Four years ago, my son Jonathan found me sitting in front of my laptop, tears running down my cheeks. I had read an email and had been stunned to tears and silence. I was in shock with joy. The email was about Abby Johnson, the director of our local Planned Parenthood (the number one abortion provider in the nation). Abby had just announced, after years of working for Planned Parenthood, that she had experienced something that made her walk out the front door of Planned Parenthood, drive over to the Coalition for Life offices and tell them, “I want out.”
I’m sure many shed tears of joy that day. But, I had a special, although distant, connection to the news. 10 years earlier, I had scraped together money left over from my grad school grant and quit my job at St. Mary’s to attempt the start up of a new non-profit: the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life. We became a group dedicated to helping mothers and fathers find alternatives to abortion. Specifically, we countered Planned Parenthood, offering their clients alternatives. I spent 3 years as Director. And, much of my time was focused on Planned Parenthood. I protested the ground breaking, protested a foundation being poured, protested walls going up. I prayed over opening day ceremonies. While Abby Johnson was a college student volunteer at Planned Parenthood, I stood on the other side of the fence, handing out information to moms willing to receive it.
Eventually, I passed the reigns over to those much better equipped to lead the organization, and it prospered and expanded greatly under their guidance.
So, on that day when Abby Johnson’s ‘defection’ became world-wide news, I wasn’t only joyful…. I could see us standing there on opposite sides of that black iron fence, two women who really thought they were doing the right thing for women, but with two completely opposing answers. And all of a sudden the fence was gone and our answer was the same.
To me, it wasn’t just a news story. It was a cosmic earthquake.
My tenderhearted son saw my tears and asked me what was wrong, why was I crying. “I’ve just read some VERY good news!” I burst out. I went on to tell him the story of Abby: how she had been in charge of the abortion clinic where he had prayed. I told him that Abby had been called in to assist an ultrasound-guided abortion, something she had never been asked to do before. While she held the ultrasound wand for the abortion doctor, she saw the baby fight for his life. She saw him pull away from the vacuum inserted to pull him apart and out of his mother’s body. And, in that moment, I told my son, Abby Johnson realized that this WAS a baby. After all those years, she realized that abortion was wrong, and she was finished with Planned Parenthood.
“I’m SO happy, Jonathan!” I told him. “This is an answered prayer! That is why I’m crying – these are tears of joy.”
“Oh. Wow.” he said. Eyes on the ground.
He looked up at me, his blue eyes hopefully wondering. And then, the words I will never forget.
“But, what about the baby? Did they save the baby?”
Even I, with my history and knowledge, had brushed right past that little baby and on to the celebration.
And I had to tell him the truth.
My son went to his room in tears that day, too. But they weren’t tears of joy for Abby. He was thinking of that tiny baby that was no more.
You see, my son didn’t understand the incredible implications that Abby Johnson’s change of heart meant for the Pro-Life Movement. He knew that building where she had worked. He had been to those sidewalks many times before, at first in my uterus, then in his stroller, and later on his own two feet. He had seen the men and women go in and out. In his mind, uninfluenced by media, movements or politics, Abby Johnson was not a national phenom, an inspirational figure or the newest leader of a movement. To this boy, she was just a person. A person. Like that baby. Like those mothers and fathers coming in and out of Planned Parenthood’s doors. To him, they were all equal. And precious.
As it should be.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matt. 19:14
And so, on this week of the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, my family and I will go to our state’s Rally for Life in Austin. We will hold signs and march down Congress Avenue. We will probably holler out some pro-life chants in unison with our fellow pro-life friends. We will smile politely at those who protest us at the Capitol gates. And, my son will see Abby Johnson up at the podium. Her strong, powerful, inspiring words will echo out over us all. We will be moved. Those protesting at the gates will no doubt hear them, too. And, I’m certain, as Abby carries a new life within her womb right now, that she will gladly encourage us all to remain focused. Not to get too distracted by talking points, political positions or strategy. To remember why we are all here, now all on this side of the fence together. Our voices and hearts will echo with my son. We will never forget, “What about the baby?”.