by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Editor’s warning — The following article contains graphic descriptions of a performed abortion.
If you ever wondered about the importance of the church’s pro-life efforts or the power of prayer, I encourage you to read the book “unPlanned” by Abby Johnson.
The book chronicles Abby’s involvement with Planned Parenthood — as a volunteer, then staff member, community out- reach director and eventually clinic director. Abby goes on to recount the events that motivated her to leave Planned Parenthood and to turn for help to the Coalition for Life — a pro-life group that peacefully prayed and sidewalk-counseled outside the clinic she directed.
Abby was raised in a strong Christian family. She was active in her church youth group. When she went to college, she found many of her beliefs chal- lenged and began to do things contrary to the values she had learned from her family. It was during this period that she was recruited to be a Planned Parent- hood volunteer.
Abby really believed in what she understood to be the mission of Planned Parenthood: to reduce the number of abortions by making contraception more available to women. She participated proudly in Lobby Days
for Planned Parenthood at the Texas Capitol. Abby loved her job because
she was convinced that she was really helping women. She was named the 2008 Employee of the Year for Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas.
Abby began to have misgivings about Planned Parenthood’s real agenda when she was told, along with the directors of other clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Southeast Texas, that they needed to increase their abortion numbers. Abortion was the source of Planned Parenthood’s financial profits. Abby was told by her supervisor that nonprofit is a tax status, not a business status.
In September 2009, Abby was asked by one of the clinic doctors to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. Abby held the ultrasound probe so the abortionist could use the technology to locate the precise position of the baby inside the uterus and reduce the possibility of perforating the mother’s uterus.
This is how Abby described what she witnessed: “The cannula was already being rotated by the doctor, and now I could see the tiny body violently twisting with it. For the briefest moment it looked as if the baby were being wrung like a dishcloth, twirled and squeezed. And then the little body crumpled and began disappearing into the cannula before my eyes. The last thing I saw was the tiny, perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube, and then everything was gone.”
Abby was physically shaken after witnessing this abortion through ultrasound technology. She describes her state of mind after the abortion:
“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, a baby violently ripped away from the safety of the womb, sucked away to be discarded as biohazard waste.
“I’d scheduled countless babies for their deaths. I’d presented confused, anxious, and panicked women their options — parent, abort, or adopt — as if we were discussing menu options. And when they chose to abort, I’d laid out their options again — surgical or medication — with their safety and comfort in mind, and all the while a tiny baby, tucked securely inside a womb, had been in the same room with us, with no one to speak on his or her behalf.” Within 10 days after this experience, Abby would leave Planned Parenthood.
When Abby first started volunteering at Planned Parenthood, she was offended by some of the pro-life picketers who held up graphic depictions of an aborted fetus and yelled harshly at the Planned Parenthood staff and clients. However, after the first year, she noticed that the individuals with graphic signs were gone. There were actually more pro-life advocates present at the clinic, but they were praying or engaging the Planned Parenthood clients in a very compassionate and sympathetic manner. They even greeted the Planned Parenthood staff politely and told them that they were praying for them.
There is much more to Abby’s story and conversion than I can relate in this brief column. Abby herself became pregnant three times while using contraceptives and tragically aborted her first two children. Abby realizes now how naïve she was about Planned Parenthood. She reports that there
are many others like her working for Planned Parenthood who have been convinced by the rather twisted logic that they are somehow preventing abortion.
Abby’s story reveals how God can touch and change the hearts of those who appear to be deeply entrenched in the “pro-choice” movement. Her story cautions pro-life advocates from demonizing those who support legalized abortion. Most, like Abby, are terribly confused. They are very mistaken in their judgments and perhaps have made some very evil choices, but they remain precious in God’s eyes.
Just as every unborn child, those who advocate for legalized abortion and even work in abortion clinics were made in the image of God. Jesus gave his life on Calvary for them, just as he did for you and me.
We can learn from the example of the Coalition for Life. Peaceful, persistent prayer, combined with speaking the truth with love and compassion, are powerful instruments that God uses to change hearts that have become hardened. Just as the saving of the life of one unborn child is worth all the sacrifices and efforts of the pro-life community, so is saving the soul of one member of an abortion clinic staff. Building a culture of life happens one life, one heart, one soul at a time.