Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director and "employee of the year," endorsed President Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC) Tuesday while offering a graphic description of the abortion procedure she said made her leave the organization.
"I spent eight years working for Planned Parenthood. But today, I am a pro-life activist," said Johnson, whose story sent shock waves through the media as she represented one of the most high-profile conversions to the anti-abortion cause.
Speaking to millions via livestream, Johnson described how she saw "an unborn baby fighting back" against an ultrasound-guided abortion.
"Nothing prepared me for what I saw on the screen – an unborn baby fighting back, desperate to move away from the suction ... The last thing I saw was a spine twirling around in the mother’s womb before succumbing to the force of the suction," she said.
Her detailed description marked a tonal shift from usual convention speeches, but also came as the party endorsed an incumbent, who, during a presidential debate, referenced babies being "ripped from their mothers' wombs" in late-term abortions.
But that type of bluntness is apparently what Johnson sought in her approach to the issue. Last year, she underwent an ultrasound that amplified her baby's heartbeat to bystanders in Times Square. Prior to Tuesday's speech, she wrote on Facebook: "America will hear the barbaric reality of abortion. No one will ever be able to again say they didn’t know."
"For most people who consider themselves pro-life, abortion is abstract," Johnson told viewers on Tuesday.
"They can’t even conceive of the barbarity. They don’t know about the Products of Conception room in abortion clinics, where infant corpses are pieced back together to ensure nothing remains in the mother's wombs; or that we joked and called it the 'Pieces of Children' room. See, for me, abortion is real. I know what it sounds like; I know what abortion smells like. Did you know abortion even had a smell?"
She framed the upcoming election as "a choice between two radical, anti-life activists, and the most pro-life president we’ve ever had."
After leaving her clinic in Texas, Johnson eventually founded an organization dedicated to pulling workers like herself out of the industry. She's become a heroic figure in the anti-abortion movement and saw her life come to the big screen last year in a recent biopic, which also depicted the abortion she described in her RNC speech.
But Johnson has also come under fire for claims she made regarding that particular abortion and her exit from Planned Parenthood in general. Reporting from Texas Monthly has raised a number of questions after interviewing Johnson and her former employees. Among them is Planned Parenthood's claim that it had no record of the ultrasound-guided procedure she described. Johnson stands by her story, though, claiming that Texas Monthly's reporting is based on the wrong document from Planned Parenthood, and that the correct reporting document wouldn't disclose if an abortion involves ultrasound guidance anyways.
Her movie's depiction has also encountered pushback, although a former abortion doctor, Dr. Anthony Levatino, played the physician in that scene of the movie. Levatino, who narrates a video detailing abortion procedures, claims the movie's depiction is accurate.
Regardless, Johnson has become one of the many prominent faces of the anti-abortion movement, and her appearance seemed to corroborate the party's recent boldness on the issue. The content of her speech also echoed those of many others, like Live Action's Lila Rose, who have praised President Trump's policies on the issue.
Johnson's comments came too as congressional Republicans and the Trump administration pursued investigations into her former employer's fetal tissue practices, and request for coronavirus relief funds. Planned Parenthood has also challenged the administration in court and accused Trump of attacking women's health care through things like abortion-related conditions on Title X funding.
Touting his judicial appointments and executive actions, Johnson claimed Trump "has done more for the unborn than any other president."
On Tuesday night, Planned Parenthood Votes accused Johnson of lying and blasted the Trump administration's agenda.
“Planned Parenthood’s health centers are proud to provide sexual and reproductive health care services to all people in need of essential health care. President Trump’s allies have never told the truth about safe, legal abortion -- tonight was no different," Planned Parenthood Votes Executive Director Jenny Lawson said.
"While paid activists opposing abortion access like Johnson will continue to lie and stigmatize sexual and reproductive health care services, Planned Parenthood Votes will continue to shine a spotlight on the Trump-Pence administration’s unconscionable attacks on abortion access and fight to elect leaders that are committed to protecting access to reproductive health and rights at the ballot box.”
Johnson currently runs two organizations that she founded: And Then There Were None and Pro-Love Ministries. When asked about Lawson's "paid activists" phrasing, the organization pointed to Texas Monthly's reporting on an 40 Days for Life leader Shawn Carney allegedly offering Johnson $3,000 for speaking gigs. A spokesperson for Johnson denied that claim and demanded proof of such allegations. In an interview with Fox News, Carney also denied making that type of offer.