Monday, March 26, 2012

Abby Johnson's Conversion

I was rummaging through some old papers recently, and I found something that I picked up at the Latin mass that I attended in Cincinnati. It was the Cincinnati Right to Life News Brief, and it was talking about Abby Johnson, who worked (and eventually became director) at the Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas----until she became a pro-lifer.

Abby narrates that she became a pro-lifer when she was performing an abortion on ultrasound. "I could see the whole profile of the baby 13 weeks head to foot", she says. "I could see the probe. I could see the baby try to move away from the probe." Abby witnessed the baby crumble as it was vacuumed out of the lady's uterus. As this procedure was occurring, Abby realized that she and her husband had recently seen an ultrasound picture of their own baby, who was the same age.

Abby's story has been disputed. According to the documented wikipedia article about her: "Johnson's description of her conversion has been questioned. Planned Parenthood stated that its records do not show any ultrasound-guided abortions performed on the date when Johnson says she witnessed the procedure, and the physician who performed abortions at the Bryan clinic stated that Johnson had never been asked to assist in an abortion. Although Johnson said the abortion was of a 13-week-old fetus, records from the Texas Department of Health show no such abortions performed at the Bryan Clinic on the date in question."

In my opinion, even if Abby's account of events is incorrect, her point is still valid. Unborn babies still crumble when they are vacuumed out of the uterus. And it is ironic that expectant parents can see ultrasounds of their unborn children and rejoice, whereas children that are that very same age somewhere in America are being eliminated through abortion. Something's not right here.

Susan Faludi argues in Backlash that the anti-abortion movement is about economically-insecure men who are worried about losing control of their women. That is probably a generalization, for there are women in the pro-life movement, but Faludi may have a point somewhere in there. Why, after all, are these men so agitated over abortion, when there are innocent people dying from all sorts of other things that don't appear to be on their radar? What draws these men's attention to the abortion issue, exactly? Moreover, Faludi may have a point that opposition to abortion has historically served to keep women down.

Still, I wish that pro-choice feminists would at least realize that what pro-lifers say about abortion could have some validity: that there is a problem when an unborn child is being vacuumed out of the uterus in a clinic, when elsewhere a child that very same age is being celebrated by expectant parents.

Does that mean that we should all become right-wing Republicans? I personally don't go that route. I recognize that abortion is not a decision that is reached lightly, for having children takes a physical and an economic toll on women. I also do not believe that simply banning abortion will solve the problem, for, as Faludi notes, there are countries that ban abortion that have high abortion rates. Meanwhile, there are countries where abortion is legal and yet the abortion rate is lower, and these countries provide universal health care. Overall, I wish that both sides of the debate would acknowledge the strengths of the other side: that pro-choicers would not reduce the entire debate to "choice" but would see that abortion is problematic, and that pro-lifers would do more to create a society that supports women who are having children.

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