An R-rating from the Motion Picture Association of America was not enough to derail the pro-life movie Unplanned. If anything, the rating may have helped the film version of former abortion clinic director Abby Johnson’s conversion story remain in the top 10 at the box office its first two weekends.
But an old article has been resuscitated that tried to debunk Johnson’s claim of having a radical change of heart after witnessing an unborn baby struggle against an abortionist’s instruments. And Johnson has fired back with a detailed defense.
“Reports in Texas Monthly and Salon have raised questions about the details of Johnson’s story, and Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the movie adaptation ‘promotes many falsehoods,'” the New York Times said in a report on audience reactions this week.
The Texas Monthly expose of Johnson appeared in February 2010, after Johnson had begun to make appearances on national news programs but before the publication of her memoir Unplanned. It throws into doubt Johnson’s central claim, about the event on which her conversion—and the movie—hinges. Johnson said that on September 26, 2009, she held an ultrasound transducer against the belly of a woman who was 13 weeks pregnant, as an abortionist terminated the woman’s pregnancy while watching the ultrasound screen. Johnson said she had never seen such a thing in all the years she had worked at the clinic and was so moved by the experience that she decided to quit. She ultimately became pro-life.
Nate Blakeslee, author of the Texas Monthly article, asked the staff at the Bryan, Texas, Planned Parenthood clinic where Johnson worked to examine patient records from September 26, the day Johnson claims to have had her conversion experience, and speak with the abortionist involved.
“According to Planned Parenthood, there is no record of an ultrasound-guided abortion performed on September 26,” Blakeslee wrote. “The physician on duty told the organization that he did not use an ultrasound that day, nor did Johnson assist on any abortion procedure.”
Furthermore, none of the 15 Induced Abortion Report Forms the clinic filed with the Texas Department of State Health Services for September 26, as they were required by law to do, was of a woman beyond 10 weeks of pregnancy, the article claims. In an interview, Johnson told Blakeslee that the woman having the abortion was African-American, but according to the records, the only African-American woman having an abortion that day was just six weeks pregnant. “There would be no medical reason for a doctor to use an ultrasound to guide an abortion performed on a woman at such an early stage,” Blakeslee wrote.
In an article that appeared on the Federalist website on Monday, Johnson called Blakeslee’s article a “biased” one that has been “used as the sole source for every other abortion-supporting website to try and debunk my story.” She charged that its “incorrect information” concerning the abortions done on September 26 came “only from a sheet of paper from Planned Parenthood, not from an official record from the Texas Department of Health, which would never, under any circumstances, release any reports regarding specific abortions performed at specific clinics, in order to protect patient privacy.”
“In fact, the only abortion data that the Texas Department of Health releases is general information about abortions performed by county, ethnicity, age, and type of abortion performed,” Johnson wrote. “Under no circumstance, even an open-records request, would the Texas Department of Health release the induced abortion report for any facility (Texas Health and Safety Code 245.011).”
A spokeswoman for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission confirmed to Aleteia Wednesday that “induced termination of pregnancy (abortion) reports are confidential by law.” The spokeswoman, Christine Mann, cited the relevant section of state law:
Except as provided by Section 245.023, all information and records held by the department under this chapter are confidential and are not open records for the purposes of Chapter 552, Government Code. That information may not be released or made public on subpoena or otherwise, except that release may be made: (1) for statistical purposes, but only if a person, patient, physician performing an abortion, or abortion facility is not identified; (2) with the consent of each person, patient, physician, and abortion facility identified in the information released; (3) to medical personnel, appropriate state agencies, or county and district courts to enforce this chapter; or (4) to appropriate state licensing boards to enforce state licensing laws. (e) A person commits an offense if the person violates Subsection (b), (c), or (d). An offense under this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor.
Johnson said that Blakeslee sent her a form from Planned Parenthood “that was used as the basis for the story, which looks like something akin to a bad Excel spreadsheet. Planned Parenthood said this is what was sent to the Texas Department of Health, yet that’s not the correct form at all. The actual form is called the Induced Abortion Reporting form and the state requires it for each abortion appointment, not an Excel document. I was the clinic director for this Planned Parenthood, so it was my job to know this information and how to report abortions.” Johnson continued:
The form Planned Parenthood claims they sent to the Texas Department of Health also has some glaring disparities. Firstly, it doesn’t even have all the information that must be reported to the state, such as any complications and what type of anesthesia was used. Secondly, the form states that the facility performed a surgical abortion on a four-week old fetus. There is no way that would happen until five weeks of gestation at the very earliest, preferably six weeks, because you have to be able to visibly identify the chorionic villi—“tiny parts of the placenta that are formed from the fertilized egg”—which are usually not visibly present until six weeks.
Johnson wrote that an official Induced Abortion Reporting document would never indicate if an abortion was done with an ultrasound guide. “What’s important to them is that the abortion is completed,” she said. “Ultrasound-guided abortions aren’t common, but the doctor doing them that day at the clinic wanted to do it that way, which is how I ended up holding the probe and witnessing the death of a baby on the screen.”