Remember when we told you about the Planned Parenthood clinic director in Texas who quit her job to join the 40 Days for Life wingnuts? Well, Abby Johnson is back in the news – this time because her story of experiencing a radical change of heart just isn’t holding up to scrutiny. According to Texas Monthly, portions of Abby Johnson’s story may have been fabricated to cover up the real reason for her departure from Planned Parenthood – slipping job performance.
The rollout of Abby Johnson as a culture-war celebrity got off to a rocky start. In early November, the online magazine Salon reported that on September 27, the day after Johnson says she witnessed the ultrasound-guided abortion and had her epiphany, she appeared as a guest on the Bryan public radio program Fair and Feminist to discuss her work at the clinic. In the hour-long interview, Johnson gives an enthusiastic defense of the clinic and ridicules the 40 Days for Life protest. She doesn’t sound like someone who’d had a life-changing experience the previous day or who had soured on her employer’s mission . . .
Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood turned out to be a more complex story than it first appeared. At a court hearing for an injunction sought by Planned Parenthood to prevent Johnson from divulging confidential information to her new allies, two of Johnson’s former co-workers testified that she told them in the days before she resigned that she was afraid she was about to be fired. At one time, Johnson, who was named the regional Planned Parenthood affiliate’s employee of the year in 2008, seemed to have a promising future with the organization. By mid-2009, however, her relationship with her employer had begun to deteriorate. Salon reported that on October 2, Johnson was summoned to Houston to meet with her supervisors to discuss problems with her job performance. She was placed on what Planned Parenthood calls a “performance improvement plan.” It was just three days later, on Monday, that Johnson made her tearful appearance at the Coalition for Life. The following day she faxed Planned Parenthood a resignation letter, which mentioned nothing about a crisis of conscience . . .
Johnson’s account is so plausible and rich in detail that even Planned Parenthood seems not to have investigated whether this event ever took place. At my request, the staff at the Bryan clinic examined patient records from September 26, the day Johnson claims to have had her conversion experience, and spoke with the physician who performed abortions on that date. 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. “Planned Parenthood can assure you that no abortion patients underwent an ultrasound-guided abortion on September 26,” said a spokesperson. 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.
Could clinic staff and the physician be mistaken? The Texas Department of State Health Services requires abortion providers to fill out a form documenting basic information about each procedure performed at a clinic. This document is known as the Induced Abortion Report Form. The Bryan clinic reported performing fifteen surgical abortions on September 26. Johnson has consistently said that the patient in question was thirteen weeks pregnant, which is plausible, since thirteen weeks is right at the cusp of when physicians will consider using an ultrasound to assist with the procedure. Yet none of the patients listed on the report for that day were thirteen weeks pregnant; in fact, none were beyond ten weeks.
This has cover up written all over it. I don’t mean to be suspicious of people, but the facts in this case just aren’t holding up to close examination. I’m more apt to believe actual medical records than I am to believe a disgruntled former employee.
Kudos to Nate Blakeslee for digging up the dirt on this one.