unPlanned is the story of how Abby Johnson went from being the director of a Planned Parenthood (PP) office to being an advocate for the pro-life movement. It is a story worth reading as she tries to fairly assess both sides of this controversial issue. She has seen the issue from both sides and hates the extremes of both sides.
In an earlier post I mentioned the disconnect. Her story begins with disconnect. Her life and doctrine were disconnected. She believed one thing and did another. This led her to have secrets. She makes an interesting observation about secrets.
“Once it had taken hold within me, my secret had the power to shape and influence my reasoning, my perspective, my conscience. Years later, I would discover that the box in my soul wasn’t sealed as well as I’d thought. It was releasing undetectable yet poisonous fumes that wafted through my soul in silence and contaminated my heart.”
Her secret was that before her first (ill-advised) marriage she had her first abortion. She now understands more of the implications. She had to face not only the killing of her child, but depriving her parents of grandchildren. We don’t live on an island. And those secrets leak out. They shape our decisions and our perspective on the world.
Her secret made her an easy recruit for PP in college. She rightfully wanted to help women but her own baggage had to be justified. She heard the talking points about wanting to make abortion rare, and feeling guilty wanted to defend herself and others from the perceived condemnation of the pro-life movement. She is honest about the power of self-deception. She started to tell herself little lies, and then bigger lies, to justify her increasing role within PP.
The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28
She speaks of her spiritual struggle during those years. God seemed so far away from her. She didn’t understand why. But she did experience rejection from one church when they discovered where she worked. She and her husband were denied membership and encouraged to move on. Later, after her “conversion” she was essentially told to leave the “pro-choice” denomination with its liturgy that slowly reshaped her heart. Strange how pastors can allow such issues to keep them from ministering to people. I may have denied her membership, but invited her to stay and “see what happens.” That might not have been welcome words. But God can change hearts.
13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28
She shares her perspective on the pro-life movement as an outsider. She entered PP thinking they were mostly extremists. Dhe did meet some extremists. at the fence which while literal also functioned as a metaphor throughout the book. But she also met compassionate, caring people at the fence too. There were more of them, and they worked to get rid of the crazies. Slowly her misconceptions about the pro-life movement were being challenged. She struggled with the paranoia of PP’s leadership and yet found it a safe place to hide due to her own guilt all at the same time. She also came to see, slowly, that the talking points were just that- talking points that really didn’t reflect the decisions being made by those in power.
She does not get into the “politics” of the issue. There is no mention of a politician. But as I ruminated on the book and the time frame of the events I noticed something. Senator Obama’s talking points on abortion during the Presidential election (which duped so many evangelicals) sounded remarkably like Planned Parenthood’s talking points, including making abortion rare. Yet, it was during his administration that PP lost their grant money for birth-control. This meant that more children would be conceived in less than desirable circumstances so women sought divorce, and PP needed to perform more abortions to pay their bills. That was the money-maker and they pushed directors to perform more, and were contemplating doing late-term abortions.
Abby was caught in the middle of this change by what was happening inwardly. The rules had changed on her and she was asked to go beyond her comfort zone. It seemed increasingly less about helping women and more about ideology and making money. And then came the fateful day.
The title is a double entendre: she was “removed” from PP, and this was not her plan. But it was someone’s plan: God’s. Many of the pro-life leaders in her community had been praying for her for years. Those prayers began to be answered as she was forced to participate in an ultra-sound guided abortion. She saw what actually happened inside the womb during an abortion. She could not prop up her shaky convictions with the well-intended lies anymore. Now she knew she had to get out.
4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law strive against them.
5 Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Proverbs 28
The continues her story as she finds help from her former “enemies” and betrayal at the hands of “friends.” It moves into the injunction PP sought against her (without grounds) and her “coming out” to the media.
This book is a quick read. It moves along fairly well, though there were times I did want her to move faster. It comes across, to me, as an honest, humble read. It is, at times, an emotionally difficult read. There will most likely be tears. It tries (and mostly succeeds) to be a fair read. She doesn’t demonize PP though she is honest about the actions of some people in PP. She does see a difference between the average volunteer and those higher up in the organization. She was wronged by them as they turned on her for leaving. She made no public statements until after they made a press release. It is important to know that there is often a big difference in motive between PP and many who volunteer or work there. Her unspoken lesson is that we need to win them to “our side” in a way similar to how she was won over: prayer while you wait for God to act.
Copernican revolutions are never easy. In this case she had the support of her husband and family who never wanted her working there in the first place. She found newer, truer friends among many of those who had been praying for her for years. They loved her even when she was on the other side of the fence. She lost many “situational friendships” when she left PP. They didn’t love her despite their differences of opinion on this ethical matter: She was seen as betrayer and persona non grata.
On the flip side, she found forgiveness as she admitted her own sin. She experienced freedom from condemnation for her own abortions, and the many she had participated in. She wants people to hear the offer of grace, not the words of condemnation. Those of us who are pro-life need to be reminded all too often.
It is a book I wish more people would read because it is honest about PP. The good, and the bad. It gets past the talking points and propaganda we hear. It is like something of a cult in many ways. They have a doctrine that is disconnected from practice, an outward face that hides the inward reality. They are afraid of those “outside” and paint them in the worst possible light. They turn like rabid dogs on those who leave. Yeah, perhaps we need to talk about the cult of Planned Parenthood and its child sacrifice.
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