Rick Hinshaw read “Unplanned” and saw the movie as well. He shares with us his insights.
Abby Johnson’s story first exploded onto the American consciousness in late 2009, thanks, ironically, to the machinations—and miscalculations—of the Planned Parenthood (PP) publicity machine.
As is well known now, thanks to “Unplanned,” the compelling, gripping movie taken from Abby’s 2010 book of the same name, Abby Johnson in late 2009 had just resigned as director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, after having “come face-to-face with the true horror of abortion.” Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit and a motion for a restraining order, in effect trying to prevent Abby Johnson from telling her story. Foolishly, they announced their legal action with a news release—bringing Abby’s story to the attention of the media, and leading Abby and the Coalition for Life to speak to the media themselves to get the truth out before they could be legally gagged. Ultimately, PP’s legal actions were thrown out by a judge, leaving Abby free to fully tell her story, which she does so movingly and powerfully in her book—first published in 2010 and now re-released, by Ignatius Press, in an updated edition—and through the major motion picture released in theaters nationwide March 29.
The book and movie open with the defining moment of Abby’s conversion: the day when, as director of the Bryan PP clinic, she was called in to assist in an ultrasound-guided abortion. This was the first time, in nine years volunteering and working at the clinic, that she had actually assisted in an abortion. What she saw—the desperate, futile struggle of a 13-week-old baby against the abortionist’s suction device, before finally being “crumpled” and “sucked into the tube”—assured that it would also be the last time.
But this was neither the beginning nor the end of Abby’s miraculous story of pro-life conversion. It is also a story of the remarkable interactions between Abby and the pro-life advocates whom she considered her adversaries, but whose love, kindness and prayers, not only for the women entering her clinic for abortions, but for her and the other clinic workers as well, helped to open her mind and heart to the pro-life message.
It is a story of how Abby not only left the abortion industry, but actively joined the pro-life movement, finding there the true commitment to helping women and children that she had previously convinced herself was her mission at Planned Parenthood. And, in sharing her own experience, Abby now provides valuable insights for pro-lifers about how best to change minds and hearts.
As she was drawn, however grudgingly, to listen to the pro-life people who reached out to her, she shows how we, too, must first listen to abortion clients and abortion supporters before we can hope to change their minds and hearts. We must hear from women in crisis what is driving them to make the destructive—and self-destructive—choice of abortion, before we can respond with loving, life-affirming alternatives. We must listen respectfully to those who advocate for abortion, if we expect them in turn to respectfully consider our pro-life responses.
We must remember always that our goal is not simply to win arguments, but to win minds and hearts. Winning the argument is an important part of that, of course; but it must be done in such a way that, when at all possible, opens, rather than closes, minds and hearts. And as we see in Abby’s reaction to a few isolated demonstrators outside her clinic shouting “murderer,” and holding up gruesome photos of aborted babies, that is seldom accomplished by getting in people’s faces. Better to let them see, in us, the face of Christ—as the Coalition for Life people outside Abby’s clinic always did—even as we persuade them with all the definitive scientific evidence that affirms the pro-life position.
This is not to say that we should allow abortion advocates—or society at large—to avert their eyes from what Abby correctly describes as “the true horror of abortion.” For as she affirms, even with the loving, prayerful persuasion she encountered for years—not only from her pro-life “adversaries,” but from her own family—it ultimately took that face-to-face encounter with the brutal reality of an unborn child’s destruction to finally drive her out of the abortion industry. And she describes in the book—and we see in the movie—Planned Parenthood’s gruesome “POC” room (“products of conception,” in PP’s antiseptic term; “pieces of children” is what the clinic workers more accurately called it) where abortion clinic workers are required to piece dismembered babies back together, to assure that no baby parts are left in the mother.
Clearly, Abby means for us to read and see these things, to drive home the awful brutality of abortion. But there is a time and a place, and proper approach, to presenting such compelling evidence. Shoving it in the faces of women in crisis entering abortion clinics is neither the time, the place, nor the way to do it. As we see—and as pro-life sidewalk counselors all across America will tell us—that only undermines their efforts to offer these mothers a loving, life-affirming alternative.
Abby Johnson makes clear that she has learned much and received much from her loving friends across the pro-life movement. She also has much to give, and much to teach us—and she does so, by opening her life and her journey to us in “Unplanned.” See the movie, if you haven’t already; and read the book.