Virtual Voices

Abortion and the church

Abortion

Abby Johnson's new book unPlanned is the powerful story of the woman who made headlines a little over a year ago when she abruptly resigned her post as director of a Planned Parenthood center in Texas and joined a pro-life organization headquartered down the street.

Johnson ran a business that performed abortions, and had had two of her own. But when she assisted in one, she watched the ultrasound monitor in horror as a 13-week-old unborn child kicked and squirmed as though trying to get away from the cannula. After the abortionist lightheartedly directed one of his assistants to turn on the suction with the words, "Beam me up, Scotty," the last thing Johnson remembers seeing was the "perfectly formed backbone sucked into the tube."

In that moment, Johnson saw abortion for what it is: the taking of human life. Within days, she quit her job and joined the pro-life forces who had been praying long and hard for her outside the fence of the Planned Parenthood location. She would soon learn that they had never given up on her. They had treated her with kindness, prayerfully hoping for her change of heart.

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Which brings me to the question of how churches should deal with someone who is "pro-choice."

Johnson and her husband (a stalwart pro-lifer) were denied membership at a church they had long attended because of her job at Planned Parenthood. They were told they could continue to worship there, but that was it. The Johnsons left and eventually began to attend an Episcopal church that was openly pro-abortion. After her very public change of heart about abortion, that church rejected her, too, albeit more subtly with disapproving looks and unpleasant emails.

Here's Johnson's take on the churches' response to her:

"When the first church bluntly and somewhat awkwardly told me I could not become a member, the church lost any opportunity to influence my outlook. I wish they had offered to dialogue with me about why they were so committed to their pro-life position and why they found my work at the clinic such an obstacle to my becoming a member. Or at the very least, I wish they would have expressed care for me apart from my pro-choice position. Now some members in the second church were making me feel as if I wasn't even welcome in the building. . . . In both instances, I felt rejected. That's why I appreciate the fence-prayers' approach and encourage churches and other organizations to consider their example."

Sinners fill every seat in every pew in every church. How to lovingly respond to those who disagree about what's sinful and what's not is a difficult question.

Editor's Note: Give a WORLD Magazine gift subscription and receive a free copy of Abby Johnson's book unPlanned.

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein

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