SaltRiver, 2010. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)
In this illuminating and moving volume we get an inside look at the world of Planned Parenthood, and how one woman eventually had to walk away from a lucrative career with it. 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 himself, and to life.
We discover a woman from a conservative, church-going home who thought the work she was doing was somehow honouring to God. We encounter a woman who grew more and more opposed to the very thing her career was involved in – taking the life of innocent human beings.
In this book she recounts how mentally and morally confused she was, and how she tried to live with these various inconsistencies. But she discovered that she was living a lie. Her contradictory beliefs and her stifled emotions were keeping her from finding truth.
She really did think she was helping women, and in fact opposed late-term abortions. But she fell for the lies that abortions simply “solved a problem” – removing an unwanted pregnancy. Given that she had two abortions herself, she needed justification for all this.
So she naively fell for the propaganda and linguistic gymnastics promoted by Planned Parenthood. While in college she started to do volunteer work for them, and soon worked as a paid employee. She was so committed to her job that before long she was a director of a clinic in Texas.
Incredibly, she married a pro-life Christian, and even attended church during this time. But she had co-workers who claimed to be Christians, and she eventually joined a denomination that officially supported the pro-choice ideology. But numerous episodes along the way slowly penetrated the lies she had believed, and the mask she was wearing.
One was the love and attention she received from her “enemies”: pro-lifers who daily prayed outside her clinic. Many befriended her, loved her, and prayed for her. One pro-life woman was especially influential, and a hand-written card saying she was praying for her made a lasting impression on her.
The Coalition for Life 40 Days for Life campaign actually first took place outside her clinic. It was one of the hottest summers on record, but every hour for 40 days at least two people were praying around the clock outside her clinic. Such dedication and zeal was both puzzling but inviting.
Also, looking for the first time at an ultrasound photo of one of the babies she aborted years earlier had a profound impact on her, resulting in a “wave of unexpected remorse”. Moreover she encountered numerous women who experienced deep grief and remorse over their abortions, often for years.
In late 2006 she gave birth to her first child, Grace. Having your own child around, while counselling other women to be willing to abort theirs, also took its toll. And complications with women having medical abortions (eg., RU-486), also began to gnaw at her.
Then there was the grieving nun who prayed outside her clinic. “She fell to her knees and wept with such grief, such genuine personal pain, that I couldn’t help but think to myself, She feels something far deeper than I ever will. She is honestly pained. This is real for her – this grief at knowing that client had an abortion. A sense of shame washed over me.”
She could not get this out of her mind: “How many other people cry outside my workplace because of the work I am doing?” It was to be a haunting question.
Troubles at work also were part of this process of discovery. A major aspect of this was how Planned Parenthood was making it clear that their real interest was not helping women – it was the bottom line. Making money through abortion was becoming the main focus, and of course the later the abortion, the more money was made.
When she was told her own clinic must start performing late-term abortions, she really was sent into a moral daze. All she got from her superiors when she complained that this was a nonprofit was the terse reply, “Abby, nonprofit is a tax status, not a business status”. She was ordered to get her priorities straight and get her revenue up.
The last straw was when she finally had to participate in an actual abortion. Strange as it may seem, for the eight years of her work there, she had not actually witnessed one. But when she was asked to help out, she got the shock of her life.
She held the ultrasound while the doctor joked “Beam me up, Scotty” as he rotated the cannula, a straw-shaped instrument attached to the end of a suction tube. She 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.”
She realised 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.”
All this burst her bubble, or rather, her steel cage that she had erected around herself. All the secrets, and guilt, and angst that she bottled up for years were now starting to pour forth. The scales fell from her eyes as she realised she had been believing lies and living a lie.
She realised that she was just as culpable in the deaths of countless babies. “I’d presented confused, anxious, and panicked women with their options – parent, abort, or adopt – as if we were discussing menu options.” She knew then and there that she had to get out of this career of death.
She went to the Coalition for Life offices and poured out her story while weeping uncontrollably. The stunned pro-lifers whom she had mocked and harassed for the last eight years at first did not know what to make of it all. But they loved her, comforted her, and told her they would help her in any way they could, such as finding new employment.
Of course this change of heart was considered treasonous by Planned Parenthood and the pro-death camp. They lied about her, abused her, and took legal action against her. Her pro-choice church also showed its true colours, making it clear that she was no longer wanted.
But God used all this to help spread her story, and numerous women were touched and blessed by her brave stance. Media coverage was widespread, and many women saved their babies because of her powerful testimony. And women still are today as a result of this very important book.
Everyone needs to read this story, and then pass it on to others. It is an inspiring and riveting account of the most pressing moral struggle of our age. It is a story of hope, of grace, of forgiveness, and of new beginnings. That a God of love and grace can forgive, transform and use a woman with so much blood on her hands is simply remarkable.
Simply to read the closing words is worth the price of the book. Abby now often stands on the other side of the fence, outside her old clinic, telling scared young women, “Hi, I’m Abby Johnson, and I used to run this clinic. We can help you”.