Following is my February column that appears in this issue of the print edition of The Catholic Post.
Back in the day, I worked in public relations in the pro-life movement in Washington, DC. I wrote too many press releases to count (when we used the latest technology of faxing them to reporters), ate expense-account lunches with columnists, and did countless interviews.
When people would tell me that prayer was their primary way of serving the pro-life cause, part of me thought, “Amen.” But can I make a confession here? Part of me didn’t really think so. The 20something media hotshot me felt all my busy “inside the Beltway” activities were more effective.
Today, I laugh at my poor younger self. Yes, press releases and legislation are important, but prayer and friendship are even more powerful in establishing a culture of life.
Prayer, friendship and conversion are at the heart of a new must-read: Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line.
UnPlanned is the story of Abby Johnson, an abortion clinic director who leaves her job after the first time assisting an ultrasound-guided abortion, and seeing with her own eyes a baby struggling away from the abortion instrument. This is more than just pro-life apologetics; Johnson writes a well-paced and sensitive memoir of her spiritual journey.
In UnPlanned, Johnson shares the impulses that brought her into the abortion industry, and the many decent people motivated by compassion who worked alongside her inside the clinic. But she shows how that compassion is misdirected and used by some (including leadership at Planned Parenthood) to make money by pushing abortion regardless of what’s best for women and their children.
Two issues Johnson raises make UnPlanned especially worth reading and discussing:
*How do we as Christians speak the truth about life while still remaining open to those with opposing views? Johnson was asked to leave a Protestant church when her abortion work became known, understandable but a move that drove Johnson away from people who might have reached her. It’s actually the confession from the Book of Common Prayer at the self-described “pro-choice” Episcopal parish Johnson attended that becomes a factor moving her towards repentance. God does the work of conversion; how can we be channels of this grace?
*How do we attract young people to the culture of life? Johnson writes how she was drafted as a college student to volunteer for Planned Parenthood by an appeal to her sense of idealism and desire to help women. Young people are in a kind of “sensitive period” in their late teens to mid 20s when values and life course are being set. How do we direct their natural idealism and energy to the culture of life, instead of the opposite?
Johnson’s conversion happened in a moment, but UnPlanned makes clear it was the sustained effort of many people praying, fasting and acts of friendship for and to her that made that moment possible.
This fine book speaks volumes about the power of love and prayer to overcome darkness and despair. Johnson writes that she was “loved from one side to the other.” Reading Unplanned will make readers want to be that kind of love and prayer in their own communities. I can say now, with no division, “Amen” to that.