A Radical but Uniting Message
My Uber driver a few mornings ago didn’t mind the relatively short ride we embarked on. “Every trip counts,” he said, “no one is more or less important than the other.” We encounter so many people during the course of a day. Each and every one of them has a story.
I think that’s the power of the new movie Unplanned. It tells the story of a woman and her desire to help people, to have a purpose, to do something good with her life. She believed she was doing that by volunteering and then working at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. This decision pained some of the people closest to her — her parents, her boyfriend who became her husband — who believed that abortion ends human lives. But they loved her regardless of her opinions and choices. Love can do that. Love is sacrificial and hopeful, and it accepts people as they are.
A Message of Mercy
I watched Unplanned thinking of the many caricatures we tend to make people into. With certain words or associations, we jump to conclusions about people, ascribing all kinds of ideas, values and motivations to them that may not be fair. One opinion voiced, one article tweeted, and we may write off people, de-friend them, dismiss them as nothing short of everything we perceive wrong with the world.
Unplanned certainly has what is an undeniably pro-life message. But it’s not a list of talking points. It’s the real story of Abby Johnson. She’s a wife and mother who had two abortions herself. She never closed herself off to learning, to befriending people she disagreed with, including the pro-life activists whom she was able to turn to when she realized that her conscience would no longer allow her to work for Planned Parenthood. Her message is one of mercy, her example one of not being afraid to change your mind, even if it implicates your livelihood, even if it means admitting that you were wrong about one of life’s most basic principles.
Uniquely Created and Uniquely Loved
“Look at the face of the other and … discover that he has a soul, a history and a life, that he is a person and that God loves this person as much as he loves (him)self,” Pope Benedict XVI said in 2010.
This is what Unplanned asks us to do. It goes beyond political and religious opinions, beyond the social media personae and posturing; it asks us to see each person as a uniquely created and uniquely loved human being, as a valuable and irreplaceable gift to the world.
One of the best-kept secrets in the pro-life movement may be the ministry started by Johnson called And Then There Were None, which helps abortion clinic workers leave the industry. She’s carved out space for people to rethink and change their minds and way of life. She was able to walk away from an ideology that no longer made sense to her once she had seen too much — an ultrasound abortion in which the fetus tried to pull away from the instrument of death closing in on it — because of pro-life people who treated her with love. She makes it possible for others to do the same, if they choose. So far, almost 500 clinic workers and seven doctors have left abortion behind with this assistance.
There’s a lot of radicalization and polarizing arguments happening right now. Love can be radical too, but instead of splitting us apart, it brings us together. True love, of the sort on display during the movie Unplanned, is both a balm and a call to action. It heals us while challenging us to live better lives. Whatever your position on abortion, consider seeing it with an open heart. We can all afford to learn its lessons.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.