Is anti-abortion speaker telling the truth? | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is anti-abortion speaker telling the truth?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:36 AM

  • Salon/KTBX video
Anti-abortion groups in Arkansas held a closed strategy session in Little Rock yesterday to plan continued fights against abortion in Arkansas, including the possibility Planned Parenthood might expand abortion services, now only done by pill for women in the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

To fire up the movement, the groups brought in Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee in Texas who's converted to the anti-abortion side. She tells a dramatic story about a change of heart while observing an ultrasound during a 13th-week abortion.

The drama part: An account by Texas Monthly, mentioned here in a further story by Salon, questions the accuracy of her conversion story (though she sticks to it and says Planned Parenthood must have altered records that contradict her.).

The abortion was supposed to explain it all. The traumatizing ultrasound-guided termination of a patient's 13-week fetus set the stage for Abby Johnson's startling conversion from pro-choice warrior to antiabortion extremist. It was meant to resolve questions about why the 29-year-old resigned as director of Planned Parenthood's Bryan, Texas, clinic and joined forces with longtime foe Coalition for Life. Time and again on right-wing radio and TV shows, she passionately detailed how she had a sudden "change of heart" while assisting a physician who performed the procedure. But the revelatory abortion never took place, according to medical records obtained by Texas Monthly.

Broadsheet reported on Johnson's about-face in November, breaking news that the former "Employee of the Year" had recently been put on a performance review and that, curiously enough, she had appeared on a local radio show singing Planned Parenthood's praises on Sept. 27, the day after she claims the procedure took place. Now, Texas Monthly has followed up with additional reporting that casts further doubt on her story. Reporter Nate Blakeslee writes:

According to Planned Parenthood, there is no record of an ultrasound-guided abortion performed on September 26. The physician on duty told the organization that he did not use an ultrasound that day, nor did Johnson assist on any abortion procedure. ... It's difficult to imagine that Johnson simply got the date wrong; September 12 was the only other day that month that the clinic performed surgical abortions.

In records filed with the Texas Department of State Health Services, Planned Parenthood reported that 15 abortions were performed that day, but none of the patients were more than 10 weeks pregnant; however, Johnson claims to have witnessed the termination of a 13-week fetus.

There's more contradiction as the story continues. Which doesn't alter what Johnson's feelings are about abortion. But if she's invented dramatic fiction for her appearances on the speaking circuit, what other parts of what she says — about Planned Parenthood, particularly — might be worth a closer look? For the record, Planned Parenthood of Little Rock also offers:

Birth Control Services
Emergency Contraception
General Health Care
HIV Testing
HPV & Hepatitis Vaccines
LGBT Services
Men's Health Services
Patient Education
Pregnancy Testing, Options & Services
STD Testing & Treatment
Women's Health Services

SIDE NOTE: Many in the anti-abortion army were talking last night about plugging Republican candidates. They know in the current rigid and extreme ideology of the modern Republican Party there is no room for a candidate who would allow legal abortion under almost any circumstance, probably not even government-supported contraception. The acceptable candidates also must be committed to slashing unnecessary spending, such as Medicaid for poor mothers; the WIC nutrition program to insure healthy babies; education programs that reach out to the at-risk young. You know. Family values candidates.

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