Q&A with Abby Johnson: Standing for life in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic
We recently had the chance to catch up with our friend, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate. We discussed the pro-life movement, how the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting the abortion industry and what we can do to help women in crisis.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length:
What’s your take on abortion as “essential” during this time?
I’ve been involved in the abortion fight one way or the other for over 20 years. I’ve never in my life seen the abortion movement in such a frenzy as they are right now. I’ve talked with many other pro-life leaders across the country who have been in the fight even longer than I have, and they’re saying the same thing. There are so many people that are not able to access abortion as easily as they have been, and it is throwing them into a state of panic.
It is truly evil, in a way that I don’t think we get to see that often, this push for abortion. I’ve been getting emails and messages from these women abortion supporters sort of taunting me, saying, “Just wanted to let you know, Abby, we have a busload of women scheduled to go out of the state of Texas to have their abortion in New Mexico or have their abortion in Oklahoma.” They are proud of themselves; they are renting 15 passenger vans, 12 passenger vans, loading up and filling these vans to capacity, taking them over state lines to have abortions, risking the health of these women.
They’re fundraising to pay for lodging and transportation and food so that these women can have these over-the-state-line abortions. Abortion has become the back-alley abortion they say that they are trying to prevent.
In Texas, they’re saying you can’t come in for a regular abortion, but you can still do chemical abortions at home. What’s the prevalence of that and how can we be praying for that?
So on one hand, we have been hearing the abortion movement say, “Guys, abortion is no big deal. Abortion is just a routine procedure, it’s just like having a cavity filled, it’s no big deal. It’s just removing tissue. It’s no different than having a mole removed on your back, okay? No big deal.” Then, the coronavirus hits, and all of a sudden this “no big deal procedure” is all of a sudden this essential healthcare service that women cannot live without, and if they don’t have it, they are going to die. Okay, so which is it? Is it a “no big deal” that’s really a nothing or is it essential healthcare that women can’t seem to live without?
It’s the same that we’re seeing here with the medication abortion. They say we don’t want women having at-home abortions and that’s the danger in shutting down abortion facilities. So we don’t want women having these dangerous, at-home abortions, that’s why abortion clinics need to stay open. Yet they file a lawsuit against the state of Texas so that women can have at-home, medicated abortions. So we don’t want at-home abortions, yet we’re going to fight for women to have at-home abortions? This is the lunacy of the abortion movement.
Talk about LoveLine a little bit and why you created it and what’s happening with right now.
We have 25,000 pregnancy centers across the country. We have great resources for women in crisis who are pregnant. But I saw a gap in the pro-life movement.
I was hearing from a lot of women who had their babies, but now their children were a little older or maybe they never went through a pregnancy center. Maybe they were in a really stable situation when they had their babies, but now their babies are 6, 7, 8, 9 years old. Maybe they were in a healthy relationship, maybe they were married, and maybe now they’re divorced, and maybe they find themselves as a single parent and times are tough and they’re doing it on their own. Maybe they lost their job, maybe something’s going on that’s making times difficult for them and they need support.
So what I found is that we started calling some of those community resources, and many times when we would call the answer was “no”: “No, we don’t have anything available for that situation,” or “No, we’ve already run out of funding for the month.” Or it was a disconnect line because it wasn’t open anymore. And I thought, “If that were me, if I was a single mom and I was really struggling to put food on the table and every phone number I called was a ‘no,’ that would be really discouraging for me.” And so my vision was, I wanted these women just to hear “Yes!” I wanted them to be encouraged and to feel hopeful. And so I thought, “What if we started a hotline that did just that?”: that we became the people that essentially made the phone calls for them. When you’re in a bad way, when you’re feeling emotionally spent, when you’re just down and out, you just don’t have the energy to pick up the phone and make 50 phone calls to 50 different resources.
We've got case managers on staff with us, and we made those phone calls and we started connecting with just some of the most amazing clients. They just needed a hand up and we started getting them on their feet. It’s not just handouts; it’s truly case management, so it’s living life with these women. It is being Jesus to these women, to these families. We want to get them plugged into church, we want to get a loving community plugged in around them, we want them to feel loved, we want them to grow in a healthy, Christian environment. So that’s what we’ve been doing, and now we’ve helped I think just right at 150 women and almost 300 children find that foundation and that hope.
What are some of the needs you’re seeing right now? Are you seeing an influx of women reaching out for help?
Definitely. We had 13 women call just in the last six days. Of course, people are not having work right now because businesses are closed, so we definitely have a need right now. There’s always a funding need. What I’ve learned is that the needs of families are truly infinite. This is an opportunity for the church to be the church.
What we didn’t expect is that women who have abortion appointments would be calling us, and we’re getting a lot of those calls now too. Not every community has a pregnancy center in it, so these women are contacting us now. These are women that are saying, “I have an abortion appointment; I heard about you. How can you help me?” They’re only wanting to have an abortion because they don’t have enough money to pay rent or something like that, and I’m like, “No, don’t kill your baby because you don’t have rent money. We can take care of that.” Helping women set up a plan, a plan of stability for themselves and their child — we can do that. That’s easy, and sometimes that’s all it takes to save the life of their child.
Share with us one final thing: how can we be pro-life in this coronavirus moment when the battle is so fierce and intense and we’re seeing so much of a need to step up and help with it right now?
We always want to bathe everything in prayer. So absolutely it’s time to step up our prayer game. But after you pray and in between your times of prayer, I would say now is a really good time for us to equip ourselves on how to be the best pro-life advocates that we can be. What are those lessons that maybe we’ve been sort of lacking in? How can we speak to people more articulately about the pro-life message? What are those talking points that we hear from abortion supporters that we really don’t know how to defend that well and maybe we sort of flub it up and we don’t really know what to say? Maybe it’s a good time for us to sort of brush up on those apologetics skills.
There’s a quote that says, “You may be the only Bible that someone reads.” So just remember that even in this very hostile political environment that we need to be mindful of how we’re speaking to people, that we need to be careful when we’re speaking to people who support abortion. Remember that we never know what’s in their past: they may have had an abortion, they may be really hurting because of that abortion, but it may come across as anger. They just may not know the difference.
We can’t just say we’re pro-life — we actually have to be pro-life.
To learn more about Love Line, including ways to stay connected, visit LoveLine.com. Love Line also posts shopping registries on Facebook to help women who are considering abortions because of financial difficulties.
To learn about opportunities to get involved with the pro-life movement, visit myfaithcares.org.
Watch the full interview on My Faith Votes’ YouTube channel.
My Faith Votes is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square. Gov. Mike Huckabee serves as the organization’s honorary national chairman.