I, like everyone else who has opened Abby Johnson’s new book, “UnPlanned,” couldn’t put it down.

The true account of Abby’s dramatic journey from Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director (Employee of the Year even) to pro-life activist in the span of a week was mesmerizing.

Long story short: Abby’s traumatic participation in an ultrasound-guided abortion solidified a conversion that had begun forming when her bosses ordered her to increase profits by increasing abortions.

Abby’s book contains several insights, but what I gained most from reading “UnPlanned” was a better understanding of the abortion worker’s mind.

Abby challenged my preconceived notions from the start, literally, in her foreword:

And until we each set aside our own preferences for how we wish others would think and behave, or how we assume others think and behave, we won’t be able to understand those with whom we differ in order to engage in real dialogue and discover truth. …

Oh how we love to vilify our opponents. … How easy to assume that those on “our” side are right and wise and good; how those on “their” side are treacherous and foolish and deceptive. I have found right and good and wisdom on both sides. I have found foolishness and treachery and deception on both sides as well. …

To this day I have friends on both sides of this polarizing debate. … And even more shocking – we have far more in common with the “other” side than we might imagine. …

In all likelihood, as you look through the fence, you see faulty thinking and harmful behavior on the other side. Here’s my question for you: are you ready to look through the fence and see goodness, compassion, generosity, and self-sacrifice on the other side?

To be honest, not really. But because I trusted Abby as one of us now, and also as one speaking from experience, I decided to open my mind a little.

The jaw-dropping, inspirational story of a Planned Parenthood director who switched sides. Order Abby Johnson’s new book, “UnPlanned”

The fence of which Abby spoke in her foreword was not only metaphoric, it was literal. It was a fence that separated the two sides at Abby’s clinic.

On the outside of the literal fence it was one pro-lifer dressed as the Grim Reaper and another holding a large placard of an aborted baby that erected the greatest emotional fence, blocking workers and mothers in desperate need of the truth on the inside, so wrote Abby.

It was only when David Bereit and Shawn Carney eventually shooed the activists away and replaced them with prayerful, compassionate and informative sidewalk counselors that the emotional guard began to come down, Abby said.

Pro-lifers will recognize David and Shawn as leaders of the highly successful 40 Days for Life campaign, but way back when they were “just” leaders of a pregnancy care center down the street from Abby’s mill.

In fact, Abby’s clinic was the first where 40 Days was ever attempted.

It was intriguing to read the perspective of clinic workers observing that first historic 40 Days effort. Abby wrote:

I was trying to figure out exactly why certain Planned Parenthood staffers felt so threatened by the campaign. 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. … After all, 40 days and 40 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 the campaign wore on, I tried to understand my mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, as a believer in God, how could I be unhappy about people praying? …

On the other hand, I have to admit that I resented it. Clearly the implication was that God was on their side, not ours, and I vacillated between squirming in discomfort and feeling downright irritated at their arrogance. 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! …

When Oct. 10, 2004, the last day of the 40 Days for Life campaign, finally rolled around, all of us at the clinic were relieved.

In my opinion, the 40 Days for Life campaign has been the most successful pro-life invention of the last decade, maybe more.

We tend to focus on the hundreds of babies 40 Days campaigns have saved, and the blow to the abortion trade 40 Days wields by its sustained presence twice annually.

But to date, 40 Days is also credited with attracting 43 workers out of the abortion industry.

This is major reason I think Abby’s book is a game-changer. Abby is a bridge. Abortionists, clinic owners and staff have come into our movement before, but Abby speaks to a new generation – on both sides. Abby’s heart and mission are clear, as she said on a webcast about her book the other night:

I also want to give a very special and sincere welcome to people who are on the line who are here as supporters of Planned Parenthood or are maybe staff of Planned Parenthood. I know there are many people on the line tonight who are here to listen to me as critics of my story, and I want to welcome you. I want to thank you for being here. It is a blessing that you are here, because I was once just like you. I was a person who sat in on these phone calls. I was a person who sat on the 40 Days for Life webcasts. And now I am a pro-life advocate. I am so thankful that you are all here and that you are taking the time out of your schedule to listen to us and to hear the truth.

Me, too.

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