"Unplanned" – Review
The following is a guest book review written by my wonderful wife, Kathleen. When we first got married, Kathleen told me that when she thinks about books, they “make her want to throw up”. I think my bibliophilism has rubbed off on her since then, as she’s come a long way. I’m so proud of her for quickly reading and reviewing "Unplanned", a new pro-life conversion memoir. Some critics have already described this book as our generation’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, one that shakes the moral conscience of our nation to end massive injustice. Enjoy the review!
Abortion, like religion and politics, seems to be one of those topics people just don’t bring up during regular discussion. It wasn’t until I went to college that I really thought about the issue myself and got involved in the Respect Life ministry at the local Catholic Student Union. It was then that I became resolute in my support for life through all of its stages, then that I began to feel comfortable giving voice to those who aren't heard.
In her new memoir, Unplanned (Ignatius, 288 pages, hardcover), Abby Johnson shares her own long journey from pro-choice advocacy to pro-life heroism. As with me, it was while Abby was attending college that she was confronted with this topic, forced to decide where she stood. Abby began talking with a woman from Planned Parenthood who used appealing rhetoric to attract Abby to the organization. Abby truly cared about women and wanted to help them, and eventually came to believe that “access to a safe, proven, legal medical procedure (abortion) is critical for caring for women in crisis."
She believed Planned Parenthood's rallying cries which claimed to “make abortions rare”, and volunteered her time at a local clinic. Over the years, she climbed the corporate ladder and was eventually promoted to be Director of the local Planned Parenthood facility.
The working environment grated on Abby, however. She heard protesters outside of her clinic almost every day. Some were grim—dressed all in black and exposing gruesome pictures of aborted babies—while others quietly interceded through prayerful vigil. It was primarily through interactions with those in prayer that Abby slowly came to recognize the lies promoted by Planned Parenthood.
Like St. Paul, Abby experienced a profound conversion in her perception of abortion. In Unplanned she describes how “the scales began to fall from my eyes.” An ultrasound-guided abortion, which the book’s opening chapter describes in gut-wrenching detail, was the final straw, leading her to leave her job and join the Coalition for Life members who had been praying for her and her clients since Abby's first day on the job.
Though I’m someone who finds reading difficult, it was hard for me to put this book down. Abby does a great job of drawing you in and making you feel like you are experiencing her difficult decisions and emotions along with her. Through the help of a professional writer, Abby’s voice is breezy and informal; as I read the book, I felt like I was a dear friend, listening to her journey over coffee.
My one caveat with Unplanned is that after finishing I felt like Abby’s journey didn't resolve. Earlier in the book, Abby told of her struggle to find a regular church to attend. She found a pro-life church that seemed to be a good match, but Abby and her husband were denied membership because of her work with Planned Parenthood.
The Johnson's continued to search and wound up at a pro-choice Episcopal church. Once Abby resigned from her position at Planned Parenthood, and her new pro-life stance caught the attention of local and national media, she found herself unwelcome at this new church, too, which left her once more searching for a religious home. Where did she end up? Unplanned doesn’t provide an answer.
Since faith played such a critical part in her transformation, it would have helped for the book to finish this storyline. It wasn’t until reading an interview with Our Sunday Visitor that I discovered the answer to this quandary, as Abby revealed that her and her husband are preparing to enter the Catholic Church.
Through Unplanned, supporters of life will be reinvigorated while supporters of abortion will be confronted with troubling truth. Abby’s memoir exposes the motives, lies, and horrors of America’s largest abortion provider, yet reveals the beautiful conversion that occurs when God’s grace penetrates the cracks of a disturbed heart.
(Important Note: "Unplanned" was simultaneously released by two different publishers: SaltRiver, an imprint of the Evangelical publisher Tyndale, and Ignatius Press, the popular Catholic publisher. The main content is the same in both versions, but the Ignatius Press version features a bonus Introduction and Foreword by David Bereit and Fr. Frank Pavone, two pro-life heroes. Currently, only the Tyndale version is available on Amazon and in Kindle e-book format. I read the Ignatius version and really appreciated the bonus content, so would encourage fellow Catholics to purchase that version. You can buy that version through Catholic stores, like Aquinas and More, or directly from Ignatius Press.)