Some of the most important people in the pro-life movement are the converts. Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v Wade, became a powerful voice for the preborn after becoming pro-life. Bernard Nathanson, a co-founder of NARAL and former abortionist, narrated the revolutionary pro-life film “The Silent Scream.” Abby Johnson, former clinic director of a Planned Parenthood, launched an organization that has transitioned hundreds of abortion clinic workers out of the industry since her conversion. These leaders — many of whom I haven’t named due to their sheer numbers — are a testament to the power of the pro-life message as former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino put it, “No matter where you are or what you’ve done, you can change.”
When Dr. Leana Wen announced being ousted from her position as Planned Parenthood President, Abby Johnson reached out to her on Twitter to offer help through her non-profit, And Then There Were None.
But the pro-life response was split. While some pro-lifers and many pro-life leaders responded with compassion and invitation, many pro-lifers did the opposite. For them, the firing event became the subject of countless memes and jokes as pro-lifers gleefully rejoiced at the spectacle of the abortion industry apparently eating itself alive.
I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood. My statement to come shortly.
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) July 16, 2019
Here are just a few responses to her initial announcement:
“Was your employment no longer viable?”
“Sounds like your choice was taken away from you. You were aborted.”
“Don’t think of it as being fired, think of it as PPFA exercising their right to choose.”
In 2017, Abby Johnson wrote in an op-ed in The Federalist that her conversion to the pro-life movement had been significantly delayed by the tacticts of hostile pro-lifers. “[A] man who frequently harassed us and our patients had sent a letter to the neighborhood where my parents lived, comparing me to a child molester and telling everyone that I killed children,” she wrote. Because of this experience, Johnson says she decided not to get coffee with a charitable pro-life woman who had reached out to her, because she had seen the woman conversing with Abby’s harasser outside the abortion clinic.
Anger in the pro-life movement is understandable. We are, after all, battling an injustice that has taken the lives of tens of millions of children. But if we demean and dehumanize those in the abortion industry as monsters, we become no better than those who dehumanize the children in the womb. And this can be done not only through extreme actions like threats and harassment, but also through subtler, but similarly damaging displays of hostility on social media.
We know, by hearing the stories of those like Dr. Nathanson and Abby Johnson, both of whom were staunch abortion supporters and were part of the abortion industry, that those who support abortion are often people who care about others but simply have a huge blind spot when it comes to abortion. One of these people, I believe, is Dr. Leana Wen. Before her firing, I attended a speech she gave at a UCLA event hosted by Medical Students for Choice (I wrote about my experience here). I agreed with many of the principles she put forward, such as the need to personally stand up against injustice and the need to address the high maternal mortality rate in the United States. I respected her passion and found it difficult to believe that she was some kind of depraved killer. She is, I believe, exactly the kind of person who — given time, compassion, and education from the pro-life movement — could one day become a powerful voice for the preborn.
So why did so many of us treat her with scorn?
We should treat those in the abortion industry with love and respect, whether it’s the president of Planned Parenthood or a local abortion facility director, continually inviting them into the pro-life movement. The integrity of our movement lies in the fact that we view all people as people with dignity without exception. We are the ones who believe that all people should be treated with respect and cherished, from the tiniest preborn child to the president of Planned Parenthood to the pro-choice family member who leaves regular, inflammatory comments on our Facebook posts.
There won’t be an opportunity for a “redo” with Dr. Leana Wen — most of us may never have another opportunity to interact with her in which we can do better. All we can do is acknowledge our mistakes and listen to the words of Dr. Levatino: “You can change.” All of us can and should grow and change to show more charity, more compassion, and more appreciation of the dignity of all people, including those who support abortion. One day, those same people could be fighting for the preborn right alongside us.
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