Archdiocese Local

Internationally known pro-life activist headlines local banquet

Abby Johnson, subject of the bestselling book “Unplanned” and in the 2019 film of the same name, served as the keynote speaker for the Life and Hope Banquet Sept. 2 at the Overland Park Convention Center. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

OVERLAND PARK — Abby Johnson, whose dramatic exit from the abortion industry is chronicled in the bestselling book “Unplanned” and in the 2019 film of the same name, served as the keynote speaker for the Life and Hope Banquet, an annual fundraiser for the Wyandotte and Olathe Pregnancy Clinics held Sept. 2 at the Overland Park Convention Center.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-life Activities, delivered the opening prayer, saying, “We turn to you, Lord our God, for strength in order to bring to the full consciousness of our society the innate value of each and every human life and the moral and legal imperatives necessary to guarantee the right to life for our brothers and sisters.”

In her director’s report, Leah Connor, executive director of the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, cited a study of post-abortive women conducted by the Elliott Institute in which 83% of women said if one person would have offered help, they would have carried their child to term.

That statistic, she said, speaks to the core of the clinics’ shared mission.

“We desire to change society, providing women, men and children with an optimistic spirit and good information which will otherwise be very difficult for them to attain,” she said. “And, hopefully, this will help set them on a trajectory, making abortion unthinkable . . . one life at a time.”

Both clinics offer free services such as pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and other supports such as diapers to aid women and families with parenting needs for up to three years after the birth of their child, all while building relationships.

TheWyandotte and Olathe Pregnancy Clinics offer a variety of free services for women in need of support for up to three years after the birth of their child. PHOTO BY ROSIE SUN/UNSPLASH

The money raised from the event will be used not only to continue to provide this high quality of care for a growing number of clients, but also to grow the clinics’ online presence, both organic and paid. The clinics debuted their new client website, including an online scheduling option, at the banquet.

In her remarks, Johnson said that growing up, she had no idea as to the evil of abortion.

“Two unplanned pregnancies later, two abortions later, I was in. I was hooked into that evil,” she said. “That evil had taken ahold of my life, of my heart, of my mind. 

“That’s just how sin works. It changes who you are. It changes you at your core. How did I stay there and help facilitate 22,000 abortions? I don’t know. . . . What I do know is that no matter how tarnished our past is, no matter what we have done, God is always willing to make us whole again.”

In late September 2009, during an abortion procedure, Johnson was asked to hold an ultrasound probe in place. Afterward, she looked at her hands, and she recalled another moment in her life, the moment her daughter was placed in her hands for the first time.

A woman holds an ultrasound photo of her baby. PHOTO BY EDWARD CISNEROS/UNSPLASH

“These hands had held her to me as she nursed and I nourished her,” said Johnson, “and it was these hands that patted her little bottom when she was upset and I comforted her. And I realized it was these hands that had helped to sustain the life of my child. But in that moment, it was those same hands that had helped to take a life.”

Near the end of her remarks, Johnson gave the crowd a direct challenge.

“What are we doing to raise up an army of warriors for the cause of life? What are we doing to serve those in need?” she asked. “Because there’s literally a battle being fought, and it is a battle of life and death, and that’s not me being dramatic. That’s me being honest with you. Three thousand lives every single day are on the line, and so I’m asking you, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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