Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: Unplanned by Abby Johnson

In one of my previous blog posts I shared that I had recently bought the book Unplanned by Abby Johnson. Well, I finished the book last week and couldn't wait to review it for you.

Many of you are aware of Abby's story. But for those who are not I'll provide a brief summary of how she became a well-known public figure. Abby was with Planned Parenthood for 8 years, the last 2 of those years as a Clinic Director. She left Planned Parenthood after viewing an ultrasound-guided abortion. Her book tells the story of her life before and after her experiences at Planned Parenthood as well as the time in between when she was involved in the abortion industry.

In this illuminating and moving book we get an inside look at the world of Planned Parenthood. We also get a personal look at the confused messages women are getting on the abortion issue.

It is primarily a conversion story: a conversion from death to life; from lies to truth; from darkness to light; from bondage to freedom; from doubt to faith. It tells the story of how God was at work in the life of one abortion worker, drawing her to Him, and to life.

I'm sure many of you had the same question I had when I heard about Abby's conversion which was: How could someone work at Planned Parenthood for 8 years and not be aware of, and horrified by, the reality of what abortion does?

Abby tells us that her ultimate desire was to help women and reduce abortions. She recounts how she initially became involved in the abortion industry as a young naive college student who started simply as a volunteer. After reading her story I believe her compassion for women was genuine. The fact that she wanted to reduce abortions is indicative that she knew abortion is wrong.  But in order to keep working at Planned Parenthood,  she chose to ignore her conscience. In the book she talks about the inner battle with her mind and her morals. She rationalized that she was saving women who were going to have an abortion whether it was legal or not so she wanted to make sure they were at least safe if they were going to be doing it. It was a gradual process, but eventually she was able to leave Planned Parenthood and realize that helping someone carry out a "safe" injustice or by ignoring the issue altogether is simply encouraging the injustice to continue and making anyone doing so equally responsible by assisting in it. And to quote Abby herself in a recent interview:  "Abortions are never safe whether they are legal or illegal - abortion always takes the life of a child - abortion is never safe for the child."

Abby describes her experience of the ultrasound guided abortion in her book and says she realized that she had “just participated in a death. A death. Not a medical procedure. Not a surgical solution to a life problem. Not the valiant step of a woman exercising her right to make medical choices about her own body. The death of a helpless baby, a baby violently ripped away from the safety of the womb, sucked away to be discarded as biohazard waste.” It was then that she first truly identified the pre-born baby as a human life. It's obvious from her words that it was like a light bulb moment - as though she had finally pieced together the full puzzle.

The part of her story that most captured my attention was the pro-lifers who prayed outside the clinic. At first, there were a couple of extremists such as someone dressed as the grim reaper and others with large graphic pictures of aborted babies. I have prayed outside of abortion clinics and know how this kind of approach by some well-intentioned people is not helpful but rather is damaging to the pro-life cause and actually hurtful to women.  It was the Coalition for Life that made the pro-life witness there more effective by making it prayerful, compassionate and sincere. They established a standard for those present outside of clinics and emphasized that destructive behaviour was not acceptable. They actually trained people to be sidewalk counselors to avoid and eliminate any negative interactions that were not conducive to their mission. They also helped Abby when she made the decision to leave Planned Parenthood. They reached out with love and concern for not just the pregnant women seeking abortions but to the clinic staff as well. It made me see the great need for this kind of prayerful presence and sincere desire to change hearts not just change minds.

I appreciated how Abby did not condemn people on either side of the fence. She identified that there are sincere hearts and good intentions on both sides and there are destructive actions and behaviours on both sides. The bottom line should be to lovingly reveal the truth, and the truth is that abortion kills a human life and wounds countless others. There are life-affirming options no matter what the situation is. The focus needs to be on sharing the truth in love, especially to the most vulnerable and uninformed. There is no room for judgment in this battle. Truth and love needs to be the primary focus. She emphasizes this throughout the book.

She also provides hope through her story. Hope that with love and prayer anything is possible. Change doesn't happen overnight. It took years of love and prayer before Abby embraced the truth and she is now inspiring others to not give up, to stay prayerful and continue to love others to the truth. EVERY life saved is worth celebrating. Everyone, no matter what side of the fence they are on, is valuable and should be loved. I think that is the heart of the message in her book.

I definitely recommend it to everyone. If you have already read this book let me know your thoughts!

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