A Caring Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion clinic in Pueblo, is hosting Abby Johnson at its annual fundraising banquet today.
Johnson became something of a celebrity in the anti-abortion movement after she left her job at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas after allegedly having a change of heart and becoming an anti-abortion activist and acting as a mouthpiece for smears against Planned Parenthood.
In addition to running an organization that urges abortion clinic workers to quit their jobs, Johnson’s memoir Unplanned, in which she explains the conversion that propelled her to join the anti-abortion movement, was adapted into a movie released earlier this year.
Investigative reporting from multiple news outlets has revealed, however, that key aspects of Johnson’s story don’t add up.
A report from Texas Monthly’s Nate Blakeslee reveals major discrepancies between the timeline of Johnson’s alleged crisis of conscience after witnessing a surgical abortion on an ultrasound and detailed records of procedures performed at the Bryan, Texas, Planned Parenthood where she served as clinic director. Blakeslee reports:
“Johnson has said in countless interviews and in her memoir that she observed a thirteen-week fetus being pulled to pieces on an ultrasound monitor, something that, as an administrator rather than a medical professional, she had never seen before. But the clinic gave Texas Monthly records for the date in question that undermine her account. First, the records don’t list any patient beyond ten weeks’ gestation. Further, they reflect that the only African American patient—as Johnson has described the woman whose procedure she observed—was just six weeks pregnant, meaning there would have been no fetus to see on the ultrasound, only an embryo, and no medical need for an ultrasound to be used in the first place.”
Blakeslee goes on to explain that while it’s reasonable that Johnson would have witnessed an abortion being performed and simply mixed up the date, Johnson has never suggested that she got the date wrong, but rather claims that the records have been falsified by Planned Parenthood.
The Texas Monthly report also found that Johnson has changed her story over the years, specifically when it comes to details of what tasks she performed as the clinic’s director.
Then there was an interview in the Texas Observer with Johnson’s close friend Laura Kaminczak, a former coworker at Planned Parenthood. Kaminczak refuted Johnson’s story, calling her “completely opportunistic” and explaining that Johnson had a bone to pick with her boss after she was reprimanded for exchanging inappropriate emails with Kaminczak.
Kaminczak told the Texas Observer that Johnson called her a couple of weeks before her alleged conversion and suggested financial reasons for joining Coalition for Life, the anti-abortion organization that protested outside the clinic where she worked:
“She called me two weeks before this whole thing broke,” Kaminczak said, “and she told me she was thinking about going to the coalition. She had been having serious money problems—she’d been talking about bankruptcy—and she told me that Shawn [Carney of Coalition for Life] had promised her $3,000 speaking gigs if she came over.”
Johnson’s capacity for deception is laid bare in comments she made about anti-abortion pregnancy centers, often called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which are known to mislead women who might be considering terminating a pregnancy. At a CPC training session, Johnson recommended tactics for attracting women seeking an abortion provider:
“Women seeking abortions, women that are pregnant, that are vulnerable, they are going into Google and they are typing ‘pregnancy symptoms.’ There’s a way in Google where you can basically set that search to your website. Your website would be the first one that would come up. We want to look professional, we want to look business-like. And, yeah, we do kind of want to look medical. The best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic.”
Once they get pregnant women through their doors, anti-abortion clinics are known to offer misinformation about abortion in order to convince women not to terminate their pregnancies, often by making it sound like a risky procedure when that’s not the case at all.
For example, A Caring Pregnancy Center’s website states that “surgical abortion has an extremely high complication rate,” a false claim for which it provides no evidence. It then lists several very rare side effects of abortion, saying “many women will have at least one of the following side effects of abortion surgery.”
On the contrary, surgical abortion is one of the safest medical procedures and has a complication rate of about two percent, significantly lower than that for wisdom tooth extraction surgery
In fact, research shows that the chance of death related to giving birth is about 14 times higher than for abortion.
Its website also warns of “post-abortion syndrome,” which abortion foes often claim causes PTSD-like symptoms after one terminates a pregnancy. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association all refute the existence of the syndrome, based on a growing body of scientific and medical research that finds no significant links between abortion and adverse mental health outcomes.
What’s more, the website also claims links between abortion and some cancers, including breast cancer, claims which are contradicted by medical research.
Like most anti-abortion pregnancy centers, services offered at A Caring Pregnancy Center include free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, in addition to “pregnancy options counseling.”
The pregnancy center didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Today’s banquet takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the Pueblo Convention Center, and organizers claim it will be one of their best-attended yet.
Attendees will have a chance to tour “Ann the Van,” a pregnancy center on wheels, where a “live ultrasound” will take place, according to a press release.
Pueblo currently has no operating abortion clinics.
Johnson is also scheduled to speak next month in Denver at an event to celebrate Bella Natural Women’s Care, another anti-abortion clinic.