Thursday, January 7, 2010

"A Loose Relationship with the Truth"

Abby Johnson was the director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas.  Then, she witnessed an ultrasound-assisted abortion, and saw the light.  She entered the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life office, which is one block west of a Planned Parenthood clinic, crying:

Johnson told Shawn Carney, [the Coalition's director], that she had been harboring doubts about her work at the clinic for some time. She felt she was being pressured by her supervisor at the regional affiliate to increase the number of abortions her clinic performed, to make up for declining revenues from the clinic’s family planning and women’s health services. “I could tell her mind was racing,” Carney recalled later. “She was giving a litany of reasons why she wanted out, and it was just almost verbatim of what you think someone who wants to leave the abortion industry would say: Her conscience had gotten to her, the abortion industry is about money, abortion is horrific." 

She left her job and became an anti-abortion activist.  Her conversion story has been fodder for the Christian right. She even got to hang out with Mike Huckabee!  It's like a dream come true for a born-again pro-lifer...

But there's a little problem:  she's a fucking liar.

Her claim that Planned Parenthood performs abortion for profit takes about two seconds worth of research to dispel, and her claim that she never felt threatened by anti-choicers is undermined by the fact that she had security cameras installed in her house. Blakeslee paints a compelling narrative of what likely happened: Johnson was being disciplined by her employers for poor job performance, and she got her revenge by switching sides, having heard daily promises from protesters that they would find her another job. And now Johnson enjoys the myriad benefits of being on Team Fetus that you don't get when you actually have to work hard to help people—making a bunch of speeches composed of nothing but anti-choice talking points means getting praise and validation without much work at all. Johnson admits to having more fun with this easier lifestyle and glowing under all the praise and attention.

But the biggest coup of Blakeslee's exposé centers around the conversion story itself. Pro-choicers have always been suspicious of Johnson's claim that she saw an ultrasound-assisted abortion and then saw the light. This sort of story seems ripped straight from anti-choice propaganda and doesn't really owe much to the daily life of a clinic worker in the real world. But this turns out to be more true than even the most cynical of us could have imagined. Blakeslee examines Planned Parenthood's records on the day that Johnson claims to have seen this abortion performed, and found no evidence of an ultrasound abortion. When he asked her to describe the patient, she said she was a black woman, and Blakeslee discovered that the only black patient to have an abortion that day was at six weeks, not 13, as Johnson described.

So much for that bearing false witness thing...

As Amanda Marcotte at Double X has already said, it's no surprise the an anti-choice activist has "a loose relationship with the truth."  It's stuff like this that shows how morally bankrupt and unprincipled the anti-abortion movement is.  They rely on emotion, rhetoric, and too-good-to-be-true stories, rather than reasoned arguments and discussion of the real ethical issues.


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