Abby Johnson resigned from Planned Parenthood's Bryan clinic on Oct. 6. That's about all she and her former employer agree upon about their recent falling out.
The 29-year-old's departure -- and Planned Parenthood's subsequent legal action against her -- has gained national attention and underscores the distrust between supporters of Planned Parenthood and the anti-abortion group that Johnson is now working with. Both sides accuse the other of using pressure tactics and distorting the truth, and online news sources and activists are pointing to the story as an example of the other side's misconduct.
To the anti-abortion activists, Johnson is a blessing to their cause and her decision to leave is a validation of their efforts. Abortion rights advocates have questioned Johnson's motives for leaving and wondered whether her actions are designed for publicity and to get back at her former employers.
The dispute was on display in the Brazos County Courthouse on Tuesday when District Judge J.D. Langley denied Planned Parenthood's request for an injunction to prevent Johnson from discussing details of her employment at the clinic.
Johnson said she was relieved and planned to tell her full story. She said she has speaking engagements lined up across the country in coming months.
"I plan on doing some public speaking on my change of heart and moving away from the abortion industry," she said. "I am just going to be spending a lot of time in prayer and waiting for God to lead me to my next opportunity. ... There are already quite a few events planned."
She said she left Planned Parenthood for moral reasons. The clinic was having financial problems and regional leadership was pushing Johnson, the Bryan clinic's director who was 2008 employee of the year for the organization's Houston region, to prioritize abortions to make up for funding shortfalls, she said.
The final straw came in September, she said, when she witnessed an abortion performed with an ultrasound.
"At that moment, it was like a light went off and I just became very convicted and knew that it was not a place I could work any more," she said in a recent interview.
A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman didn't answer requests to respond to Johnson's claim about a mandate for more abortions, but the agency seemed to address the issue in a statement released after Tuesday's hearing.
"Planned Parenthood's primary focus has always been prevention," the statement said. "Nationwide and locally, more than 90 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are preventative in nature."
Two former employees testified on Tuesday that their former boss told them in the days before she submitted her resignation that she was afraid she would be fired.
Another employee had recently been terminated and Johnson was worried about inappropriate e-mail correspondence she had with the former worker, said Stephanie Shetler, a nurse practitioner at the Bryan clinic. The employees didn't say why the other worker was fired.
Johnson approached Shetler and 19-year-old employee Brittany Scroggins and told them that they may lose their jobs, too.
"She said she was pretty much the only one keeping me and another employee there, and after she was gone I would be fired," Scroggins said in tearful testimony Tuesday.
The three then began searching for other jobs, they said. Before she left, Johnson walked to the headquarters of the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life, an anti-abortion group that regularly protests Planned Parenthood and owns a house a few hundred feet away from the clinic, and asked for help.
Shetler described a tearful encounter in the Coalition for Life building. She said Johnson told her that she surprised coalition members by saying that "she needed to get out."
Johnson later provided the coalition with Shetler's resume.
"She said they would find me a job if I wanted one," Shetler said.
Scroggins testified that Johnson wrote a resume and filled out a job application for her. In a space for describing why she left her last job, Johnson wrote that Scroggins could no longer work at Planned Parenthood because of a moral conflict, Scroggins said.
The employee said she never asked her boss to do that for her, but also didn't tell her to stop.
Scroggins also said she saw Johnson print out patient records for two of her former roommates on the day she filed her resignation.
"She printed them out and took them with her," Scroggins said. "They had records of every visit they made to the clinic."
After Johnson left, she asked Shetler if she knew the clinic's new security alarm code and asked her to take Lidocaine from the building for her, Shetler said. Shetler declined.
Planned Parenthood then filed a request for an injunction, saying they were worried that Johnson would reveal confidential information about patients and employees, and give out the clinic's security details.
Johnson said in an interview on Tuesday that she, Scroggins and Shetler all planned to leave because of moral reasons, but that Scroggins and Shetler backed out because they were threatened with lawsuits by Planned Parenthood.
She said her former roommates had asked for their medical records, and she printed them out and planned to take them with her. She said she changed her mind and shredded them at the last minute because she didn't have a signed waiver and was worried that Planned Parenthood would bring a "frivolous lawsuit" against her if she took them. She said she had no intention to give out confidential information.
She said she was worried about being fired, but only because she spoke out against abortions.
"There had been some arguments about providing abortion services and because of my confrontations between my supervisor and I," she said.
In response to asking for Lidocaine, she said, Shetler was making the request out to be worse than it was.
"I ask a favor of a friend and little did I know that she was basically going to turn it into a big deal when it wasn't," she said, adding that Shetler suggested other ways to get the drug. "I was just kind of asking as a friend, so she could help me out with something."