The XX Factor

Abby Johnson and What Motivates a Woman’s Stance on Abortion

Amanda , the Texas Monthly article on Abby Johnson shows that she’s not the hero that the right has made her out to be, but it’s worth pointing out that she’s not quite the villain that the left made her out to be, either. When her story first made news, Planned Parenthood sought a restraining order against her, and people accused her of taking private information from the clinic, with the sinister implication that she was going to bring or threaten harm to those who worked at the clinic. But at a hearing, Judge J.D. Langley ruled that Planned Parenthood offered insufficient evidence that Johnson took confidential documents from the facilities.

If I were more mean-spirited, I’d say perhaps she honed her lying skills at Planned Parenthood (since, after all, there is video of a counselor at another PP clinic telling a patient that the definitely-not-a-baby she was carrying wouldn’t have a heartbeat until 17 weeks gestation and video of a PP employee telling a patient to lie about her age ). But that would be unfair. Johnson might be “obtuse and untrustworthy,” as you write. I suspect, though, that she was at least telling the truth about not realizing that she would end up on Fox News, and I would guess that the overriding character trait that fueled all this was naivete, and that she found herself in over her head when the media descended. All in all, she seems like a flawed individual with a knack for garnering attention. Which makes me wonder: When does her reality show start? What’s most disappointing for me is that if her conversion story has any truth to it-maybe along with everything else she really couldn’t take it anymore, maybe God flicked her ear and told her she was on the wrong team (and, by the way, we’d never call ourselves “Team Fetus “!)-she really didn’t need the dramatic story. She could have just said, “I’ve seen enough. I can’t do it anymore.” She’d have been welcomed with open arms.

Aside from Johnson, though, I have a question that I hope you don’t mind me asking. Your posts on abortion often, at least to my eyes, paint the issue as something utterly black and white. Pro-choicers are honorable and righteous defenders of women everywhere, and pro-lifers are woman-hating “sex-phobic” liars. Is that your impression of everyone who is anti-abortion? I’ve been against abortion for about 20 years now, ever since I was old enough to think hard about it, and that description fits almost no one I know. I don’t hate women. I’m a tomboy, and I’d rather watch a football game than sit through Bride Wars or anything involving sisterhoods of Ya-Yas or traveling pants, but women are amazing. And I think sex is pretty great, too.

Yes, there are prudish old folks who think sex is for procreation, not recreation, and I cringe whenever I see their letters to the editor in the newspaper. But abortion is not that cut and dried of an issue, and people on both sides have different motivations for their belief systems. There are people who are pro-choice because they’ve thought long and hard about it and want what they view as what’s best for women; others are pro-choice because that’s what their Womyn’s Studies 101 professor taught them; and there are yet others who are pro-choice because they don’t want to be inconvenienced by an unwanted pregnancy. (I’m sorry, but if pro-life men get knocked as sexist, why not men who cajole women to get abortions so they don’t have to “deal with” a kid or child support?) And yes, some people are pro-life because that’s what their church told them or because they think women should be barefoot and pregnant. But some of us are pro-life because we’ve had to confront the reality that our parents were young and unready for children when they conceived us and that we could have been aborted ourselves. Amazing perspective that provides, by the way. And some of us are pro-life because we believe women are strong and intelligent and independent enough to own their own sexuality and take advantage of all the ways that science has made it possible to have sex without getting pregnant. There is good and bad on both sides. There is honesty and sincerity, and there is lying and deception. If abortion were that simple, do you think we’d still be arguing about it so passionately more than 35 years after Roe v. Wade ?