Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Pro-Life Movement Should Listen to Abby Johnson

My dorm has been experiencing internet speeds the likes of which I haven't seen since I was 8 years old and using a dial-up connection.  Thus, the delay in posting.

This is part of an article about Abby Johnson, the Planned Parenthood clinic director turned pro-life activist.  From Christianity Today:
Johnson now turns her years of experience at Planned Parenthood into advice for pro-life groups. Along with doing some consulting for Coalition for Life, she advises pregnancy centers on ways to look more like Planned Parenthood clinics.
Decorate with bright oranges and pinks. Banish the vines and pastel colors. And for goodness sake, get rid of the butterflies, she says.
"Every pregnancy center, I'm telling you, has a butterfly in its logo," Johnson says. "That's not something that's going to catch the eye of teenage girls."
Johnson brings knowledge to the prolife movement that few can offer. She knows secrets to Planned Parenthood's success—how the billion-dollar nonprofit draws millions of women and girls in through its doors each year.
Those well-researched techniques leave pregnancy centers with a lot to learn, Johnson says. Even though their funding is usually much smaller than their monolithic counterpart, they can take clients away from Planned Parenthood simply by playing copycat.
That's why Johnson wants to help pregnancy centers create a brand that appeals to the type of person likely to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic: a young woman who may not be familiar with Christianity. Before her Planned Parenthood position, she was a visitor to abortion clinics—once for a surgical abortion and again for a medication abortion.
Although she kept those abortions a secret for years, Johnson says the regret she felt about them pales in comparison to the regret she felt for working at Planned Parenthood.
"That was really a small part of the burden I carried, because I had coerced thousands of women into having abortions," she says.
She tells directors their centers should look more secular, since posting Bible verses on the walls could serve as a turnoff to girls fearful of being lectured. They should look like living rooms, not doctor's offices. Little details like updated décor are important, she says, as well as finding nicer buildings in locations more easily accessible to clients.
"Pregnancy centers sometimes aren't using their money in the best way," she says. "They're hanging onto this hand-me-down furniture and these falling-down, dilapidated buildings, instead of looking to [move to] a new location."
Overall, she says, pregnancy centers need to think of themselves as businesses competing with Planned Parenthood.
I think that Abby Johnson gives excellent advice not only for crisis pregnancy clinics but for the pro-life movement as a whole.  Dissuading women from getting abortions should be our highest priority.  The tactics used by crisis pregnancy clinics and by those that protest outside abortion providers should be evaluated in light of this objective.

For example, there is nothing wrong with adopting a more secular tone if it prevents more abortions.  If prayer is intimidating to young women, as I am sure it can be, leave the rosaries at home and bring pamphlets.  The immediate goal is saving lives, not converting pregnant women.  I certainly don't mean to discourage prayer, but rather to recommend its' prudential application.

Hopefully, pro-lifers listen to Abby Johnson, and babies are saved as a result.


  1. Just got my copy of her book from Ignatius yesterday & looking forward to reading it. & to meeting her in April when she is in DBQ.
    I agree with a lot of the advice. Yes some can better use their money, but I am also aware that sometimes the pregnancy centers have to make do with what they can afford. Sadly, unlike PP, CPCs don't have the huge resources.

  2. I, too, hope the pro-life movement listens to Abby. Her advice is too knowledgeable to ignore. Have a great time at the March!

  3. Also, not just babies will be saved - women from the mental and physical after-effects of abortion, men from being deprived of fatherhood, etc.

  4. She's right, of course. Prayer is important, but can be private or silent. Babies must be saved by whatever means.

    God bless!

  5. I also think of a lot of pro-lifers (because many are religious in nature) are turning women away who have no concept of God or a higher power. How do we reach those women?

  6. The Ranter- good point- 'all we need to do' is emphasize the humanity of the babies- emphasize the medical truths- and study the effects abortion has on the women