From my bookshelf, something old & something new:
Deadly Compassion: the Death of Ann Humphry and the Truth About Euthanasia by Rita Marker (1995, William Morrow & Co., ISBN 9780688122218; also available as PDF download at www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/deadly-compassion/)
Unplanned: the Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert
(2010, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., ISBN 9781414339399; also available as e-book)
Don’t be put off by the ponderous title. This is the best one-volume briefing available on the pro-euthanasia movement. The style of writing makes for easy reading, despite the heavy topic. Rita Marker is founder and director of the Patients Rights Council, formerly the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force, based in Ohio. In the course of her work, she met Ann Humphry, whose husband Derek Humphry was a leading light of the Hemlock Society. At first on opposite sides of a seemingly impassable philosophical divide, the two women formed an unlikely friendship that ended only with Ann’s tragic death, the circumstances of which were closely tied to the movement founded by her by-then-estranged husband.
Chapters alternate between the story of the friendship and the history of pro-euthanasia activities. At first somewhat jarring, this arrangement becomes smoother after the first few chapters. By the end, which is harsh even though the reader can see it coming, the personal and the political have merged to devastating effect. Marker does not resort to melodrama, although you might be misled into thinking so by some of the jacket blurbs. Marker’s smart enough to know that the bare facts are dramatic enough on their own.
Seventeen years after publication of this book, euthanasia advocates have scored some serious victories here and abroad. Reading Deadly Compassion is one good way to prepare to participate in the ongoing debate. Marker’s work with the Patients Rights Council continues today.
You’ve probably heard by now of Abby Johnson. A former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas, Johnson is now a full-time pro-life activist. She wants the world to know what PP looks like from the inside, and she is tenacious in calling for examination of PP’s finances.
Hers was not an overnight conversion. She went to work for PP out of compassionate motives, believing that women’s health was a priority there. Two experiences in particular forced her to question what she was doing. She was once asked to assist at an ultrasound-guided abortion to terminate a 13-week pregnancy. The image of the preborn child as the abortion was completed left her shaken. Later, as a clinic director, she was shocked to be given an “abortion quota” by PP, which clearly put the bottom line ahead of women’s health.
While this was going on inside PP, an exceptional ongoing pro-life witness was maintained outside the facilities. Protesters who were abusive toward PP workers had only increased solidarity within PP. A group called Coalition for Life took a different approach, relying on peaceful prayer and gentle communication. Gradually, as Johnson saw Coalition members outside her facility day after day, she got to know some of them. The personal connection was critical as Johnson attempted to come to terms with her doubts about her work.
The Coalition is the group responsible for the 40 Days for Life campaigns nationwide, and Johnson’s story is a testament to their effectiveness. Coalition leaders (including David Bereit, who will be visiting NH later this year) became mentors and friends to Johnson, standing by her as she came to her decision to leave PP.
From the Foreword: “I reveal my story not because I am proud of it. I am not. But my thinking and choices are not unlike those of so many people I have encountered. And until we each set aside our own preferences for how we wish others would think and behave, or how we assume others think and behave, we won’t be able to understand those with whom we differ in order to engage in real dialogue and discover truth.”