SHAWN: 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 self-righteous 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 2×4. That was sort of his leap into the pro-life movement.
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.
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.
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 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 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 doing 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.
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.
If you guys have any questions, we’d be happy to answer them for you.
FEMALE: We have time for a few questions, and then Abby and Shawn will be signing books and will have a table out there.
FEMALE: My name is [inaudible, lot of mic noise] very much pro-life. …very unstartling story, thank you very much. She says here, “Pro-life lobby will fail unless it loses religious image.” She feels that we do not relay sufficiently to the secular world and the way that they see [inaudible] without any sort of forward religious conscience. I was wondering what you feel about that?
ABBY: Yeah, I agree with her.
FEMALE: Do you?
ABBY: I do. I think that we have to be more concerned about our perception to the outside pro-choice movement or apathetic population that’s out there. Of course for both of our ministries prayer is foundational and our belief in Christ and relationship with Christ is foundational and very important. But when – I can tell you when someone, a clinic worker, comes to our website, abortionworker.com, they will not really find much mention of God. Because I think people who are lost, people who are pro-choice, people who are apathetic, are generally turned off by someone who appears to be this religious zealot. And that’s the way the pro-life movement is perceived, is that we are religious crazy people who are only interested in taking away people’s rights.
I think we have the arguments available to us, but I believe that we are currently losing the argument. Because if somebody comes to me and says, “Why are you pro-life?” and I say, “Because the Catholic Church says I should be pro-life.” I lose that argument. If someone comes to me and says, “Why are you pro-life?” and I say, “Because the Bible says so.” I lose that argument. So I think we as individuals need to do a better job of figuring out our own internal dialogue. Why are we pro-life? Is it just because our religion tells us we should be? Is it just because the Bible speaks about the sanctity of life? Why is it? Because that’s not why I’m pro-life. If I wasn’t religious and I had that experience inside the clinic I would still be pro-life. I’m pro-life because science tells me that it’s an unborn human being. Because logic tells me that it’s an unborn human being worth protecting.
So when I have a discussion with someone I will never bring up religion into a debate. They will. If I debate with an athiest, they will always bring up religion. Then that’s great, because I can say, “Why are we talking about religion? I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about science.” There’s a group in the United States called Athiests for Life. They are a fantastic group with fantastic resources available. Secular Pro-Life is another good organization. Pro-Life Pagans is [laughter]. There was one there last night. PLAGAL which is the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
All of these groups are not religiously based, but they could argue the pro-life points better than most Christians I know. I think we have a lot to learn from them. I consider them great allies in the pro-life movement. The problem with the Athiests for Life group, and I was telling their president this one day, I said, “The problem, I love you guys, but the problem is you all keep becoming Christian. [Laughter] Your group is fading away.” That makes sense because we know that life and faith are something that eventually will intercept and that there could possibly be a heart change. But for me personally, I believe that we will continue to lose as long as we don’t have some better arguments in our bag and as along as we can’t separate our faith from why we are pro-life I think we will continue to be seen as religious lunatics. I would agree with her whole-heartedly.
FEMALE: What would you suggest we do when standing outside of abortion clinics? Should we stop praying? Because that is actually what riles a lot of people and getting more and more abuse when we do this. They actually say, “We hate you praying! We hate you shoving your religion down our throats.” I have found, I agree with you actually that when you say something like for example in England we have an ancient population and not enough young people, why? We killed 7 million of them. That does actually get through. They think, oh, 7 million. Several people don’t know that statistic.
ABBY: I can tell you, I’m a fan of the rosary, but I won’t pray the rosary when I go out to the clinic. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m not at all. I’m just saying for me personally, when I go out to the clinic I may be reading a book of prayers. I may just be praying on my own. I want to appear as a secular person when I’m out there. There are, I mean there are different schools of thought out there on that. I don’t think any of them are wrong.
For me personally, when I go out to the clinic I want to be approachable. It doesn’t matter. They’re going to think you’re a religious nut anyway if you’re out there. But I want to do everything I can to lesson that. Although, I also want to say that there is something very powerful for most people when they see clergy outside. We would have people, we would have sisters and priests come out to our clinic. We had a sister that would come out frequently. The women would call us and say, “When is the nun going to leave?” Because they did not want to come in when the sister was out there or when priests were out there. Because religious are – they are the outward sign of our inward conscience. So there’s something very powerful about people being out there in their clerics.
Now if I’m praying outside. If I’m not the sidewalk counselor on duty, then I don’t mind praying a rosary with someone. But if I’m the sidewalk counselor, if I’m the person that is going to be trying to approach people, I’m not going to try to waive them down with my rosary flinging around in the air. But there’s, you know, there’s different schools of thought on that. I think you just have to do whatever you’re comfortable with and whatever you feel called to do.
SHAWN: Particularly in the area of lobbying, we always use separate arguments with the Congress that’s the most effective way. 40 Days for Life are obviously prayer vigils. A prayer vigil without prayer is very lame. [Laughter] I think it’s that approach. The prayer does make it approachable. If it’s waving bibles and rosaries in people’s faces telling them they’re going to hell, then it’s completely unproductive. But we’ve had many women tell us that they chose life for their babies because there were people out there praying. There are places where that element is our only hope. It’s usually where the last hope is – and that’s in the places where abortions actually take place.
We can present all of our arguments. The other side has to reject the two institutions that built western civilization. They have to reject religion and they have to reject science. They have no problem rejecting one, but they have a real struggle on this issue to reject science. But they have to to justify their point. But at the end of even that argument, their will is what they’re serving.
So the science will prove the humanity of the baby, but that’s when we reach the darkest point of this issue, which is that we don’t care. We just don’t want the child. That’s the darkness that meets the light. That transcends into the need for prayer and for fasting. Cardinal Newman said that, “Prayer and fasting is often called the wings of our soul, and that if we do not pray and do not fast we will never follow Christ.” When I first read that quote I was drinking beer and eating peanuts. So I clearly realized I have a long way to go. But that requires humility.
Like Abby said, you have experienced a lot of persecution if you’ve participated in a 40 Days for Life campaign in the U.K. We’ve seen that in the most secular parts of America that campaigns are at their best, just as we’ve seen 40 Days for Life spread rapidly in the U.K. Where are our most secular cities – New York, San Francisco – that’s where the campaigns have the largest impact and we are guaranteed that persecution. There is nothing that we can say to stop that or pretend it wasn’t there.
FEMALE: I find it absolutely staggering that the [inaudible] upper-middle class [inaudible] proposed [inaudible] came to my house [inaudible] you as a Catholic [inaudible] straight off, [inaudible] just a story. I said it’s just somebody’s autobiography. [inaudible] heroes. They were amazed [inaudible].
ABBY: I think the – when we see abortion on the pro-choice side, which makes sense because they’re advocating for violence against the most vulnerable. I think if you are going to advocate that type of violence, then I would think you have to have some type of aggression in your own heart and in your own soul. I don’t know if you guys saw what happened in Argentina, I put it on Facebook. There was a group of women – well a group of men who were acting very [inaudible] vandalism and there was a mob of very angry pro-choice women who showed up and they were spitting in these men’s faces. They were spray painting their face and they were – the women were topless. It was a very violent and evil. They burned an effigy of Pope Francis in the public square. It was a very evil scene to watch, a very violent scene. I think that reflects the violence in their own belief system. When you are okay, when you feel confident about promoting violence against our most vulnerable, then I believe that reflects another part of their life.
MALE: Would you say a bit more about the graphic imagery and the ineffectiveness of it as a strategy? I know it’s something your book touches on, but we always debate it.
ABBY: I don’t believe in graphic imagery outside of abortion clinics. I’m very firm on that. That’s because of my own experience. So there are people that have been in the pro-life movement before I was born and they are very firm on their belief that graphic imagery is the only way to change people’s minds. But I have a very different perspective than they do. I have 91 other men and women who have worked in the abortion industry who have a different perspective that all say that graphic imagery is devastating to what the pro-life movement is trying to do.
Are there appropriate places for it? Absolutely. On university campuses, educational settings, I believe if done properly that it can be very effective. We’ve seen it be effective. But outside of abortion clinics it does a couple of things that are damaging to our movement. It creates a camaraderie with the abortion clinic worker and the woman seeking an abortion. The abortion clinic becomes the safe haven. The abortion clinic becomes the refuge. These women – I’ve literally seen women run into abortion clinics as if they were running to a savior because they are – they see this graphic imagery as something that is very aggressive.
By the way, they’ve already been warned about all of you crazy people when they go to the clinic. So when they make their abortion appointment, the abortion workers are told to make them aware of the crazy protestors outside of the clinic and they are just trying to take away your rights, so just ignore them. Keep your windows rolled up and run into the clinic. Pretend they’re not there. So they’ve already been warned. They already have a fear of you that go out to the clinics and pray peacefully. It’s an irrational fear, but it’s one that’s perpetuated by the abortion industry. So when they drive up and they see what looks like a circus with all these graphic images and people screaming at them outside, then it only confirms the stereotype that they’ve been told.
So what happens is a woman may see a graphic image and run into the clinic and ask the worker, “Is that really what it looks like?” The abortion worker is going to say, “No, of course not. They’re just nuts out there.” So it continues to build camaraderie inside the facility. We don’t ever want women to see an abortion clinic as a safe haven.
I believe from my perspective of watching this for 12 years now that they’re incredibly detrimental. Am I saying that babies have never been saved by graphic images? That’s not what I’m saying. Of course there have been babies that have been saved. We don’t know how many have been turned away and have been just completely turned off by our message because of what we have done. That’s my answer.
FEMALE: [Inaudible] Is it always [inaudible] surrounded by support.
ABBY: Our job is pointless if we don’t have anywhere to send women, right? I tell people, those of us who go out to the clinics to pray, we’re basically like ambulance drivers. We’re at the scene of the crisis. We’re there to pick up the pieces and brokenness. Then if we don’t have somewhere to send the ambulance to, why are we even out there? I don’t know what it’s like here in this part of the country, but I do know from some meetings we had yesterday that there are pregnancy help centers, pregnancy resource centers. There are many of them in London. So if – is that here? Yes. So there are some here also.
When we go out to the clinics, I don’t know if you guys take literature out to the clinics when you go out to pray, but if you don’t, you should. You should have on hand always places to send these women. We wouldn’t have 8,200 saves if we just looked at them and said, “Don’t have an abortion, but I don’t know where to send you.” They would walk into the clinics. But because we’re able to say, “Don’t have an abortion, here are safe places you can go instead of this abortion clinic,” then they leave and choose life. I think we have to be very proactive with the information that we have on us and the relationships we development with our centers in these areas.
FEMALE: We have time for perhaps one more question and they we’ll sign the books, and have t-shirts for sale [inaudible].
FEMALE: I was just wondering if either of you had any thoughts on the opposition that uses the overpopulation argument and if we don’t allow abortion, oh my goodness, the world would be totally overpopulated, we’re not going to have enough resources and those children would have terrible lives. What would you say to that?
SHAWN: We are overpopulated, so we’ll probably start with the kindergarteners. Dr. Stephen Mosher is probably the best researcher. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s done so much work on the overpopulation myths and how we’re in fact, particularly in the west, underpopulated. Now our countries are dependent upon immigration. We are not replacing ourselves. It takes 2.1 children to replace yourself. In the United States it’s 2.1. That’s a skewed statistic because of immigration from Mexico, particularly. It’s a complete myth. It was used in the ‘60s and ‘70s in the United States to really get abortion legalized in 1973.
Dr. Stephen Mosher is probably the best authority. He’s a Ph.D. He’s frequently in our national media, which is great. Many professors will have nothing to do with him, so he’s sort of been ostracized by academics. He has some great, great resources and articles online that I encourage everyone to get. That is an argument – it doesn’t come out as often as it used to in America. It’s not as big in the United States, but that may be different over here. Rarely do we get that argument as a reason for abortion because of it’s- the eugenic roots of where it comes from. There are too many of us, therefore… It also brings humanity – it’s kind of a backdoor argument because if we’re overpopulated, then a pregnant woman represents the problem. No one really wants to take that argument. It sounds very cold, and it is.
MALE: Can you spell his name?
ABBY: There are some really good videos online too done by a group, if you just type in ‘overpopulation is a myth’ on YouTube there are some fantastic videos. We need to have arguments. Dr. Mosher is fantastic and has research based articles that you can look at. You can have an opinion, but if you actually have research to back it up, that’s better. He has all the research to backup his opinions and what he’s found. I think we have to educate ourselves. Is that a common argument here?
GROUP: Sometimes, yeah.
ABBY: Every once in a while we’ll hear it. In the United States there’s been studies shown that the entire population of the United States could fit in Texas and own a 3 bedroom home.
SHAWN: And five cows.
ABBY: And five cows. So it’s been so heavily refuted in the United States that people don’t really use that argument anymore.
FEMALE: I agree. Another thing that comes up though that would apply to the United States is the quality of life argument. Are we going to save this child and then throw it into an awful life or a bad situation? That one seems a lot trickier to answer.
SHAWN: There’s a great book that was controversial in America called Freakonomics. It was excellent because the author addresses the abortion issues and shows how if the abortion rate will go up in certain areas, the crime rate will go down. He wasn’t intending to say that should be the case, but he was pointing out the racist factors of abortion and how when we look down on the fact that some people should be here because all of society would benefit and if others aren’t part of our society then we’re all better off. He used it in strictly an economic standpoint, but it was a very good point. I don’t even know if he’s pro-life, but he had the courage to make the point. That’s another great resource. The quality of life argument, it ends with the destruction of an innocent human being, no matter what society or culture you go into, it ends with that. We see that in very new and creative ways – euthanasia, through abortion, through embryonic stem cell research. It’s all done in the name of quality of life for the common good.
ABBY: It’s kind of a symptom, isn’t it? It’s kind of – like I’m not for any [inaudible] in the law. I’m pro-life for everybody, baby – not just those who were conceived in ideal situations. So people will tell me, “Why don’t you vote for bills, or why do you promote bills that have rape exceptions?” If a building was on fire and you could only save 9 out of the 10 children, wouldn’t you do it? That’s always the argument I hear. My answer, my response is always, “Actually, I would work to make sure the fire never started in the first place.” That’s kind of what we’re doing when we talk about these arguments. I’m not just trying to treat a symptom in our culture. I’m trying to work to actually fix the root of the problem, which is respect for our bodies, respect for sexuality. So I think that we have to kind of start there.
I think the other argument there, in the United States anyway, I don’t know about the statistics here, but Roe v. Wade was pushed because people said if we can legalize abortion the crime rate will decrease, child abuse rates will decrease, women will feel more empowered, and it will be real freedom for women. But what we’ve actually seen since 1973 in that 10 year span from 1963 to 1973 and 1973 to 1983. Their argument was all these things would decrease. They were expecting that all of the crime and child abuse rates would greatly decrease, right? But what they actually found in that 20 year time period was the rates of child abuse and crime against humanity – murder, domestic abuse, divorce, anything you could think of – tripled or more in that 10 year time period. So it did the opposite of what they sold it to do.
That would be interesting to see here, since 1967, what those statistics look like as well. Is the child abuse rate down? Probably not. I think is the crime rate down? Probably not. I think child abuse is such a silly argument for why we should abort our children. We should abort our children because they may potentially be abused so it’s better that we kill them? It’s better to kill somebody so they won’t potentially, maybe, possibly be abused later on down the line? That doesn’t make any sense. So I think if we talk about really what’s really happening in abortion and continue to talk about the violence that abortion is, I think that helps us in our argument.
FEMALE: Thank you everyone. Let’s say thank you again to Abby and Shawn.