Abby Johnson Addresses Record Crowd at SpeakOut Illinois Conference

Abby Johnson

Former abortion worker Abby Johnson [Photo by Eric Scheidler]

The 21st annual SpeakOut Illinois Conference drew a record crowd of over 400 people this year, at least 100 more than attended last year!

The Doubletree Hotel in Oak Brook was the site of the January 28 conference with over 36 organizations participating as sponsors. Pro-Life Action League executive director Ann Scheidler and former League staffer Tommie Romano served as co-chairmen of the conference planning committee and oversaw a dedicated team that helped made the event a wonderful success.

The day began with a welcome and introductions of politicians attending by Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center, followed by an opening prayer offered by Rev. Calvin Lindstrom from the Church of Christian Liberty, calling on God to help the cause of life.

Abby Johnson Gives an Insider’s View on Planned Parenthood

The keynote speaker, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, gave a riveting testimony about how her heart changed from naively believing Planned Parenthood was genuinely “in it for women” to realizing it is a money-driven business of pushing the lucrative “service” of abortion.

Johnson recounted the story of how one day while she was working at Planned Parenthood in 2009, she assisted with an ultrasound-guided abortion and was shocked to see the 13-week old baby fight for his life. When she saw the unborn baby on the ultrasound screen recoil in pain and fear, it was her breaking point.

She realized she had lied to thousands of women who asked the question, “Does my baby feel pain?” when she gave Planned Parenthood’s answer, “Your fetus does not develop pain sensors until 28 weeks.”

Workshop Speakers Share Their Expertise

Several workshops were offered including presentations by the Howard Center’s Dr. Allan Carlson on the value of children, Students for Life’s John-Paul Deddens on how to engage college students, and TC Public Relations’ Tom Ciesielka on how to magnify the pro-life message through media.  In addition, David Smith of Illinois Family Institute (IFI), Ralph Rivera of Illinois Citizens for Life (ICL), and Bob Gilligan of the Illinois Catholic Conference took part in a political panel.

Tom Ciesielka

Tom Ciesielka talks on the media as an ally [Photo by Eric Scheidler]

Ciesielka encouraged pro-lifers to see the media as a potential ally for spreading the word about the pro-life cause, and not simply to dismiss the media as a liberal biased entity.

Despite this trend of bias, he wants pro-lifers to see they can impact it for the better by building credible relationships with the news media, feeding these circuits pro-life information and press releases, and granting them interviews that capture the heart of the pro-life message—saving babies and their mothers from abortion.

Ciesielka’s message centered on the need for pro-lifers to be on the offensive in communicating our message to these circuits, not on the defensive.

Meanwhile, the political panelists shared how citizens can impact legislation for life by personal activism. Currently, there are two bills pending in Springfield to advance pro-life causes. One allows every abortion-bound woman the opportunity to view an ultrasound of her baby, and the other to require tighter to safety requirements for abortion clinics.

The ICL’s Rivera encouraged everyone present to contact their House members to support these bills—the best way being through personal meetings with their representatives, which “count 100-fold” compared to phone calls or emails—though these, too, are important means of contact.

SpeakOut Illinois

Pro-lifers light candles for a moving “Memorial for the Unborn” at SpeakOut Illinois [Photo by Eric Scheidler]

Cardinal George Receives Life Leadership Award

The day wrapped up with the League’s Joe Scheidler personally presenting His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, with the Henry Hyde Life Leadership Award. The Cardinal spoke of the attacks on freedom of religion emanating from all levels the government and urged the faithful to resist them.

The event closed with a moving candlelight memorial for the 54 million unborn babies killed by abortion since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

Press Coverage of SpeakOut

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