Abby Johnson embraces the cause of Planned Parenthood (US "health” institution in which abortions are done, involved in the last few years in scandals selling embryonic tissues of aborted fetuses in their clinics), when she is very young, starting her service first as volunteer and later assuming the role of director. After eight years from his entry, however, he decides to completely change course, siding in the pro-life front.
Her story - told in the unPlanned book, written by Abby Johnson herself with the help of Cindy Lambert (genre: biography, year of first publication: 2010, Publishing House: Tyndale Momentum translated and published in 2011 in Spanish by the Palabra publishing house) - invites us to reflect on those who are in favor of abortion, those who fight for the rights of unborn children, and women who carry inside a wound.
Violence is never the way to bring about good
When Abby enters Planned Parenthood, she does not consider abortion to be good, but she thinks it's an "inevitable remedy" in some cases.
She is convinced that she is "on the side of reason" when she says "stopping an unwanted pregnancy is a right." To reinforce that idea, the negative attitudes of some members of the pro-life front: in the face of offenses, cruel banners addressed to the girls in crisis who head into the clinic, Abby shows anger toward the aggressors and compassion towards the young victims.
It seems clear to her: unlike the perpetrators who assault them out there, the workers of the clinic take charge of the suffering and the needs of those women who are alone, fragile, frightened.
Moreover, the institution's stated objective is to reduce the number of abortions, thanks to family planning: Abby clings to that end, to justify her stay in a "place of death" (as she herself will define it), although she does not live completely at peace with her conscience.
A personal drama
Compassion for those girls in difficulty is the result, anyway, also of a past personal experience.
At twenty years old, Abby discovers she is expecting a baby from an older boy, who already has a child and does not want to have any more. Ahead of her, she sees a life ruined by that child that arrived "at the wrong time" and does not know what to do. "It's simple...," says Mark, her boyfriend, proposing to have an abortion, with the same coolness with which a glass of water would be offered. It is the beginning of Abby's interior suffering.
The girl has an abortion, without truly realizing what she was doing nor speaking a word of it to anyone. That hidden inner drama is among the reasons why she becomes a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, a place where no one would ever judge her for her past.
Silent prayer and free friendship
A few years later, Abby finds herself pregnant again and, almost without thinking, puts an end to that pregnancy too, saying: "I'm not killing anyone, there is not a child formed inside of me. And I have no choice. I'm just going on with my life. " Her relationship with Mark was coming to an end and she did not want to be united forever because of a child.
The second abortion, however, will give Abby even deeper wounds than the first...
Abortion was bad ... Now she knew, after all, but she could not admit it.
In the meantime, she comes in contact with those who support and welcome life peacefully: people who know how to offer help to girls in trouble, rather than screams of contempt, who know to silently pray for life to triumph and offer with kindness an alternative to abortion. These people will force Abby to question herself.
What affects her very deeply, in particular, will be their initiative: "40 days and 40 nights for life": a campaign consisting of incessant prayer for women, for children, for the promoters of abortion.
"And if they were right? If the true good were to defend life, always and in any case? If God were on their side and not on mine? If I was wrong? "
These questions, albeit stifled, begin to repeatedly pop into the front of Abby's mind...
Lies and euphemisms cannot erase reality
Years after the end of the relationship with Mark, Abby marries Doug, a good and patient man, with whom she will also have a daughter. He opposes abortion, and the two live in profound contrasts. But man respects her and helps her to reflect without offending her.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood enters an economic crisis and although the institution publicly states that its purpose is to reduce the number of abortions, employees are told to insist on finding ways to increase the number of abortions to raise revenues (clinics make money with abortions, not with family planning). This commodification of human lives will sharpen the conflict already present in Abby.
What, however, will bring her to say definitively "enough is enough," will be the fact she has to witness and aid first person an abortion being performed – even though she was a social worker and not a doctor - for lack of personnel.
We quote the words Abby describes when she finally sees the reality without blinders, the moment in which she understands that with abortion one is not "interrupting a situation of hardship," but one human life is being eliminated, one person.
It's the same as Grace at 12 weeks, I thought, surprised, remembering the first time I saw my daughter, three years ago, tucked away safe in my belly. The image I was seeing now seemed to me the same, in fact, it was even clearer. The details stunned me: you could clearly see the profile of the head, the two arms, the feet, and the fingers. Everything was perfectly formed. Immediately, anxiety replaced the memory of Grace: what am I going to do? I felt a tremendous twinge in my stomach. [...] I was taking away from that woman the most precious gift of her life and she did not even know it.
This is the beginning of Abby's journey towards the defense of life...
The power of an unconditional welcome
Abby sees God as the author of his conversion. She believes, in fact, that the sincere and continuous prayers of her friends of the Coalition for Life, from which she felt accepted both before her change and later, have opened her heart and her eyes.
Following her radical change, Abby will have to appear in court to defend herself from false accusations, she will be betrayed by people she considered friends, she will find herself in economic hardship, yet she will experience a joy, a peace and a sense of freedom never felt before.
A few weeks after her conversion, she will find herself praying in front of the clinic where she had worked for eight years, convinced that abortion was a right.
A book about healing
This book speaks of healing: healing from cynicism, from a mentality of death, healing from the lies that we tell ourselves to silence conscience, healing from the slavery of money, healing from euphemisms that hide the truth, healing from mistakes made in the past.
It is a book that makes us reflect on the patience of God and on the value of respect for those who we believe live in error.
When Abby still works in the Planned Parenthood clinic, she starts attending a Protestant Christian community, from which, however, she is fired for her profession: "If only they tried to make me understand that I was wrong, instead of going away...", Abby affirms with regret, after her conversion.
We think of Abby's story when we become intolerant and aggressive, we think of Abby to keep in mind that the real secret to helping someone recognize his mistakes is love and nearness.
We think of Abby even when we lose hope, when we do not see changes around us, when it seems to us that the world is swallowed up by evil.
This testimony teaches us that that which does not happen in eight years, can happen in three weeks.