When Abby Johnson left her job in late 2009, she made national headlines. That may be unusual for most professions, but not for the director position of a Planned Parenthood facility.
Once a stalwart champion of choice, the director of the Planned Parenthood facility in Bryan, Texas, left her side of the "fence" to join the pro-life team who had witnessed to her - and others - for years. Shocking onlookers on all sides of the debate, the former director has become a well-known advocate for the unborn.
Abby Johnson tells her story in her book, Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line, where she recounts her journey from idealistic and impressionable college student to trusted and tenderhearted Planned Parenthood staff member, with the climax of her eye-opening witness of a live abortion. Her story travels a long road of pain, guilt, and a sincere desire to help those in need. In fact, you may be surprised that Johnson's first concern as a Planned Parenthood worker was to be a help and supporter for women in need.
Eventually, as the title of the book hints, Johnson does a complete about-face. One day she was called in to help with an abortion - something she had never been asked to do before. As she watched the graphic abortion literally take place before her eyes, she realized the truth of something that many had tried to tell her before: abortion is a death.
"I closed my office door behind me, something I rarely did. Then I lowered myself into my chair and just sat there, not really focusing on anything. Just staring. I wasn't crying. I simply felt the enormity of the moment. I found it hard to get a deep breath. I'd 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...tucked securely inside a womb...with no one to speak on his or her behalf..." (Johnson, p. 124)
Sometimes we can have much to learn from the stories that God has written for others. With Unplanned, we get to walk into a Planned Parenthood facility and see how many volunteers and staff really think and feel about their jobs. We see how the local pro-life group's efforts affected the clients, volunteers, and staff of one clinic, and how some pro-life methods are more effective than others.
The story recounted in Unplanned brings a rare find to the pro-life/pro-choice issue: a view from many sides of the debate. Johnson has experienced abortion from the standpoint of a mother in crisis, the perspective of a Planned Parenthood volunteer, staff member, and director, and now the outlook of a defender of life. For those of us who most often have spent time on only one angle of the debate, this viewpoint is invaluable.
"The timing of all these factors...had to be more than coincidence," Johnson concludes (Johnson, p. 140). More than anything else, Abby Johnson's story demonstrates that God's light and truth can permeate any obstacle, be it a stony heart or a Planned Parenthood wall. No matter how strategized or valiant our efforts are, the ultimate plan and victory belong to God alone. May we remember that the pro-life battle is ours to fight, but God's to win.