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April 2011

Review Article

UNPLANNED by Abby Johnson, Ignatius Press edition, 2010, pp. 288. Hardback. ISBN 978-1-4143-4835-3. Available from Phone: 1-800-651-1531 (U.S. toll-free).


In July 1917, as the slaughter on the Western front still raged, Our Lady of Fatima reminded mortal men that war is God's punishment for sin. Futhermore, an even worse conflict together with the rise of poverty-stricken Christian Russia as a global atheistic scourge would follow, she told the children, if men did not return to God. They did not. And so it all came to pass.

If we fail to comprehend the ongoing dissolution of Western nations in this Heavenly light – as godless cause and effect writ large – then we understand nothing at all about abortion-on-demand and what is required to end it. For the war on children in the womb, like all the atheistic culture wars against truth, goodness and life in which we are presently engaged, is a profoundly spiritual conflict.

It doesn't seem that way, of course. The untold millions of pre-born babies annually done to death worldwide, 600 each and every day in Britain alone, are dismembered or poisoned in the womb out of sight of polite society. Numerically the holocaust to end all holocausts, it is also the most sophisticated production-line extermination of human beings that Satan has yet whispered in the ears of fallen men. Oceans of carnage, blood and death pour forth daily in abortuaries and suburban homes, by way of "surgery" or deadly chemical compounds ingested by mothers themselves. Yet there is barely a murmur from the press, politicians or pulpits. Hence the pervasive ignorance and indifference. Relatively few even know there is an unprecedented physical war being waged for human life, let alone perceive its spiritual essence: a struggle for the life of souls. These Satan detests, since they are made in the image and likeness of the Incarnate God he refused to acknowledge and adore.

Truly, when it comes to abortifacient contraception and abortion, a "mute and deaf spirit" has surely seized the entire world and is holding it hostage to the Devil. Ultimately, therefore, only prayer and prayerful action can set it free.

Jesus "rebuked the unclean spirit" that possessed the young boy, saying to it, "'Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!' Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out." When the disciples asked Him, "Why could we not drive it out?" He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer" [Mk 9:14-29].

It pained Jesus deeply that His own followers did not take Him at His word in this regard. Exasperated, He rebuked them rhetorically: "O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?" And to the boy's father who said to Him, "if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us," Jesus responded just as indignantly: "'If you can!' Everything is possible to one who has faith."

The "Secret"

Living proof of this supernatural reality and the spiritual battle for hearts and minds can be found in Unplanned, the dramatic story of a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic, Abby Johnson, whose pro-life conversion owed everything to the grace won by the unrelenting prayers of Texan pro-lifers with whom she had locked horns for years. Above and beyond its many fascinating insights, not least its compassionate portrayal of those caught up in the abortion industry, this powerful testimony confirms that faith and persevering prayer are the keys to all efforts aimed at exorcising that stubborn spirit of wickedness which blinds and deafens the advocates of abortion-on-demand.

As with so many women, that spirit had taken deep and unobtrusive root in the idealistic Abby Johnson a year before she happened across a Planned Parenthood recruitment stall at university. It was in the form of "a secret" – an abortion that she had "buried deep, so deep I never let it rise to conscious thought." In fact she was in denial and operating on autopilot from the moment her boyfriend picked her up after the abortion:

The act was done. The 'problem' gone. The process had been physically painful, but I had no regrets. No sadness. No struggle over whether what I'd done was right or wrong. Just a definite sense of relief: Whew. That's behind me. I can get on with my life now. I slammed that experience into a box, nailed it shut, stashed it on a shelf in a dark corner of my soul, and pretended it wasn't there. Three days later I resumed my normal activities. I told no one, not a single friend or confidante. It was a secret that Mark and I knew, but we never spoke of it again. Not once.

Thus, she was quickly won over by Jill, the attractive, smooth talking Planned Parenthood representative who filled her head with the usual pro-abort clichés about "dangerous back-alley butchers" vs. safe legal abortion, and judgemental pro-lifers endangering vulnerable women. "Well, that's just barbaric, I thought, shocked. ... I decided there on the spot. I'm getting involved in this. I can help make abortion rare... This is good for women, good for the community, and perfect for me. I'd like to volunteer, I announced. How do I sign up?" Reflecting on that fatal encounter, she writes:

Today, I wonder if one reason I was so quick, so eager to embrace Jill's presentation about Planned Parenthood – which I heard just about twelve months after that abortion – is that it validated my own secret decision to abort. As Jill spoke, I saw myself as one of the wise and lucky ones who had control over my reproductive rights and utilized my access to safe medical procedures. Jill clearly didn't look down on the decision to abort. She understood the crises women found themselves in. In my role at Planned Parenthood, I would be helping other women exercise their "rights" and protect their "access" as they faced their crises.

Had I never had an abortion – had I never personally bought into the thinking that if the "embryonic tissue" inside of me was simply removed, I could get on with my life and not be hindered by my "mistake" – how would I have responded to Jill's well-crafted presentation designed to enlist college girls into the ranks of Planned Parenthood?

I'll never know. That is one of the costs of my well-kept secret.

The "War Zone"
In the event, Abby, a church-goer from a close Evangelical Christian family, turned up to assume her volunteer duties at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, oblivious to this mute and malign spirit within her soul. From day one, however, she came face to face with her heavenly cure and redemption, in the form of local pro-lifers who showed up around 7 am every Tuesday – "abortion day" at the clinic.

Gathered outside the six-foot high iron fence encircling the building and parking lot, Abby observed an eclectic group: "college-age kids stood praying together with heads bowed"; "two young moms with strollers simply stood and looked on"; a middle-aged couple who walked the fence speaking to clients being escorted toward the clinic door; a man dressed up as the Grim Reaper "occasionally waving his scythe in the air"; another man "strolling back and forth carrying a big handmade sign crudely lettered 'MURDERERS' in red paint"; a woman "waving a huge placard with a picture of an aborted fetus on it "marching back and forth, raising and lowering it like she was on parade"; and "a young couple holding a simple sign that read "CHOOSE LIFE."

Charged on this first morning with helping her "trainer" escort the women arriving for abortions into the clinic while diverting their attention from pro-life counsellors offering them alternatives to killing their baby, Abby was alarmed. "It was like a face-off through the fence. A war zone. The tension in the air was palpable."

The overreaction of her trainer to the pro-lifers merely engaging the "clients" in calm and quiet conversation and offering them literature immediately set her wondering. "If we are pro-choice, I thought, then we believe in women making their own choices, right? So why do we feel the need to protect clients from conversations about their choices? What does it hurt if they hear information and make the choice to leave? We want them to consider their alternatives and to make the decision that's right for them. Right?"

Yet these common sense ruminations, the beginning of wisdom, never took root. They were trumped by the sight of the Grim Reaper, the blood-red letters spelling out MURDERERS and "the marching woman with the horrid photo." To Abby, "these people hardly seemed balanced, helpful, or reasonable. Clearly they had an agenda of their own. They aren't here offering women choices, I thought. They just don't want them to choose abortion. I thought of the professional demeanor of the clinic director, Cheryl; the sparkling clean office inside with clinicians, a doctor, ultrasound equipment. all of the professionals able to offer cancer screening and STD testing. Surely we were on the right side, weren't we?"

Adding to this mix of conflicting thoughts and feelings, her first personal contact with the supposedly 'unbalanced' pro-lifers on the other side of the fence was a positive experience. As she was leaving after her first two-hour shift that morning, a young woman about Abby's age introduced herself. "Hi, I'm Marilisa. I don't think I've seen you here before." When she enquired if Abby knew they performed abortions at the clinic, Abby suddenly and unexpectedly let her guard down:

I told her something I'd told almost no one else at that point: "I've had an abortion myself. It was a decision I made, and I don't have a problem with other women making the same decision."

She nodded and looked thoughtful. "I'm so sorry you had to experience that, Abby."

I was a little taken aback by the kindness in her voice.

"No I'm okay with it, really. It was my decision. No one forced me."

"All right. But you know, Abby – if you ever need help with any of that..."

The "Cause"
In essence, Abby's story is the playing out of this tug-of-war between her crushing "secret" and the disarming charity of pro-life "pioneers" like Marilisa, who, as Abby saw it, gradually replaced "the shouting with gentle conversation, the waving of ugly signs with prayerful vigils, and the hostility with peaceful presence."

But that was all to come. At the outset, after weighing up all that she had experienced on her first day, and certain that she did not need help from Marilisa or anyone else, she convinced herself of the nobility of "defending and helping women": saving them from dangerous illegal abortions and "those hostile pro-lifers" on the other side of the fence. The young Abby had found a "cause."

By explaining the mindset of the pro-abortion advocate, Unplanned broadens and humanises our view of those who embrace this deadly "cause." Understandably, this goes against the pro-life grain. We tend to attribute all kinds of base motives to those involved in the baby-killing trade. Well documented ties between organised crime and the abortion industry confirm our worst fears. Beyond the myriad vested interests and the abortionists themselves, however, are idealistic staff, volunteers and supporters like Abby who do not start out as careerists in a lucrative franchise. They are well-meaning but completely won over by spurious pro-choice slogans. "In truth, nearly all of my colleagues worked in the clinic because of a sincere desire to help women," she says, "and many, like me, were drawn in spite of, not because of, abortion." Nonetheless, once caught in the Planned Parenthood net, its constantly reinforced mantras soon took their toll.

Abby recalls the high excitement of her first (2003) experience of Planned Parenthood's bi-annual lobbying of the state legislature in Austin, the Texas capital:

We were told we should be proud to represent Planned Parenthood, the world's largest and and most trusted reproductive health care organization. ... Every year, we were reminded, nearly 25,000 affiliate volunteers and staff provided sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information to nearly five million women, men, and teens in the United States. ... "You are part of this great cause," one speaker announced. My heart swelled with pride.

Given her "packet of talking points" to hammer home to legislators, Abby was soon spouting the all too familiar lines like an automaton:

I found myself the spokesperson in several meetings, passionately saying, "The only way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The only way to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies is to provide additional funding for contraception."

I firmly believed in our cause, and I'd been well educated by Planned Parenthood to push for our public education system to provide better sex education and hand out contraceptives.... I'd never felt so proud of my citizenship and so proud of my part in Planned Parenthood. My actions, I believed, were helping to reduce the number of abortions.

Riding home from Austin that night in a bus filled with fellow supporters, Abby had "never before felt such a connection with others. It was a bond that would continue to grow" – fuelled and propelled by further personal traumas: a pending divorce and another abortion. Against the sadness of her failed marriage she felt "valuable and wanted at the clinic." While her work there and the insidious mantras she was "reinforcing in the minds of other young women" helped to rationalise her abortion. "What I saw... as part of the Planned Parenthood organization, was that I was in a condition of pregnancy, not that I was now the mother of a child already dependent upon my own body for sustenance. I am amazed at how semantics can shape thought." She further reflects:

I was completely inconsistent in my own thoughts and values. I lobbied at the state capitol for abortion rights while telling myself proudly that, by helping prevent unwanted pregnancies, I was helping reduce the number of abortions. Yet now I was scheduling another abortion myself because I was in a crisis pregnancy.

It's embarrassing to even read my own words here. But it's important that I write them. It's important that you read them. My story – my decision to abort my second pregnancy even though I told myself I was a champion for decreasing the number of abortions – illustrates the complexity, the confusion, and frankly, the disconnect between behavior and values that permeates our culture. I spent many years counseling women whose thought patterns were not unlike my own. Consider this statistic from the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood: nearly two-thirds of women who have abortions identify themselves as Christian. I was one among many.

Liberal Guilt
In the event, Abby's second abortion was far more traumatic than her first. At eight weeks along she was eligible for a "medication abortion" (RU-486). With all the knowledge she had gained at the clinic she thought it would be "the more private, less invasive, more comfortable way to go. ... No anesthesia, no surgery – just a few pills, right? My experience proved otherwise." Alone in her apartment, "nothing went as 'advertised'." Weeks of agony followed: excruciating cramping, heavy bleeding and fever.

Yet all this pain served only to further misdirect her youthful energy and enthusiasm, as she returned to school to complete a psychology major. "In the aftermath of my grief-filled spring, I'd determined to move forward and overcome my failures. I knew I wanted to give to others, perhaps as a counselor or therapist, or maybe through the Peace Corps or teaching. Whatever I chose, I decided, I was going to be a leader and would fight for those who needed advocates.... now that I had a sense of direction, I threw myself into my studies with a passion."

In this passage we glimpse the most powerful and destructive motivational force of our day: liberal guilt. Baby-killing franchises like Planned Parenthood and their affiliates are all powered by generations of women suppressing guilty secrets like those guarded by Abby Johnson. Their dedication to the Culture of Death, despite the constant flow of murderous evidence paraded before them, is a rationalisation of their own complicity. On her ability to hold "irreconcilable perspectives with no need to resolve them" (like "working for an abortion clinic while telling myself I was a champion of decreasing abortions") Abby herself comments that "self-deception is a powerful force." Michael Jones explains:

Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body. It is a sign that something is wrong. It is a sign that it is time to seek help. Now just as there are those who try to ignore what their body is telling them, because of fear of the doctor's diagnosis, there are those who want to ignore guilt, pretend that it isn't there, or there because of irrational psychological causes – anything, it would seem, rather than face up to the fact that they have done something wrong.

[...] A troubled conscience is a formidable social force. It can become a the hidden engine that drives entire cultures. Like the devil himself, the more its existence is denied, the more powerful it becomes. People plagued by guilt really have only two choices: they can adjust their behavior to suit their morality, or they can adjust their morality to suit their behavior ["Liberal Guilt Cookies," Degenerate Moderns, 1993].

Accordingly, Abby had adjusted her Christian morality to suit her ungodly "cause." Rather than seek repentance, she sought to justify herself and salve her conscience by helping others, becoming ever more involved with Planned Parenthood both on campus and at the clinic. "Whenever the school held a health fair, I'd set up a table to equip students with health information. I talked to students about STD and HIV screening as well as contraception alternatives. I loved my new Planned Parenthood role, and it seemed to fit perfectly with my desire to counsel and teach." A classic pattern, as Jones points outs:

This thing called guilt is an elusive but persistent commodity. If we repress it in one area of our lives, it pops up somewhere else. If we refuse to acknowledge the atoning power of Jesus Christ and the immutability of the moral law his Church propounds, we find ourselves, not free from guilt as the propagandists would lead us to believe, but enslaved by it, consumed by it, succumbing like the most ignorant and benighted savage to ritual acts of propitiation... trying to convince the world and yourself that you are a likable person.

Effectively, Abby became a fellow traveller of the feminist sexual revolutionaries who destroyed their own babies and built a political empire by projecting their bad conscience onto everyone else in the name of "Liberation." Since leaving home for college her regular church attendance and prayer life had suffered. Unwittingly, she swapped her Christian faith for the religion of Liberalism. This corrosive creed allowed her to maintain conflicting and contradictory ideas: such as personally opposing abortion yet having two herself and fighting for the right of others to do likewise. And yet she clung to her religious roots, shopping around for a Protestant church sufficiently liberal to accommodate her schizophrenic worldview, while trying to convince her pro-life family "– or more likely myself – that the clinic was doing God's work."

Despite her Christian pretensions, Abby, like her Catholic colleagues at the clinic and all so-called Christian women who live according to liberal nostrums, had become a Christian In Name Only [CINO]. Choosing instead the rebellious "option of Antichrist," as Jones puts it, she attempted "to turn deliberately away from the truth and make wrong right." Thus, spiritually indistinguishable from those who do not recognise Christ and His atoning power at all, she became just another cog in the politics of "liberal guilt."

"The reality of man apart from Christ," writes Rousas J. Rushdoony, "is guilt and masochism. And guilt and masochism involve an unshakeable inner slavery which governs the total life of the non-Christian. The politics of the anti-Christian [or CINO] will thus inescapably be the politics of guilt." Perpetually drained by "his overriding sense of guilt and masochistic activity, he will progressively demand of the state a redemptive role. What he cannot do personally, i.e. to save himself, he demands that the state do for him. ... The politics of guilt, therefore, is not directed, as the Christian politics of liberty, to the creation of godly justice and order, but to the creation of a redeeming order, a saving state. Guilt must be projected, therefore, on all those who oppose this new order and new age" [The Politics of Guilt and Pity, 1970].

Abby's euphoric mood during Planned Parenthood's "Lobby Day" at the state legislature in Austin, her embrace of their "cause" and hostile reaction to the pro-lifers who opposed and exposed it with their graphic placards, all speak to the truth of this underlying reality and her complicity in a murderous mass movement. "Guilt has not only become endemic; it has become a powerful political tool," wrote Michael Jones twenty years ago. "Guilt is the engine engine that pulls the liberal train. ... All the liberal causes are orchestrations, in one way or another, of the pool of guilt that has been building throughout this century."

It continues to accumulate.

"40 Days for Life"
Yet if Abby remained blissfully unaware of these cataclysmic ramifications of her guilty "secrets" and oblivious to her enslavement to the tenets of Liberalism, she retained a certain Christian sensibility – the residue of her upbringing – that enabled her to recognise the goodness in the Catholic Marilisa Carney, her husband Shawn and others in the local Coalition for Life.

She particularly liked the gentle Mr Orozco. A retired policeman who never missed a Wednesday or Saturday morning of pro-life witness, he stood at precisely the same spot for an hour and would always greet her warmly, saying: "Hi, Abby, how are you today? I hope you have a wonderful day," or "Beautiful day today, isn't it, Abby? Isn't the sunshine wonderful?"

Those who have borne pro-life witness at the sharp end, enduring the nasty and sometimes physically violent reactions of abortuary staff to peaceful protest, might question the point of Mr Orozco's undemanding outreach. But this human touch enabled Abby to view "the enemy" in a civil and even friendly light that other clinic staff, who routinely misrepresented the Coalition and called the police for no good reason, could not countenance. "I'd watched them at the fence for a long time. I was convinced they cared about these women, just like we did," she concluded, despite confrontations and caustic exchanges with "the enemy" and even receiving death threats from unknown rogue elements.

Abby appreciated the way in which the Coalition leaders like the Carneys and David Bereit had gently banished the Grim Reaper and other confrontational figures who angered her, gradually transforming the ragtag bunch of pro-lifers into an organised, peaceful, prayer-centred force. "I still thought they were dead wrong ideologically, but I respected their good intentions."

In August 2004, as part of this transformation, the Coalition for Life had knocked on the doors of 25,000 homes in the city of Bryan, saying to each householder: "We're doing a simple campaign. We're asking people to pray for an end to abortion." Soon after, on 1 September, the Coalition launched the first-ever 40 Days for Life campaign. Its impact was dramatic. Abby recounts:

Every hour, day and night, for forty days the Coalition posted volunteers at the fence. Inside the clinic, we peered out and discussed how well organised they were. Clearly this wasn't the same mismatched group we'd been seeing on abortion days. It was abundantly clear that now they were cooperating with each other. Their numbers had increased too - by a lot! They were working in shifts, with new folks arriving to relieve others like clockwork.

Many simply stood for their hour and prayed. Some approached the fence, but when they addressed patients, they spoke gently and offered literature or an invitation to come outside the fence and talk – no accusations, no nasty signs, simply a peaceful, prayerful force. And they consistently spoke words of welcome and kindness to us clinic workers. In fact, they were killing us with kindness.

The media soon showed up and, per usual, the worried Planned Parenthood leadership, both at the clinic and Houston headquarters, began painting themselves as under siege from "antiabortion protesters converging in demonstrations to harass our volunteers and clients." Police were called to "protect the workers and staff."

Still just a part-time volunteer, this perplexed Abby. "I didn't like the feeling that we were surrounded by a 24/7 campaign either, but after all, it's not like they were firing guns or bombs at us – they were praying, for goodness' sake. How could that hurt? But the tension inside the clinic mounted."

On the other hand, she appreciated the stress it might be causing the full-time workers. "After all, forty days and forty nights – those are biblical proportions! That's a long time to be surrounded nonstop by a large group of people who disagree with you but are so persistently... well... nice about it. It created an atmosphere I couldn't quite articulate."

As a believer, she also wondered: "how could I be unhappy about people praying?" The campaign made her question her own prayer life, which "had been steadily drying up. I argued to myself that I should welcome these prayers. Many of the pro-lifers said things like 'I'm praying for you today,' and 'I hope you have a peace-filled day' as I walked to and from my car."

On the other hand, she resented the implication that God was on their side and not hers:

I considered myself a pro-choice Christian and knew lots of other people like me. I was helping people who needed help and, I believed, saving and improving lives. I didn't appreciate being surrounded and constantly watched by people who believed I was on the devil's side. After the first few weeks I realized I was ticked off! Then at night I would chastise myself: What was the matter with me? How could I resent prayer?

When October 10, 2004, the last day of the 40 Days for Life campaign, finally rolled around, all of us at the clinic were relieved. But the irony was not lost on me: I was relieved that a prayer campaign was ending. Wasn't there something wrong with that?

The Power of Perfect Charity
Abby's account from inside the enemy bunker reveals the power unleashed by this strategic application of Christian faith and confidence in Almighty God! Like a military psychological operation it bamboozled the opposition, sapping their morale and putting them on the back foot. From top to bottom, it struck and jangled Planned Parenthood nerves: exciting fears among the leadership of media exposure with adverse financial implications; awakening moral and religious sentiments in others. All achieved through the patient, peaceful exercise of Christian charity for Christ's sake, as practised and articulated by the saints, like Aelred of Rielvaux, an eleventh century Cistercian monk:

The perfection of brotherly love is in the love we bear towards those who hate us, and nothing can give so much incentive to our striving after this virtue as the remembrance of the way in which our Lord bore his sufferings. He was more beautiful than all the sons of men (Ps 45[44]:3), but he did not turn away his face from those who spat at him. Those eyes, which were the eyes of God, seeing and ruling over all things, he allowed to be darkened by evil men. His body he gave to be scourged. His head, the very sight of which made Powers and Principalities bow down in reverence, he bent low to be crowned by piercing thorns. He submitted to insult and suffering, the nails, the cross, the lance, the bitter drink, and all the while he was gentle and calm and loving. "Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth" (Is 53:7).

When we hear those words, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing" (Lk 23:24), spoken in a voice of infinite gentleness and love and peace, what further love and gentleness could be added to his prayer?

Even at the best of times, "Love your enemies" is easier said than done. To observe it while treading water in a wild and fathomless sea of wickedness, face-to-face with the baby-killers, is more difficult still. The urge to pay lip service to the command while actually treating it as an inconvenience – an obstacle to our urgent awakening of the soporific masses to the workaday genocide, at any cost – is perfectly understandable. Yet Forty Days for Life campaigners resisted this pragmatic temptation to reduce the divine injunction to an empty slogan: a mere "ideal." Far from obstructive or impossible, they viewed Our Lord's exhortation as both the Christian norm and foundation of pro-life success. In following His example they assumed His spirit, further underlined by St Aelred:

Not content to pray, he also wanted to forgive: "Father," he said, "forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." They have undoubtedly sinned greatly, yet they hardly realize it, and so: "Father, forgive them." They crucify him, but they do not know who it is they are crucifying... His murderers believe him to be a transgressor of the law, a seducer of the people, a blasphemous upstart who claims to be equal to God in divinity. But our Lord has hidden his face from them, so that they cannot recognize his divine majesty. And so: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

We have seen, then, that if we wish to ... reach the state of perfect and blessed repose in the pleasures of fraternal charity, we must take even our enemies to our hearts. But so that this divine fire may not be dampened by hard feeling we should think always of the unruffled patience of our blessed Lord and Saviour in his sufferings.

The Power of Catholic Witness
Year on year thereafter, both the Coalition for Life and Forty Days for Life went from strength to strength. In 2007, the latter went national. Aiming initially for just twenty participating cities, they gained 89 at their first attempt (rising to 247 for Lent 2011, and a presence in nine countries, including England). Locally, meanwhile, the Coalition filled 1,500 seats at its 2008 annual spring banquet, turning people away because of an overflow crowd and raising $300,000 on the night. "I couldn't even pull in two hundred to our donor banquet," a peeved Abby complained to her husband. She "squirmed" at the thought of "the community rallying around Coalition for Life and distancing itself from Planned Parenthood. It wasn't a good feeling."

Yet nothing made her and the staff of the Bryan clinic more uncomfortable than the relentless prayerfulness outside, as revealed in the following extract. For this Catholic reader the most moving and profound passage in a book filled with dramatic and uplifting moments, it serves as a clarion call to our religious communities to return to their primary role in the Church – which is not about social justice or even running hospitals and schools but, rather, presenting a uniquely public witness to the Faith for the benefit of both the Church and the world (cf. canon 673; Vita consecrata, 20).

One afternoon, a colleague standing by one of the front windows facing the fence suddenly gasped: "Oh my word! A nun. There is a nun in full habit standing in the driveway." Abby recounts the nuclear impact of this other-worldly persona; this Bride of Christ:

I walked over to the window to look, and soon several of us were gawking out the window. The temperature was near 100 degrees that day, yet there in the hot sun was a nun dressed in a heavy, dark brown habit that swept the ground. Her head and hair were completely covered so that only her face showed, a face lifted toward heaven, eyes closed, clearly praying. Believe it or not, I'd never seen a nun in full habit before – at least not in person. I couldn't help but think of the Reverend Mother in The Sound of Music, though this nun was clearly far younger, probably about forty.

"Her face looks so sweet," said one of our clinic workers. "But anguished."

There was an awkward silence. Then one of our clients, who had just had an abortion, was escorted out the door and to her car by one of the volunteers. Our eyes were glued to the nun as, her eyes fixed on the client, she moved from the center of the driveway to the side, making room for the client to pull out of the drive. And then she began to weep. 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 to her – this grief at knowing that client had an abortion. A sense of shame washed over me. I tried to shake it off but couldn't get past the fact that a nun was grieving over what was happening inside my clinic.

A silence fell over us all for a time. Several of our clinic staff were Catholic, but even those of us who weren't sensed a shared discomfort, as if we all felt embarrassed or ashamed. We tried to get back to work, but every few minutes someone would look out the window and offer an update on the sister, like, "She's still weeping," or, "Look, one of the pro-lifers is consoling her now." It was agony just knowing she was out there.

Over the next several months we learned her name was Sister Marie Bernadette. She visited the fence, week after week, on abortion days. One of the clinic staff who often joked that she was a "recovering Catholic" complained one day at lunchtime. She had been planning to go out for lunch that day but said there was no way she was leaving the building because she didn't want the nun to see her.

The truth was, the sister's simple, prayerful presence bothered most of us, Catholic, ex-Catholic, Protestant, and unchurched alike, as if she somehow represented our consciences. The sister was small, bubbly, and joyful. She had a radiant smile, yet clearly over the months we could continue to see that she was deeply and personally grieved by abortion. How many other people cry outside my workplace because of the work I am doing? I wondered. I didn't like the question.

Over time we found ways to tease ourselves about the "power" of Sister Marie Bernadette as we came to realize we all avoided going outside when she was present. I found it eerie that her presence seemed to pervade the entire clinic every time she showed up at the fence.

Her simple presence always reminded me of confession.(1)

The Power of Confrontation
At this point, in the interests of balance, some pro-life history and context is required. For while Unplanned rightly lauds the prayerful approach of Forty Days for Life, it also repeatedly telegraphs Abby's strong personal aversion to more confrontational strategies. Fair enough. But if this were to leave naive readers with a negative view of direct pro-life action, it would be wholly regrettable and counter-productive. To cast the slightest shadow of reproach, even inadvertently and indirectly, over the motivations and methods of those who take the fight for human life to the enemy's threshold in more robust (yet always non-violent) ways, would be the height of injustice and ingratitude. In fact, we owe such warriors, past and present, nothing less than our total respect and admiration.

The Christian charity, prayerfulness and courage of pro-life rescuers, for instance, goes without saying. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends"[Jn 15:13]; "Rescue the poor; and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner"[Ps. 81:4]. Manifesting their conscientious objection to unjust laws through passive civil disobedience, as sanctioned by John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, rescuers have lived such scriptural verses. Expressing Christian solidarity and spiritual union with their unborn brothers and sisters at the very place of execution, and inspired by the example of Joan Andrews, Randall Terry, Maurice Lewis and other heroic leaders, they have put their bodies and livelihoods on the line. While blocking entry to abortion mills, passively and in silence, they have suffered serious injuries during brutal police interventions, accepted arrest without murmur and borne the fearful weight of the pro-abortion judicial establishment, resulting in huge fines and/or incarceration (ranging from days to years). In the process, they have saved countless unborn children from certain death – and their mothers from physical damage and/or a lifetime of emotional and psychological distress.

As an Evangelical Protestant, Randall Terry launched Operation Rescue and led the rescues that swept America, especially in the late 1980s.(2) In 1995, Mother Teresa wrote to him in Federal Prison: "I am praying for you while you are in jail to stop you from rescuing babies from abortion. Christ also was innocent and yet He was put to death." She urged him to offer his prison sufferings to God "for those who are destroying the lives of the most innocent." Persecuted by the State and criticised by the lukewarm Christian majority (from the safety of their armchairs), we cannot overstate the heavenly impact of the sacrificial offerings of this brave minority. They doubtless contributed to Randall Terry's own conversion. Now a Catholic, he continues passionately to advocate the value and necessity of direct action and the creation of deliberate tension along the liberating lines of the American Civil Rights Movement. In his 2008 booklet, A Humble Plea to Bishops, Clergy, and Laymen: Ending the Abortion Holocaust, he quotes Martin Luther King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail:

You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' ... Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

"This," says Terry, "is part of the very core of the American process of self-government." He reels off a list of legitimate historical movements that "testify to the central role that civil unrest plays before political change is reached." What, for example, preceded the changing of the unjust segregation laws? "Tension. Massive social tension. The Civil Rights Leaders and activists – led by the clergy – deliberately created a crisis. Like the early Apostles, they became disturbers of an unjust peace."

As we know, the vast majority of today's apostolic successors in the West, in cahoots with the clergy formed in their own faithless image and likeness, avoid disturbing the unjust status quo at all costs – demonising instead those who do! Yet it was the cumulative effect of scores of confrontational events, images, words and deeds that brought institutionalised racism and segregation to an end, argues Terry. The clergy and other leaders and activists met the injustice and oppression "with actions and rhetoric equal to the crime. That is why they prevailed." Apropos the deafening episcopal silence and inaction (despite 4,000 U.S. abortions a day), he writes:

And now I ask you – as the Ethiopian asked Philip (c. Acts 8:37) – "Here is the battle. What doth hinder you from your baptism of fire?" Why not do those heroic acts? Why not say those thunderous words?

Why not meet child-killing with rhetoric and actions equal to the crime? Why do we celebrate the heroes of the civil rights struggle, but refuse to follow their example of heroism in the war for children's lives? What is more important than the lives of innocent children?

Lambasting the lack of urgencyin most dioceses and the episcopal desire for an easy life – the preference for establishing pro-life offices, financial appeals and Respect Life Sundays instead of bearing public witness outside the abortion mills, leading walks and processions, exorcisms and peaceful "civil disobedience" – Terry asks the hierarchy, "How can you expect the Church Militant to be militant if you are passive?" At the very least, he says, these scandalous faint hearts should not obstruct the efforts of the committed by succouring our enemies (allowing pro-abort politicians to receive Holy Communion, for instance):

My only request of the bishops who refuse to involve themselves fully in this holy cause is that if they will not raise their voice in the forceful manner needed to end the killing, let them not raise their voice in opposition to those who do.

If they will not join us on the frontlines, let them not cause division and dissension among those willing to go to battle – especially the laity. And may God grant a more bold and worthy soul to fill their office after their retirement.

May God hasten the day when not one bishop offers false comfort and solace to the enemies of life, no false charity or honor to the champions of the culture of death who promote and sustain the holocaust – as certain bishops have scandalously done over the last 30 years.

"Live Action"
Randall Terry insists that "the quickest path to victory will be marked by sacrifice and suffering, and hardships," not by "having an office or committee in a diocese that hands out roses and 'precious feet' lapel pins once or twice a year":

While civil disobedience in the anti-abortion movement has waxed and waned over the years, these activities will surely be part of the movement that ultimately brings the killing to an end. Let us be ready and willing, and encourage young men and women to be heroes in the peaceful yet conflict-filled revolution to end child-killing.

And make no mistake, the youthful potential is always there, waiting to be tapped. The silent complicity of prelates and priests can restrain but never entirely suppress the idealism, compassion and thirst for justice felt by all young people. Although stripped of their Catholic birthright by the neo-Modernist takeover, the current post-conciliar generation is still "ready and willing" to endure "sacrifice and suffering and hardships" for a righteous cause. The ecclesiastical indifference and lukewarmness keeps a wicked lid on this latent pool of energy and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, encouraged by their parents and inspired by heroic laymen and women, the young continue to challenge the death merchants on their own turf. Lila Rose, the 22-year-old founder of Live Action, to name just one.

Live Action collects intelligence on Planned Parenthood and brings it to world attention through the internet-new media. In early February, it released undercover video footage of Planned Parenthood employees in multiple American states willing to help an actor posing as a human trafficker and a woman posing as a prostitute to force their victims, some as young as 13, to obtain abortions and birth control: coaching them, for example, in how to lie about the age of the girls. It caused worldwide headlines and sparked investigations into Planned Parenthood in several states.

"People who were supportive of Planned Parenthood have become disgusted," says Lila, who has the enemy on the run. Pro-abort billionaire George Soros is even said to have held a conference call with Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, about how to counter the videos. Completely rattled, they issued the usual disingenuous statements about making "changes" and addressing the "issues." Lila countered by telling the New York Times that the announced changes were mere “window dressing,” then upped the ante: “Live Action’s investigation has uncovered a serious, institutional crisis in which Planned Parenthood is willing to aid and abet sex trafficking and exploitation of minors and young women,” she said, promising to release more films this year providing an inside view of abortion clinics.

'Hallelujah! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!' was the reaction of pro-lifers everywhere. They immediately sought to capitalise on Lila's bold and brave operation. Students for Life of America, with whom Lila Rose had once served as an intern, immediately organized a 14 February Vigil for Victims, calling on members "to gather your friends, family, and neighbors at your local Planned Parenthood facility from 12pm-1pm in each time zone to unite the nation in prayer for the victims of human trafficking and abortion. Now is the time to strike. We must call on our Congress and President to de-fund Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, and finally protect women and children across the nation."

At a press conference on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the “Expose Planned Parenthood Coalition” did precisely that. Citing Live Action's exposé and overwhelming evidence already available from lawsuits, criminal charges, and undercover stings proving that Planned Parenthood has also accepted racially motivated donations, covered up statutory rape, promoted infanticide and performed illegal late term abortions, members of Congress and national pro-life leaders called on Congress to strip Planned Parenthood of the whopping $360 million taxpayer dollars it receives each year to fund its empire of abortion clinics.(3)

Subsequently, in late February, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal taxpayer funding. Panic-stricken, the filthy rich pro-aborts are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads to kill the Pence Amendment in the Democrat-controlled Senate. As I write they look like succeeding. And of course the veto-wielding "Abortion President" is ever present. But whatever happens, the fight goes on. "We need disciplined tactics, and we need to manage our expectations," declared the veteran Catholic Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, who has also introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, to comprehensively and permanently end public funding of abortion in every federal programme and under all federal government authority. "We can't let huge challenges inhibit our pushing the envelope in order to protect life."

Having set this latest counter-attack against Planned Parenthood in train, Lila Rose looked forward to climbing those pro-abort mountains. She waved away foolish fears about Live Action pro-lifers being seen as attention-seeking rabble-rousers (much as timid Christians have always feared adverse reaction to Rescues). It is worth the risk, she said. “Public opinion of pro-lifers comes and goes. But it’s our job as pro-lifers to be strong and sincere, kind but unwavering in our defence of the truth. When you educate young people you will see a cultural shift.”

Relentless Propaganda
If the invigorating confidence and boundless energy of youth embodied by Lila is not to be captured and misdirected by the same enemy who snared the naive Abby Johnson, this education is another urgent priority. Abortionists and their fellow-travelling propagandists are continually peddling deceit to the ignorant and unwary; telling the Big Bold Lies that Goebbels insisted will always win the day if repeated loudly and often. Their chutzpah knows no bounds.

Following the Marie Stopes advertisements on Channel 4 last May, when British viewers saw abortion promoted on television for the first time, recent draft guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists [RCOG] have gone so far as to laud abortion as a safer option than giving birth!

With two abortion clinics being among contributors to these guidelines, but no psychiatrists, critics likened it to allowing a tobacco company to review the health consequences of smoking.

Women "should be advised that abortion is generally safer than continuing a pregnancy to term," states the RCOG, while proclaiming categorically that "the great majority" of women who have abortions do not experience adverse pyschological effects. This blithely ignored one of the most authoritative studies into the psychiatric effects of abortion. "When they can't refute the evidence, they have just ignored it. This is an absolutely disgraceful stitch-up," said Trevor Stammers, a lecturer in medical ethics at St Mary's University College, London.

The RCOG's misguidance is aimed at doctors, nurses and abortion counsellors. But schools and universities are the main targets of pro-abort propaganda, as Abby's own rapid capitulation on campus testifies.

Typically, in mid-February, representatives of the Irish branch of Marie Stopes International, along with other pro-abortion groups, visited the campuses of Irish colleges to promote their “services.” They were participating in the “Sexual Health Awareness Guidance” (SHAG) week organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and sponsored by, the Irish Family Planning Association and condom manufacturer Durex (who recently promoted Archbishop Nichols' homosexual Masses in Soho). Over the course of the week, the USI distributed 40,000 packages, each containing a condom and information on contraception.

One local pro-life group countering this kind of educational assault is the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform UK ( Its public education project, Abort67, is "committed to exposing the horror of abortion [and] to making abortion impossible to ignore or to trivialise." Among its teaching tools, therefore, are graphic pictures of aborted babies. While Abby Johnson found such images repulsive and counter-productive, Abort67 insists that it has had great success with its confrontational approach "on a small scale and we are convinced that with more resources we can do so on a large scale." In its first Newsletter [March 2011], Director Andy Stephenson describes the impact on schools:

Kathryn Sloane (full-time volunteer) and I recently taught 8 high school classes about the reality of abortion. We had been to this school before but just after a visiting pro-abortion speaker. It was clear that her thinking had infected the minds of these young people. On our return this year we asked if our opponent had been back. The RE teacher told us that when he called to invite them in they were furious and refused to accept the invitation as Abort67 were going in to the school. In military terms this is known as area denial. We would like to replicate this tactic in other schools to keep the dangerous teaching of the pro-aborts at bay.

Mr Stephenson explains their charitable intention and recounts similar positive outcomes at abortuaries:

One of the most frequent concerns we hear about standing outside abortion “clinics” holding huge banners of dead unborn children is that women entering them will be devastated by our presence. this is short-sighted and fraught with problems.

Abortion is primarily wrong because it kills an unborn and defenceless child and killing children is bad for people. We shouldn’t avoid this secondary (but still important) problem at the cost of ignoring the former. Obviously it is not our desire to upset women, but in exposing abortion, to prevent them from experiencing the pain of killing their child.

Within ten minutes of setting up with the banners [outside Wiston's clinic in Brighton] a man in his thirties walked up to us and asked “what do you think you are going to achieve?” and before we had time to answer asked, “what about rape?” I replied, “what makes rape wrong?” At first the man responded, “I can’t believe you just said that!” and started to walk off. I called him back, asking again, “what makes rape wrong?” and then went on to explain that rape was wrong because it was an act of violence against an innocent person. In the same way abortion was an act of violence on an innocent person. He was still irritated by what we were doing so I inquired, “if what we are showing is just a blob of tissue and not a small human being then why are you getting so angry?”

As he was listening, he was looking at the pictures of the dead unborn children. So I added that the clinic were DOING what we were merely SHOWING and that they were telling their clients that it is not a baby. After a short pause he simply said, “you’ve changed my mind.”

As simple as that. The pictures provoked this guy to feel something about abortion.

The very simple arguments then helped him think differently about abortion. Not everyone will stop for a discussion but everyone who sees the reality of abortion will recall to mind the horror of the act when they next hear the word.

In sum: confronted with the gruesome reality, the ignorance sustaining public support for abortion (or indifference towards it) dissolves. Volunteer Kathryn Sloane reports that their persistence outside Wiston's abortuary is paying off:

[Our presence] is beginning to change the way people who live, work and study in that area are thinking. This is making it harder for the abortion supporters to say abortion is a woman's choice against the backdrop of what it actually is and the growing public opinion that it is an act of violence that kills a small human being. We are changing minds and therefore behaviour in this part of the community in Brighton. With more money and manpower we can reach even further and change more of the country.

Now that we are becoming familiar faces for the students of the sixth form college adjacent to the clinic they are more confident in discussing our display with us. With interesting debates being held between our volunteers and medical students, biology students, people on their way to work and post-abortive women. The phrase we are hearing more of when asking them what they think about abortion is, "I wasn’t sure about it but now I’ve seen this (our banners) I don’t think I agree with it."

One undecided 25-year-old from Newcastle explained why the Abort67 website changed her thinking: “The pictures are disturbing," she wrote, "especially as my unborn baby is 11 weeks and I didn’t realise how developed the foetus actually is at this stage." Committed pro-lifers are also strengthened. A 19 year-old-from Dublin wrote: "I’ve always been Pro-Life, but if it is even possible I am even MORE Pro-Life. I have seen a few photos of abortion before on the internet, but the opening video left me gaping."

Abort67 are convinced that these and many similar responses are "a sure sign that this is a winnable battle. The other encouraging news is the number of people around the country who would like to join us in exposing abortion in their own towns and cities. These include Exeter, Bournemouth, Ipswich, Nottingham, London, Leeds to name just a few."

Covering All Fronts
Forty Days for Life, Rescue, Live Action, Abort67, post-abortion counselling and maternal care ... these and other lay initiatives bear witness to Christian love of neighbour and our enemies. They restore our Catholic pride, countering the shame we feel at the hierarchy's deadly inertia. And, most importantly, they all have their place!

No one strategy, whether focused on praying, educating, exposing, rescuing or picking up the spiritual and emotional pieces after the heinous act, has a monopoly on ultimate victory. They are all fuelled by faith, hope and charity, and since "faith without works is dead" [James 2:26], each is worthy of our personal and financial support. And none, including the Forty Days killing-with-kindness option, can avoid the risk of alienating some, winning over others, or failing to make any noticeable impression. By covering all fronts, however, they can and will triumph. The cumulative effect of their combined impact is the key.

This plays out in a 'good-cop bad-cop' kind of way. For some, the shock of a confrontational method not only makes a gentler approach seem more appealing, subconsciously it can leave an indelible imprint.

Abby Johnson was repelled by the sight of aborted babies and accusatory slogans on the placards at the perimeter fence of the Bryan abortuary on her first morning. And yet, paradoxically, it was only when she confronted the same murderous reality while assisting at an actual abortion that her awakening and path to redemption commenced. Perhaps the dreaded Grim Reaper and the crazy woman "with the horrid photo" had their part to play in God's inscrutable plan after all? Who is to say that the deep impact of their images and accusations did not contribute at that moment to her receptivity and openness to the healing grace won by the prayers of the Coalition and Forty Days for Life?

The Moment of Truth
In fact, Abby's entire story is a reflection on events leading up to this pivotal confrontation with the ugly truth she had long avoided. The book begins in September 2009, long after her first encounter with the ramshackle Coalition for Life and its subsequent orderly, prayerful transition. She had been with Planned Parenthood for eight years and had risen to become director of the clinic. One day she was asked by a visiting abortionist to hold an ultrasound probe during an ultra-sound guided abortion of a thirteen-week-old baby: "I could not have imagined how the next ten minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life." She recounts the moment of truth:

"... I could see the entire, perfect profile of a baby. Just like Grace at twelve weeks, I thought, surprised, remembering my very first peek at my daughter, three years before, snuggled securely inside my womb. The image now before me looked the same, only clearer, sharper. The detail startled me. I could clearly see the profile of the head, both arms, legs, and even tiny fingers and toes. Perfect.

.... the warm memory of Grace was replaced with a surge of anxiety. What am I about to see? My stomach tightened. I don't want to see what is about to happen.

I suppose that sounds odd coming from a professional who'd been running a Planned Parenthood clinic for two years ... But odd or not, the simple fact is that I had never been interested in promoting abortion. ... I believed that Planned Parenthood saved lives – the lives of women who, without the services provided by this organisation, might resort to some back-alley butcher. All this sped through my mind as I held the probe in place.

... My eyes were glued to the image of this perfectly formed baby ... The cannula – a straw-shaped instrument attached to the end of the suction tube – had been inserted into the uterus and was nearing the baby's side. ... My heart sped up. Time slowed. ... I couldn't not watch. I was horrified, but fascinated at the same time....

At first, the baby didn't seem aware of the cannula. It gently probed the baby's side, and for a quick second I felt relief. Of course, I thought. The fetus doesn't feel pain. I had reassured countless women of this as I'd been taught by Planned Parenthood. The fetal tissue feels nothing as it is removed. Get a grip, Abby. This is a simple, quick medical procedure. ... I couldn't shake an inner disquiet that was quickly mounting to horror as I watched the screen.

The next movement was the sudden jerk of a tiny foot as the baby started kicking, as if trying to move away from the probing invader. As the cannula pressed in, the baby began struggling to turn and twist away. It seemed clear to me that the fetus could feel the cannula and did not like the feeling. And then the doctor's voice broke through, startling me.

"Beam me up, Scotty," he said lightheartedly to the nurse. He was telling her to turn on the suction .... I had a sudden urge to yell, "Stop!" To shake the woman and say, "Look at what is happening to your baby! Wake up! Hurry! Stop them!"

But even as I thought those words, I looked at my own hand holding the probe. I was one of "them" performing this act. My eyes shot back to the screen again. 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. And the uterus was empty. Totally empty.

"Frozen in disbelief," Abby recalled arguments with her husband about abortion:

"When you were pregnant with Grace, it wasn't a fetus; it was a baby," Doug had said. And now it hit me like a lightning bolt: He was right! What was in this woman's womb just a moment ago was alive. It wasn't just tissue, just cells. That was a human baby – fighting for its life! A battle that was lost in the blink of an eye. What I have told people for years, what I've believed and taught and defended, is a lie.

[...] I had blindly promoted the "company line" for so long. Why? Why hadn't I searched out the truth for myself? Why had I closed my ears to the arguments I'd heard? Oh dear God, what had I done?

The Moment of Conversion
In those 10-15 minutes, Abby Johnson's life was turned on its head. She had given her heart and soul to Planned Parenthood because she cared about women in crisis. "And now I faced a crisis of my own."

Providentially, this rude awakening in the abortion room occurred at the very time that Planned Parenthood began laying off staff and cutting budgets while increasing its money-spinning capacity to butcher babies, including late-term abortions. Abby knew that abortions earned "a lot of money" for her own clinic and that "clinics that didn't perform abortions had little means of providing revenue." But she had always told herself she would draw the line at aborting late-term ("viable") babies.

Throughout the subsequent budget discussions with her bosses she questioned herself: "Wasn't our stated goal to decrease the number of abortions? Hadn't that talking point been drummed into me from the day I was recruited, to Lobby Day, to my media training? There was nothing preventative about aborting viable babies."

As her ears opened to discern the empty rhetoric, the scales fell from her eyes. Planned Parenthood's "caring" mask slipped and she suddenly perceived the principal motivation of the cold, calculating, unsmiling face behind it. "I couldn't help but do the math. The later the abortion, the higher the cost. A late-term abortion, I knew, could cost between $3,000 and $4,000. There was big money to be made. Could this be driving Planned Parenthood."

This repulsive development added to the enormous burden she felt immediately after participating in "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." Sitting alone in her office, "the guilt of countless abortions, including my own two, came crashing down on my shoulders."

And so she resolved to leave Planned Parenthood. It did not happen overnight, however. Dependent on her income and still wedded to her career, she clung to the sacred mantras of "choice" and "safety." Surely therein lay "the greater good"? "Isn't it better to have an ugly but safe abortion than an ugly but dangerous one?" Such was her "self-doubt and inner confusion" that there was only one certainty in her mind: "I sure wasn't 'switching sides' to join those pro-lifers."

Indeed she "slammed" the Coalition for Life and Forty Days for Life campaigners in a radio interview right after her decision to leave the clinic. This, too, made her question herself, since she had, as usual, mocked and completely misrepresented them; accusing them of harassing her clients and painting Planned Parenthood as the victim of "anti-abortion zealots," despite knowing full well that the Coalition volunteers were "respectful, gentle, and pleasant."

All the while her relationship with the money-fixated Planned Parenthood hierarchy was quickly deteriorating as they rammed home their ruthless message: This is a business Abby. Get your priorities straight. Revenue per patient must increase. You've got to find a way to get your abortion figures up. We're building the largest Planned Parenthood center in the country, where we'll be able to perform late-term abortions. Increase the number of days each week for medication abortions and direct women toward that option.

It all came to a head on 5 October 2010, a week after the ultra-sound abortion horror. Reflecting on the fact that the clinic was dispensing RU-486 every day, and that the surgical abortions were just a part of her total complicity, she felt a compulsion to grab her belongings and flee. As she scanned her desk, her eyes fell upon a small card bearing a hand-written note that a "fence" volunteer, Elizabeth, had tucked inside a bouquet of beautiful lilies she once laid down and left for Abby in the middle of the clinic driveway. Fittingly, this persevering charity now tipped the scales of her fluctuating conscience definitively in God's favour:

For two years, that two-by-three inch card with the soft pink tulip and handwritten note had been sitting on my desk in my little note holder. Of all the cards I've received over the years, I wondered, why has that one remained front and center?

"The LORD has done great things for us and
we are filled with JOY."
- Psalm 126:3

I am praying for you, Abby!
~ Elizabeth

I looked back out the window. There were two Coalition for Life volunteers standing on the other side of the fence, side by side, praying over this place. Praying. Simply praying.

I could hear Elizabeth's voice in my head, "We're here to help you. Let us help you." I'd heard them all say those same words a thousand times to every volunteer, every client, every staff worker, and to me. In that moment light broke though the darkness and I saw with such simple clarity.

I am on the wrong side of the fence.

I am on the wrong side of the fence!

I knew what I had to do. ....

I didn't hesitate for a second. Tears were pouring down my face, and my heart was hammering. I grabbed my purse, opened my office door, and charged straight toward the back door of the clinic on the way to my car.

The Crossing
Abby drove straight to the Coalition for Life HQ, located in a residence nearby, where she phoned ahead to ask if she could meet and talk inside. The tension she describes upon entering the 1950s ranch house is palpable, as several volunteers, astonished and wary, try to take on board the magnitude/impossibility of what is happening:

They looked terrified, as if I had a bomb strapped to me. They simply stared with a deer-in-headlights look, totally still, while I stood there, body shaking with sobs, dressed in black clinic scrubs, mascara running down my face – just a mess. An absolute mess.

"I want out," I blurted, "I want out. I just can't do this anymore." More sobs wracked my body. I had no idea what I'd really come to say and no idea what I'd say next. The only thing I knew for sure, and I was now very sure of it, was that I had been on the wrong side of the fence and had to get to the right side.

Their jaws dropped. They looked at me, then at each other, dumbfounded at seeing the director of the clinic their organization had been protesting for twelve years standing before them, sobbing, undone. Totally undone.

Her bottled-up thoughts and feelings over eight years at the clinic then flooded out as the volunteers sat her down and listened.

A dam deep inside of me had broken, and a torrent of guilt, grief, pain, remorse, shame, secrets, and fear was bursting out of me with every sob. It was a horrible, wonderful, frightening, cleansing gush of raw emotion.

Events unfolded quickly thereafter. Yet despite the anxiety of walking away from her career, a relieved Abby felt light-hearted:

My defining wrong-side-of-the-fence moment and my obedience to God in simply getting up and crossing that fence had broken through years of torment, guilt, ambivalence, and confusion. A high, thick wall that had been standing between me and God was obliterated. In its place, I felt a river of joy flooding in. I'd never felt this way in my life.

It was only several weeks later, however, that her healing began in earnest. Well aware of Planned Parenthood's viciousness and the inevitable storm ahead, the Coalition had convinced her of the need to batten down the hatches: to keep her defection to their ranks quiet and steer clear of volunteer work at the clinic for a few months. But she could not stay away. On the night of 23 October, troubled by her own abortions "and how culpable I was for the deaths of more babies than I knew," the urge to "Go to the fence and pray" overwhelmed her. She arrived around 10 pm:

Two young students praying at the fence looked at me as I approached. ... "Hi," I said tentatively. "My name is Abby Johnson. I used to be the director of this clinic, but just about two weeks ago I resigned. My conscience wouldn't let me stay. Please don't tell anyone you saw me, but I just had to come here tonight to pray." It felt so cleansing to say it.

... I stepped off by myself. I closed my eyes and faced the building. I knew I needed to face this place. I had to face what I'd done. I had to acknowledge the part I'd played here. It was here that I'd aborted my second child. It was here that I'd escorted women into the hands of Planned Parenthood. It was here I'd casually scheduled the deaths of countless children. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.

I was standing face-to-face with my sin, embodied in that building. I allowed myself to feel the weight of it. I had to own it. And I did.

... I will say this. Good Friday has never been the same since.

Jesus took upon Himself the weight of the world's sin on the cross. I cannot fathom such a weight. Yet I had a sense of the weight of the lives of my two unborn children and thousands of others I had willingly forfeited at the hands of an abortionist.

But Christ didn't stay on the cross. He arose. And that is what I experienced that night. Once I truly owned the weight that night, I gave it to Jesus Christ at the fence. And He lifted it off my shoulders and off my soul.

... I was not only facing the place of my sin, I was facing the place of my deliverance as well.

I prayed. ... I heard only silence. I was alone with God, communing with Him, meeting Him here in this place. Peace enveloped me, and I knew it was the peace that only God can give.

At the fence, beyond a shadow of doubt, my healing had begun.

Fulfilling its promise to assist anyone at the clinic who wanted to leave the baby-killing industry, the Coalition for Life provided Abby with both practical and emotional support. Dr. Haywood Robinson, a renowned ex-abortionist who had once been in Abby's shoes, was immediately enlisted to assist in job hunting. And they stood shoulder to shoulder with her through all her ensuing ordeals, especially the mendacious, nerve-shredding lawsuit Planned Parenthood launched against her (in order to gag her from exposing the sordid truth behind their facile patter). They also helped her manage the pressure of national media attention that erupted once Planned Parenthood announced its legal proceedings. This foolish move providentially unleashed a rare national focus on its activities, to the universal delight of pro-lifers! And it sparked more than just media requests:

Women were contacting the Coalition for Life as well. Women who had experienced the pain of abortion themselves were calling in for counseling and to send their thanks to me for speaking out. They were telling of their guilt, remorse, and shame. They were insisting that my story was giving them hope that they could leave those things behind. Pregnant women were calling to say that, after hearing my news interview, they had decided not to abort. Women who'd visited Planned Parenthood clinics and had left determined never to return were calling to urge me to keep telling the truth. Clearly, my story had touched a nerve. God was reminding me that this wasn't about me at all. It was about Him, His purposes, His story.

It was indeed. But He required nothing less than persevering prayer from his human instruments to achieve His purpose. Souls like Mr Orozco, the gracious ex-policeman who never missed his stand-and-pray hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Finally sighting the fruit of his heavenly petitions heading for the Coalition house about a month after her conversion, he rushed over:

"Abby!" he cried with exuberant joy. "Oh, Abby, I have been praying for you for so many years. It is so good to see you on this side of the fence! What an answer to prayer you are!" He hugged me, and I hugged him back. This kind man had been praying for me for years. God had answered his prayers. I had no words sufficient to express my gratitude.

As Abby was to learn, however, those years of apparently fruitless prayers had pushed the faith and hope of petitioners to the very edge. Shawn Carney, the head of Coalition for Life, later confided how close he had come to calling it a day:

"Abby," Shawn said, his eyes deadly serious, "I have to confess that sometimes, in the midst of all the hours and effort, in the face of empty bank accounts and tensions with militant pro-lifers and pro-choicers at each other's throats, in the face of watching women enter that building with apprehension lining their faces and then exiting hours later with grief etched in their countenance, sometimes, Abby, I'd wonder if we were doing any good at all.

"We'd had a few 'saves' at the fence, and whenever we would, we celebrated and sang God's praises. But more often than not, Abby, we prayed and prayed and saw no changes. Women and clinic staff came and went. Babies died. Families were torn apart. But you were a constant, Abby. You'd been there since the beginning for me. I remember how Marilisa talked to you on your very first day. She liked you. And she prayed for you by name. And Elizabeth – she was so sure you would respond to her friendship. She'd tell me, 'Abby is different from many of the executives. She really cares about those women and believes she is helping them. One day, she'll see the truth.' I wanted to believe her, but months turned to years, and you remained."

Shawn sighed and went quiet for a moment. Then he went on.

"Abby, this year, as the [2010] 40 Days for Life campaign got started, I was tired. I was beginning to believe our detractors – that abortion was here to stay, that nothing we were doing was making a difference. I was weary, Abby, and beginning to wonder if ours was a lost cause. And then you showed up at our back door. Right in the midst of the 40 Days for Life campaign."

I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I'd had no idea that Shawn had been discouraged. And I had not realized until that very moment that my conversion was the result of years of prayers over my clinic.

Perseverance: Love: Goodwill

Of the many lessons to be learned from this wonderfully instructive book, Shawn's frank admission is perhaps the most important of all. It should serve to increase our own prayerful resolve and patience as we await God's response to our petitions for a Pope Saint to head up the purification and reform of His Modernist-infested, scandal-ridden Church. A petition and goal as seemingly vain and unachieveable as a resounding pro-life victory.

Yet did He not say to them: "The things that are impossible with men, are possible with God" [Lk 18:27]. This includes not only the eventual healing of His Mystical Body, but also the slaying of the Planned Parenthood Goliath whose self-serving lies currently rule the world. Indeed, the former precedes and expedites the latter. In other words, the quicker the Church is restored and we return en masse to the Faith of our Fathers, the sooner the prince of this world and his demons will be put to flight and his Culture of Death brought undone – as foreshadowed by Sister Marie Bernadette's profound impact at the Bryan clinic.

In the meantime, the pro-life conversion of Abby Johnson is another small yet exhilarating step towards Planned Parenthood's demise. Once the personification of its demonic "pro-choice" propaganda, she was unreachable, until she observed the selfless dedication and love of pro-lifers, and felt the imperceptible touch of their prayers. This slowly excised the mute and deaf spirit that bound and blinded her. Consequently, since "faith comes through hearing" [Rom 10:17], all the divisions in her heart, mind, soul and daily life came crashing down. In a beautiful passage, she confesses:

It had taken me eight years to discover that by aligning myself with an organization that performed abortions, I had condemned myself to be part of the very thing I'd said I wanted to decrease. Since that decision, it had been a long, slow slide into darkness. It was all so clear to me now. I'd lived in that darkness for eight years, and in it I'd lost my day vision. I had harbored my own dark secrets. I had built fences that separated me from my parents, my husband, my friends. I'd fenced myself off from my own conscience, leaving me adrift and confused in shadowy places. And I had fenced myself off from the connection to God that I longed for. Today peace was flooding in, washing away the rubble of that shattered fence.

Deo gratias! Abby's redemption, like that of the late ex-abortionist and Catholic convert Bernard Nathanson, is one more timely, encouraging confirmation that our apparently unwinnable war against the death-dealers can in fact be won. But all in God's good time – or, as Mother Teresa used to say, one soul at a time. It is a painstaking process and Abby's grudging response to divine grace is representative. She mirrors untold millions of similarly fenced-off, guilt-ridden, post-abortive women, "adrift and confused in shadowy places," all of whom long for the peace Abby found in the infinitely merciful arms of Her Lord and Saviour; a peace the world cannot give. To win the culture war, therefore, each and every one of these conflicted and restless souls must also be won for Jesus. Primarily, Abby's testimony is intended for them.

For the rest of us, whatever our pro-life outreach, Unplanned reaffirms the counsel of Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916), the hermit and martyr who spent himself in missionary labour among the nomadic Berbers of the Sahara for such little visible reward, yet never lost heart:

Let us have no hesitation in asking God even for the most difficult things such as the conversion of great sinners or of whole peoples. Ask him for them all the more precisely because they are more difficult in the faith that God loves us passionately and that, the greater a gift is, the more the passionate lover loves to give it. But let us ask with faith, with insistence, with constancy, love and good will. And let us be sure that if we ask in this way and with sufficient perseverance, we shall be answered, receiving either the grace we asked for or a better one.



(1) Unused to formal (liturgical) worship, the Evangelical Abby had started attending a "pro-choice" Episcopal church. Its liturgy included a quasi-Confiteor "a confession of sin" – which she found moving, yet troubling.

(2) The largest mass civil disobedience campaign in America since the Civil Rights Movement, the mainstream media largely blacked out coverage of the epochal Operation Rescue, when it wasn't wickedly misreporting and misrepesenting it.

(3) Footage at



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