Love Line: Another pipeline to antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers

LoveLine
The front page of Love Line uses phrasing similar to what crisis pregnancy centers commonly use in their advertising.  

October saw the launch of Love Line, an initiative dedicated to connecting women facing unplanned pregnancies to resources. On the surface, this sounds like a fantastic program for women. Unfortunately, there’s reason to be wary of Love Line.

The woman behind Love Line is antiabortion activist Abby Johnson, who now instructs antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers to give potential clients the false impression that they offer abortion services. Much like her ideal crisis pregnancy center, the website is professional and business-like without a trace of an antiabortion agenda despite an article and a video describing Love Line being pro-life in nature and it being a project under Abby Johnson’s antiabortion umbrella organization ProLove Ministries.

Love Line connects women to antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, which exist to steer women away from abortion services regardless of whether they follow Abby’s advice to practice deceptive and predatory advertising tactics. This is not made clear until you go seek help from Love Line. The contact form on the “Need Help?” page includes “I’m considering an abortion” as an option for why you’re contacting Love Line. Without the knowledge that the initiative was created by a well-known antiabortion activist using the very tactics she tells crisis pregnancy centers to use and the website connects women to antiabortion ministries, women seeking to terminate their unplanned pregnancies may be lead to believe that Love Line will help them obtain abortion services.

I wanted to see for myself what Love Line was really like and see if it was like how I anticipated. I tried using the chat on November 10th at around 4pm. Despite Love Line touting itself as a 24/7/365 crisis line, there wasn’t a representative available on the online chat. The chat still gave me the option to send a message with the indication that someone would contact me through email. I sent the message “Looking for abortion information and where to get one”. By the time I went to lunch at 10am the next day, I still had not received any sort of response in my inbox.

There was a representative by the name of Pam on the chat when I went to lunch the next day. So I went on the chat using a pseudonym to see what Love Line does when faced with a woman that is seeking abortion services. Were they going to be truthful or were they going to resort to the same tactics Abby Johnson has told these antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers to use in order to bring in more abortion-minded women? Let’s dissect that chat? Let’s dissect the chat that occurred.

(Note: I have omitted the fake name I used. I also had screenshots of the chat. Unfortunately, the editing program I was pasting the screenshots to decided to close out and I was an idiot who didn’t make a save file before the program crapped out. So I just have the chat I transcribed with the timestamps.)   

Me (10:17): Hi. I’m looking for abortion information and where to get one.

Pam (10:18): Hey [name omitted]. My name is Pam. Have you taken a medical grade pregnancy test and had an ultrasound?

Pam starts off the chat with an unassuming question that’s actually a crisis pregnancy center tactic. Crisis pregnancy centers often use terms like “medical grade” or “lab quality” to describe their pregnancy tests to make them seem like they’re like what you would get in a doctor’s office or that they are of a superior quality.  Some centers like the Choices Pregnancy Services even outright claim their urine-based pregnancy tests are better at detecting the hCG hormone.

A nurse practitioner at my clinic explained that their urine tests aren’t better than over the counter tests at detecting hCG. Lab Corp explains, “Generally, when used correctly, the home test should produce the same result as the urine hCG test done by your health practitioner.” Google “medical grade” or “lab quality” pregnancy tests and the vast majority of the results are from crisis pregnancy centers and their affiliates rather than actual medical providers or medical suppliers, indicating that only crisis pregnancy centers use these terms.

As for ultrasounds, we’ll get into that in a bit.

Me (10:19): Just a pregnancy test from Walmart.

Pam (10:20): ok. Where do you live?

Me (10:20): Eau Claire, WI

Choosing Eau Claire will come into play later.

Pam (10:21): alright – have you ever had an abortion before?

Me (10:21): No.

Pam (10:21): Ok. How old are you?

Me (10:21): 29.

That’s younger than my actual age, but in hindsight I should have went even younger and played that “Young woman who has her whole life ahead of her and is not ready for kids” sort of angle, I guess.

Pam (10:23): Alright. So there are a few requirements in your state. First, you need options counseling which is required 24 hours before an abortion. An ultrasound is also required. I can send you to get an ultrasound at no cost. This is helpful to determine if your pregnancy is in the right place and growing. This will also determine exactly how far along you are. What has you considering abortion?

It’s obvious to me she intends to send me to a crisis pregnancy center for the no cost ultrasound—that probably won’t be obvious to someone actually experiencing an unplanned pregnancy going onto this website seeking help.

Again, Pam’s answer seems unassuming, but there’s a tactic about crisis pregnancy centers laced within. She truthfully stated I needed an ultrasound for abortion services. She stated she could direct me to a place (which turns out to be a CPC) that will provide an ultrasound for FREE. By putting those two things in the same paragraph, she created the impression that CPC’s provide ultrasound imaging for women seeking abortion services…FOR FREE. They may very well provide an ultrasound for women seeking abortion, but there’s a crucial piece of information that’s left out: Ultrasounds from CPCs likely won’t meet abortion requirements.

In Wisconsin, under SB206 (also known as “Sonya’s Law”), an ultrasound with certain requirements must be done before any abortion is performed and it must be done by the physician performing the abortion or by a physician of the woman’s choosing. If a woman chooses a physician outside the abortion provider, that physician has to supply the woman with a certificate stating that she had the ultrasound and that it meets state requirements as shown in Section III of the Abortion Information Certification Form that has to be filled whenever an abortion is performed—options counseling, an oral explanation of what the ultrasound depicted, displayed the ultrasound image so the woman could view (though she has the option to refuse), a medical description of the ultrasound images, and provided the means to visualize the fetal heartbeat and an explanation of it. As many CPCs aren’t medical in nature, its likely a crisis pregnancy center won’t have a licensed physician that can perform the ultrasound as many CPCs don’t have any qualified medical staff. Even in cases where a CPC does have a physician on staff, there’s probably zero chance of that physician—being that they work for an antiabortion ministry—giving the proper certification required to obtain an abortion.

Women more than likely will be unaware of what the law requires and crisis pregnancy centers take advantage of this by luring women with promises of completely free ultrasound imaging services, knowing full well that their ultrasound images don’t comply with abortion laws. The idea is that women who decide to have an abortion will schedule an appointment only to find they haven’t met state requirements when they get to that appointment because their no cost ultrasound is medically worthless, thus delaying the abortion—hopefully past the point where she is able to get one.

Me (10:24): I don’t want children.

Pam (10:25): Ok. Do you have any idea how far along you are – if you could take a guess?

Me (10:26): Its been about 7 weeks since my last period.

Pam (10:27): Ok what was the first day of your last period

Me (10:29): I think it was around September 28th?

Pam (10:30): That would put you right at 6 weeks pregnant having conceived on or around October 11. Does that sound right?

Me (10:30): I’m not sure. I’ll take your word for it

The First Response “How Far Along Am I?” tool matched Pam’s estimate of how far along I was so at least that checks out.

If I had thought of it then, I would have picked an earlier date and made my non-existent pregnancy further along. One tactic of crisis pregnancy centers is to tell women they’re further along than they actually are to get them to believe they are past the point of being able to get an abortion. It might have been interesting to see if she would use that tactic.

Pam (10:31): That’s okay. [name omitted]- are you available to talk on the phone?

Me (10:31): I am not.

Pam (10:33): This is an important decision. I would love to be able to talk with you at some point. I don’t take this lightly—so if you would like to speak on the phone let me know when you’re available.

Me (10:36): I’m not that comfortable speaking on the phone.

I was being honest about not being comfortable speaking with her on the phone. Damn phone anxiety and general anxiety.

Pam (10:38): Ok. I can give you information about what is required by law in your state, clinical information about steps of the procedure whether it’s medical or surgical, the development of your unborn baby and I can refer you for free ultrasound and STD testing. Talking to you helps me in determining your emotional state and what support you have. This is not a decision you should make when you’re emotional. And it shouldn’t be made in haste.

She didn’t ask me about my emotional state or what support I had. She asked one question regarding why I was considering an abortion. My answer wouldn’t have given her enough of an indication of what I was feeling and she didn’t really press the issue further. I think she automatically assumed I was being emotional and in a rush to get an abortion.

Note the use of “unborn baby”. Not my pregnancy or the fetus, but “unborn baby”. At six weeks gestation, I’d argue the resemblance to anything that looks like an actual baby. Another tactic of CPCs: Calling it an unborn baby in hopes that it will play into my feelings and I’ll connect with the fetus so that I won’t want to abort. It’s subtle and sometimes effective.

Me (10:39): Okay. So where can I get one?

Pam (10:40): The ultrasound?

No, the procedure I asked about over 20 fucking minutes ago.

Me (10:40): I meant an abortion, but that too

Pam (10:41): Ok. Let’s get you a medical grade pregnancy test and ultrasound first. This will be at no cost and give you some clinical information. What is your zip code

Me (10:42): 54701

Pam (10:45): Ok. There is a pregnancy care center that is free: 2600 Stein Blvd 715-834-7734. They are open from 9AM-3PM

This is why I chose to tell her I lived in Eau Claire: APPLE Pregnancy Care Center on Stein Boulevard. Aside from researching the center, I went there a couple years ago posing as a woman facing a pregnancy scare. They are so deceptive they have TWO websites: one for potential clients devoid of any antiabortion agenda  and one for potential donors and supporters detailing their “pro-life” mission (Two websites like this is another CPC tactic).

I laughed out loud when Pam gave APPLE PCC for the free ultrasound and “medical grade” pregnancy test. First off, they don’t have ultrasound services at all—legit or not. Second, to call their pregnancy tests “medical grade” would be ludicrous as they are self-administered. Seriously, they look almost exactly like the one you can get at Walmart for $.88 and I had to drop my own urine onto the test while a non-medical volunteer watched, which is not how a medical setting would perform a pregnancy test. Also, no STD testing because they’re not medical at all. This CPC has no medical staff or actual medical services, a fact I wasn’t informed of at my walk-in appointment until a volunteer had me sitting in a room. I certainly wouldn’t trust them to give any woman accurate “clinical information” as Pam told me they would.

Me (10:45): Free?

Pam (10:47): Yes. It is free. I can call ahead right now and get you an appointment if you give me a moment. Is your last name [name omitted] (from your email addy)

Me (10:48): Yes, but I’m on lunch right now. I can give them a call later.

I should have let her book an appointment for me and waste APPLE PCC’s time. Why the Hell didn’t I think of that while doing this chat?

Pam (10:48): Ok. They are open until 7PM on Thursday so maybe that will work better!

Me (10:49): I’ll have to check my schedule.

Pam (10:50): I understand. Just so you understand – this is not an abortion clinic. It is a resource center that provides services at no cost and options counseling for women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. I don’t want you to go in thinking it is an abortion clinic.

At least she gave me the courtesy of informing me it’s not an abortion clinic. HOWEVER, it’s been over 30 minutes since I asked about where to obtain an abortion and her telling me about a place that can give me that abortion ultrasound for free. NOW she tells me they are not an abortion clinic.

By this point, I felt I was being led on. I noticed she wasn’t giving me the answers I actually wanted, but instead trying to get me into a crisis pregnancy center to get ultrasound and “medical grade” pregnancy test services. Dragging out a conversation and not giving direct answers to get women into a center is another tactic of crisis pregnancy centers as described in a NARAL report:

* The Option Line Handbook stresses to volunteers that “while [they] are on the phone, [their] objective is to schedule an appointment” so that women will come to the center. While the guidelines advise volunteers to give clients only factual information, the handbook also pressures them to keep the client interested and provide responses, whether or not the volunteer is qualified to do so, by reminding them that “callers are looking for fast answers and may turn elsewhere if they do not get them.”

* In a documentary about crisis pregnancy centers called 12th & Delaware, a CPC director trains volunteers in the telephone script she uses to divert questions from potential clients and lure them into the center: “If you don’t hook her right away, she hangs up on you. When she calls and she says ‘Do you do abortions?’ I say ‘Are you calling for yourself or are you calling for your friend?’…and we engage in conversation. Because if she calls and says ‘Do you do abortions?’ and I say ‘No,’ click. [The CPC director pantomimes hanging up the phone]. I’m trying to get her in the door. Take control of the conversation…I don’t mind the criticisms of taking control. ‘That doesn’t sound fair.’ Well too bad!”

Me (10:51): Will they help me obtain one?

Pam (10:52): They will give you all of the information you need before you obtain one but they will not help you get an abortion. In order to make an informed decision, they will provide you with these pre-surgical services at no cost.

Not exactly what I asked. Good job at misleading. And “pre-surgical” services at a place you don’t even realize lacks the services you’re trying to sell me on? Give me a break!  

Me (10:53): Where they tell me where to get one?

Pam (10:53): Not likely.

Probably the first straight answer I’ve gotten to any of my questions!

Me (10:53): I don’t think they are going to help me then

Pam (10:56): They will help you by giving you the free test and ultrasound. You can at least get that before you pay an abortion clinic to provide that service. A Planned Parenthood charges anywhere from $100 – $150 for an ultrasound and then an abortion costs between $450-$550 in the first trimester, depending on the type of procedure and how far along you you are. They don’t provide ultrasounds for free at abortion clinics especially when they are required by the state in advance.

And any organization that offers funding won’t fund the ultrasound.

Something worth mentioning: “Pam” is likely Pamela Whitehead, an executive director of Abby Johnson’s umbrella organization ProLove Ministries. She spoke with Catholic News Agency about her work fielding calls for Love Line. “Too often we think we know what a woman needs and we don’t really listen to what she says to us and I think if we listen long enough, we really hear her need.” Pam seems to be acting in the manner of the very person she describes. It’s one thing if you listen to a woman’s situation and find there’s a better solution to her issue, but that’s not what’s going on. I came into this conversation seeking abortion information and her immediate response was to ask if I had an ultrasound and pregnancy test with the intention of shoving me into a crisis pregnancy center. That tells me that she thinks she knows what abortion-minded women need and already had a solution lined up

Pam has just informed me that the center won’t help me obtain an abortion. Now that I’ve expressed that I don’t believe they will help me with what I’m asking–which they won’t–she’s desperate to get me into that center with promises that they’ll help me obtain the requirements needed to get an abortion. See the problem? If you offer services that help women meet the requirements of abortion, you’re helping women obtain abortions. You can’t say you don’t help women get abortions AND your services will help women meet state requirements so she can get an abortion.

Note that she keeps emphasizing the “free” part—you guessed it, another crisis pregnancy center tactic. Free sounds way better than $100-$150. But as noted before, crisis pregnancy centers likely won’t comply with state laws as a delay tactic.

The last sentence isn’t specific on what she’s referring to, but I believe she’s referring to organizations that help with funding abortion for women. If that’s the case, it’s a damn lie. The National Network of Abortion Funds lists various groups offering funding to cover the costs of abortion. Depending on the group and how they use the funding, which is all based on donations, they can also cover the costs of things like travel and lodging. While Wisconsin based groups didn’t specifically list ultrasounds as something they covered, one Michigan based group that also helps surrounding states (like Wisconsin) did. “When funds are available, the following applies: If you live in Michigan or a surrounding state, the Jane Doe Fund can help you pay for your abortion. They can also something help pay for ultrasound [emphasize added], contraception (including emergency contraception), or assist with transportation, lodging, and childcare related to your appointment.”

Me (10:57): I think I’d rather go to the Planned Parenthood. Can you tell me where the nearest one is?

Pam (10:58): You’ll have to seek that on Google.

Me (10:58): I’ll go do that. Bye.

She tells me how much Planned Parenthood charges for ultrasound services, but then won’t direct me to one when I think it’s the better option for my situation. I should have called her out on it—“I figured you could tell me where one is since you told me their prices.” But I was so shocked that she told me to Google it…arrrrgh! This is supposed to be an initiative that helps women with unplanned pregnancies, but if women are seeking an option they don’t agree with—and they don’t make it clear beforehand they’re against it—then the extent of their so-called help is “You’re on your own. Google it.” It was infuriating and frustrating, even though I wasn’t actually seeking abortion services and knew the “catch” behind Love Line and the crisis pregnancy center she was getting me into. I was so pissed that I decided to end the conversation right then and there and left a bad review on the customer service. (Fuck you, Pam.)

I think this experience made me angry because I put myself into the position of a woman considering an abortion and found how they would treat this woman. They will not give her straight answers and drag out the conversation for as long as they possibly can while trying to get her into the nearest center that also won’t give her the answers or services she’s seeking. (And a center that doesn’t even offer the no-cost services Pam went on about for 41 minutes about!) She’s not going to get answers to the questions she’s asking because these people are doing everything they can to get her into a center that will guilt and shame her or promise to offer material assistance to convince her to not terminate her pregnancy.

Love Line is obviously not good for women seeking abortion services, but it may not even be that great of a resource for women who do want to continue their pregnancies. It’s true that the vast majority of crisis pregnancy centers offer material goods and resources for women who want to be mothers, but it’s almost always connected to a program (“Earn While You Learn”) where women have to earn points to be able to “buy” the items they need. Love Line makes no indication on their website that resources from crisis pregnancy centers often aren’t simply given and women may have to work for them.

If the center follows Abby Johnson’s advice, resources may be limited further. During her workshop “Competing with the Abortion Industry”, she stated, “If I were to open a pregnancy center, I would not have pregnancy items past six months. Are we running a charity? Are we running a place where we want women to become self-sufficient? Self-sufficient right? …have maternity clothes, have those things available for the women while they’re pregnant, but cut them off.” It’s concerning that a woman that has instructed crisis pregnancy centers to cut women off from resources after a certain period of time has now created a website to connect women to those same resources without informing them whether or not those already limited resources may have a limited time period.

Love Line is essentially another pipeline to crisis pregnancy centers that hide their true nature of attempting to limit a woman’s pregnancy options under the guise of being helpful and resourceful. Sure, if the website is to be believed, Love Line has already helped women who did want to keep their pregnancies or already were raising children and that’s not a bad thing. But women also deserve transparency and honesty alongside unbiased, accurate information on all their options and reliable resources regardless of whether or not they want to continue their pregnancies—not being lead on and preyed upon with predatory, misleading tactics by the antiabortion movement.

Abby Johnson: What She Saw May Have Never Happened

UnplannedMovie_810_500_75_s_c1

On 103rd anniversary of Planned Parenthood, our local and utterly useless antiabortion group decided to celebrate with a showing of the antiabortion propaganda film, “Unplanned”, at our local stage theater.

“Unplanned” tells the supposed story of real life antiabortion activist, Abby Johnson. I say “supposed” because her story of how she became an antiabortion activist is as questionable and debatable as putting pineapple on pizza: some people eat it up without question while others are skeptical or speak out against it. (In regards to Abby Johnson and pineapple on pizza, I’m in the latter category.)

Abby Johnson had worked for Planned Parenthood for eight years, starting off as a volunteer in college and rising through the ranks to become the organization’s youngest clinic director with an Employee of the Year award under her belt. On September 26, 2009, as the tagline of the movie based on her memoir of the same name goes, “what she saw changed everything”. Abby claims she was asked to assist with an ultrasound guided abortion procedure on a 13 week old pregnancy. She was so horrified at what she was on the ultrasound monitor that she resigned from Planned Parenthood and joined the Coalition for Life, an antiabortion group that regular harassed the clinic.

“Unplanned” came out at the same time as another movie about a blond woman who realizes she’s been doing the wrong thing for years and defects to the actual good side. The antiabortion movement really does see Abby Johnson as a Captain Marvel standing up to the injustice that she once worked for. Her story of being so horrified by abortion thanks to ultrasound imaging that it caused her to switch from a staunch pro-choice view to an antiabortion one fits in perfectly with the antiabortion narrative that abortion is horrible and women seeking abortions need to see their own ultrasounds. Some reporters at the time her story broke out felt her story fit almost too well into this narrative and started investigating her claims.

First off, was Johnson even qualified to directly assist in an abortion procedure? Johnson may have rose through the ranks of Planned Parenthood, but she still had zero medical training. Texas law states that only doctors can perform abortion, though it is unclear if this would apply to an assistant working the ultrasound wand. In response to Maine allowing medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions, Johnson had this to say, “I worked for Planned Parenthood for almost eight years, ascending to the position of director of my clinic. I did several things only doctors should have done but I’m not the only one. The 500-plus abortion workers I’ve helped to get out of the industry have horror stories of things they were made to do that they had zero qualifications for. Many were not trained or participated in limited training for doing jobs that only doctors should have been doing. When money is the bottom line — and it is in the abortion industry — shortcuts are king.” While she doesn’t specifically refer to the abortion she supposedly assisted with, she may be hinting at it and that she wasn’t qualified to assist with the abortion.

Johnson has been consistent that on September 26, 2009 she assisted with an ultrasound guided abortion for a black woman with a 13 week old fetus. While she did not give the patient’s name, she gave enough information about the patient and the procedure that it could be a HIPAA privacy violation.

If Johnson was not qualified to assist with an ultrasound duties of the abortion and she was in violation of HIPAA, why was Johnson never investigated for it? It could be because the abortion never happened. As far as anyone knows, there are no known records of this abortion. One of the first pieces to investigate Johnson’s claims was featured in Texas Monthly. The article states, “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” and “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.”

It doesn’t help Johnson’s credibility that she has flip-flopped like a fish out of water on several things regarding her story. For example:

*On the night she resigned, she posted on Facebook: “Alright. Here’s the deal. I have been doing the work of two full time people for two years. Then, after I have been working my whole big butt off for them and prioritizing that company over my family, my friends and pretty much everything else in my life, they have the nerve to tell me that my job performance is “slipping.” WHAT???!!! That is crazy. Anyone that knows me knows how committed I was to that job. They obviously do not value me at all. So, I’m out and I feel really great about it!” When questioned about this and the fact it lacked any sort of moral crisis or epiphany, she insisted it was meant to buy her time to decide how and when to reveal the real reason she left. But hold on…Johnson had maintained she had never planned to go public with the story. “I was never going to go to the media. I just wanted to get out, get a new job, and spend more time with my daughter. But they [Planned Parenthood] forced me to go public.”. And even that contradicts what Shawn Carney, leader of the Bryan Coalition for Life at the time, told the Texas Observer. He said they planned on going to the media in “mid-December, after Abby had some time to settle in”. It seems the plan was to go public all along, but Planned Parenthood ended up slapping her with a restraining order after finding she defected to an antiabortion group that harassed their patients and the media quickly picked up on it before any plans to go to the media could be carried out. Possibly Abby plays coy about not wanting to go public to make herself seem innocent—something to the effect of “Big mean Planned Parenthood took me to court because they thought I would expose them, but I never planned on going public with the truth.”

*When Texas Monthly interviewed her, she stated didn’t know what the Induced Abortion Report Form was and claimed Planned Parenthood must have altered the documents in order to discredit her when shown the records didn’t match her story. Ten years later, she suddenly felt the need to respond to the claims the article made—which may have something to do with the fact a movie based on her memoir had been out in theaters for a little over a week and was reigniting doubts about her conversion story. She explained she knew what the form was because it was her job to file them. Nate Blakeslee, the writer of the original article, wrote a rebuttal article that included audio from the interview he conducted for the original article. In the audio, Abby clearly states “No” when asked if she knows what the Induced Abortion Report Form was. It also clarified that the form Blakeslee had received from Planned Parenthood had been filed to the Department of Health on September 30th, which was before Abby resigned and long before her story became public knowledge. If it was Abby’s job to file that form and assuming that Planned Parenthood didn’t make any alterations, then it was Abby who filed the form and hadn’t included that morally shattering abortion she supposedly witnessed. Why wouldn’t she have included the abortion in those reports? Was she covering her tracks so if someone called her out on it she could claim that Planned Parenthood had altered documents to discredit her? Or did the abortion not happen?

*When interviewed on Fair and Feminist, Johnson stated in response to the question about Planned Parenthood being an “abortion facility”, “Only 3% of our services are abortion. So no, we don’t think so. We think 3 percent is a very small amount, and our—I guess our goal has always been that every pregnancy is intended and wanted and, um, when we see a dip in abortion numbers we consider that a success.” After joining the movement, she calls Planned Parenthood “an abortion mill” and encourages Planned Parenthood workers to leave their jobs. In that same radio interview, she explained the Coalition for Life had harassed, stalked, and sent death threats. As a pro-life activist, she claimed there were never any threats of violence against the clinic and that they never harassed her despite stating earlier the death threats were serious enough that she had security cameras installed. 

Further putting her credibility into question are things that happened before and after the supposed abortion. The day after this life changing moment where Johnson claims to saw the “baby crumple” on the ultrasound monitor, she went on Fair and Feminist to discuss her work at Planned Parenthood, why abortion rights were important, and the protests by the Coalition for Life. While this radio interview is no longer accessible, news articles reported that Johnson passionately explained her work with Planned Parenthood while being awfully critical of the Coalition (calling their “40 Days of Life” the “40 Days of Harassment”). The descriptions of this interview match an earlier and still available interview she had done with the radio show on September 20, 2009. Besides doing a radio interview to promote pro-choice talking points the day after being so horrified by the abortion she assisted with, she also continued to work for Planned Parenthood for 9 days before she showed up on the steps of the Coalition for Life, who had regularly offered to help employees find new employment while begging them to leave Planned Parenthood. Either her spiritual awakening was slow paced and the abortion she witnessed didn’t immediately impact her…or it didn’t actually happen.

Perhaps Johnson went to the Coalition for their promises of employment and not because she wanted out of the abortion industry. Shelly Blair claimed Johnson had been contemplating filing for bankruptcy. Former friend and coworker, Laura Kaminczak, stated that Johnson had been thinking about going to the Coalition and that Carney offered to give her $3,000 for speaking gigs.

Speaking of Kaminczak, Texas Observer landed a huge interview with the former friend and coworker of Johnson. Shortly after Abby’s story came out, Salon.com had reported that she had been placed on a performance improvement plan on October 2nd. Johnson claims it was related to abortions, but Kaminczak tells a different story: the two friends had been exchanging inappropriate emails at work. She also claimed Johnson had told her about the ultrasound guided abortion she witnessed, but that Johnson’s reaction to it was positive as she it was more humane and less painful for women. Abby’s resignation from Planned Parenthood had been completely opportunistic and not the result of a spiritual awakening according to the former friend. Texas Observer would question Johnson about Kaminczak’s statements and, not surprisingly, she blew them off as heresy. However, one of Kaminczak’s claims caused Johnson’s whole demeanor to change and she threatened legal action if that information was published. Abby herself would eventually confirm that statement to be true: Abby Johnson had two abortions. In fact, the Texas Observer article stated Johnson later told the news outlet to publish the information she had two abortions if they want because it will make her look good. “It’ll just make me look even more credible because people will know I’ve been there.”

Johnson not only was confronted with abortion from both the pro-choice and pro-life angles, but also had personal experience with the procedure. It’s hard to understand how someone who went through the abortion procedure twice and worked at a clinic that provided abortion services for eight years while being harassed by an antiabortion group could not know what abortion entailed and what their own feelings on it were. This sentiment was reflected in a blog post by Shelly Blair, “I don’t know how you devote 8 years of your life to something like Planned Parenthood and then up and join the group that you disparaged every day. I don’t know how you move from defending women’s rights to protesting at people’s doctor’s office.”

Some theorize Johnson wasn’t a clinic worker that saw “the reality of abortion”, but actually a disgruntled employee on the verge of bankruptcy that joined the Coalition for Life with their promises of finding those that left the “abortion industry” new employment in order to get back at the organization she felt had wronged her and to solve her financial problems. Then the media propelled her into the limelight and she has enjoyed a life of celebrity as a pro-life darling ever since. Honestly, being beloved and praised by the pro-life movement is probably a much better gig than facing constant death threats for defending reproductive rights. In any case, there’s much more to the Abby Johnson story than Johnson herself or the antiabortion supporters that adore her will ever let on.

Yet, in the end, whether or not this life-changing abortion ever happened doesn’t matter in comparison to what Johnson does as an antiabortion advocate, which is more verifiable than her story about witnessing an ultrasound guided abortion. When she’s not putting Planned Parenthood on blast, stating untruths like birth control causing abortion and the abortion pill being more dangerous than surgical abortion, being transphobic, or endorsing Kanye West, she’s doing speaking gigs. One of those speaking gigs is a training session called “Competing with the Abortion Industry”, where she trains crisis pregnancy center workers on how to run their centers. She has done this session at the 2012, 2015, and 2016 Heartbeat International Conferences. She encourages crisis pregnancy center workers to misrepresent their centers with deceptive and predatory advertising to lure women seeking abortions and reproductive healthcare as well as cutting women off from services when they are past the point of being able to obtain an abortion in most states.

“We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they are walking into an abortion clinic. Okay? Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center—the ones that think you provide abortions”—Abby at the Heartbeat International Conference on March 27, 2012. 

“If I were to open a pregnancy center, I would not have pregnancy items past six months. Are we running a charity? Are we running a place where we want women to become self-sufficient? Self-sufficient right? …have maternity clothes, have those things available for the women while they’re pregnant, but cut them off.”—Abby at the Heartbeat International Conference on March 27, 2012 

“Women that are 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 to 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. The ones that think you provide abortions.”—Abby, 2012

“She emphasized that waiting rooms should feel like ‘professional environments’ instead of ‘grandma’s house,’ and discouraged crucifixes, fake flowers, and mauve paint before showing slides of Planned Parenthood waiting rooms and encouraging staff to make their centers look just as ‘beautiful and up-to-date,’ especially if they have a ‘medical model,’ meaning they offer sonograms and other medical services. Johnson also said pregnancy center staff should mirror Planned Parenthood’s language. ‘We need to use whatever language [women] are using, are comfortable with, and that they have been sold on,’ she said.”—Meaghan Winter describing Abby Johnson’s “Competing with the Abortion Industry” panel at the 2015 Heartbeat International Conference. 

John Oliver would use recordings of Abby Johnson leading these training sessions in his segment about crisis pregnancy centers and how they deceive women. Johnson would write an op-ed criticizing the segment with one of her bullet points being “Putting Our Best Foot Forward Is Basic Marketing, Not Deception.” Her comment that their advertising tactics are not deceptive is laughable when considering the actual definition of “deceive”. “To mislead by false appearance or statement”, “To make someone believe something that is not true”, “To give a false impression”, “To persuade someone that something false is the truth or to keep the truth hidden from someone for your own advantage”, and “A statement or action that hides the truth or the act of hiding the truth” are a few definitions of “deceive”. Abby is instructing crisis pregnancy centers to hide their pro-life ideals and dress themselves up like actual abortion providers to get women the false impression that the centers provide abortions or referrals, which is untrue as crisis pregnancy centers are morally opposed to abortion. These tactics fit the definition of deception like a glove and Abby Johnson is encouraging crisis pregnancy centers to engage in it.

She may claim that its basic marketing rather than deception, but the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates suggest otherwise. Deceptive advertising is apparently such an issue with crisis pregnancy centers that NIFLA, who provides legal counsel to CPCs, puts “Deceptive Advertising” at the top of an article detailing five legal threats to crisis pregnancy centers and recommends centers be straight-forward and honest, which is hypocritical considering NIFLA is affiliated with many centers in my state that hide their pro-life agenda and make themselves appear more professional, business-like, and medical than they actually are just like Abby Johnson is instructing.

While Abby puts on a good face and insists to the media that crisis pregnancy centers aren’t deceptive and they’re putting their best foot forward, her panel to her own peers apparently tells a different story. Meaghan Winter’s article described Abby’s “Competing With the Abortion Industry” workshop at the 2015 Heartbeat International Conference. After recommending to the audience that they not mention their anti-abortion goals while fielding calls from potential clients asking about abortion services, an audience member interjected that their center tells the truth and doesn’t get clients to think they perform abortion services or referrals when they don’t. Abby essentially acknowledged that being truthful and transparent was not how successful crisis pregnancy centers operated and she wouldn’t run a center with an honest agenda. “That’s good for you if that works for your center, but I can tell you that’s not the way we’re going to do it at my center, and that’s not the way we have seen other centers really evolve into seeing more and more abortion-vulnerable and abortion-minded women.”

Abby Johnson recently launched Love Line, a website aimed to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. True to her word, the website is devoid of any pro-life agenda despite the article and video relating to Love Line being about helping women choose to continue their pregnancies and connecting them to the pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. The website’s contact page has several options on why you’re contacting Love Line and one of them is “I’m considering having an abortion”. Without the knowledge that its a pro-life site created by a well-known antiabortion activist–knowledge that isn’t on the actual website–women seeking abortions may be lead to believe that Love Line will help them obtain abortion services. Also, its a bit concerning to me that a woman that has instructed crisis pregnancy centers to cut women off from resources after a certain period of time has now created a website to connect women who are pregnant or parenting to those resources without informing women that those resources may come with a limited time period.

What Abby Johnson saw may have never happened and what she does now involves encouraging crisis pregnancy centers to lie to women.