A friend of mine, a mother and teacher, has spent the last 40 years caring for young people: her hundreds of grade-school students, her children, and her many grandchildren. She’s spent those same 40 years volunteering in the cause of life. Over the decades she’s helped open 11 prolife clinics; led and served on the boards of prolife organizations; marched and picketed; given public talks; and spent hundreds of hours on the phone and in person listening to and trying to help women faced with the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy.
She once told me that, in her view, the two biggest rackets in American culture are the mob, whose profits are fat but its activities criminal, and Planned Parenthood, whose funding is fat but its activities praised. She has her own personal memory of the latter. As a young woman early in her marriage, and before the direction of her life changed, she sought out birth control counseling and pills from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Manhattan. She got what she came for – and left feeling processed “like a piece of meat.”
She’s never forgotten the experience. Planned Parenthood has worked earnestly to improve its customer service and public relations in the years since, but the essence of what it does hasn’t changed any more than the mob’s has. In practice, the business of Planned Parenthood is to prevent new life, and to help kill developing life if it becomes inconvenient. And too many women to count have been damaged or repelled by it.
One of those women, one who has not remained silent, is Abby Johnson. As director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, and committed to the ideals of reproductive choice and a woman’s “right to choose,” Johnson oversaw a site that conducted thousands of abortions during her tenure. It was only when she took part personally in one of the procedures that the reality of killing a living, developing, unborn human child imprinted itself on her conscience full force. She left Planned Parenthood and joined the Coalition for Life.
Johnson’s journey from one side of the abortion struggle to the other is told powerfully in her compelling book Unplanned, available from Ignatius Press (https://www.ignatius.com/Unplanned-P2528.aspx) and other booksellers. It’s well worth reading and sharing. And her story is now an equally powerful motion picture, Unplanned, opening in theaters around the metro Philadelphia area on March 29. Don’t expect to see positive reviews in mainstream media outlets; miracles do happen, but this one would be a stretch. Ignore that. See this movie, and bring as many friends and acquaintances with you as you can (it’s rated R for the nature of its content). It’s that important. Note that Generation Life is hosting an advance screening of the film in South Philadelphia on March 28, with details here:
Against all predictions and odds, the prolife movement has endured and gained ground over the past four decades because the humanity of the unborn child can’t finally be hidden or denied. The right to life is the fundamental human right; without it, no other rights are secure. Abby Johnson discovered that in a hard but deeply moving way. In supporting the film that tells her story, we join in the task of communicating the sanctity of life.
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., D.D., is the Archbishop of Philadelphia.