians, we need to realize that this is the one and only way to end the atrocity of abortion. We cannot end violence with hate and anger. We need to bring the light of Christ to the darkest of places and reach out to those who are most in need of understanding.

It isn’t comfortable standing outside an abortion clinic. However, we are not called to be comfortable with our convictions — we are called to be faithful to them. One person praying for just one hour in front of one abortion clinic could change the hearts and minds of everyone that sees them. Imagine if all Christians gave just one hour during a 40 Days for Life campaign to go out and pray in front of these abortion clinics. What an incredible difference we would make! It is our duty as followers of Christ to do as He did, to put the needs of others before ourselves and to be there for our brothers and sisters who go into those clinics — and those who work in them as well.

Abby Johnson is the chief research strategist for Live Action Films and senior policy advisor for Americans United for Life. A former Planned Parenthood clinic director, she described her conversion in her best-selling book “unPlanned.” She entered the Catholic Church in December 2011.


Abby Johnson’s gripping story has rallied the entire pro-life movement . . .

Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line
Ignatius, 2011. 288 pages, $22.99 hardcover

When Johnson quit her job as the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, the media went wild, lawsuits were filed, and pro-life advocates rejoiced. In Unplanned, she reveals the details of her dramatic move from abortion rights advocate to the pro-life movement after she witnessed an ultrasound-guided abortion. She knew she was on the wrong side.

Johnson’s book is a beautifully told personal drama of life-and-death encounters, a courtroom battle and spiritual transformation that speaks of hope and compassion.

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ignatius Press