- The Pregnancy Help Center held a fundraiser on Tuesday night with keynote speaker Abby Johnson
- Johnson, a former director of Planned Parenthood gone pro-life, told stories of her conversion and of a victory for San Angelo after the clinic's closing
- An ASU professor acknowledged the need to discuss both sides of the issue, but, citing a Texas Monthly reporter, questioned Johnson's credibility
- Johnson made controversial statements pertaining to Planned Parenthood's origin, claiming the founder's intent was to exterminate minority groups
- The Pregnancy Help Center has seen an increase in clientele since Planned Parenthood's closing, and hopes to increase services
The pro-life community in San Angelo celebrated a victory at the annual Pregnancy Help Center fundraising dinner Tuesday night.
Applause and ‘amens’ were spoken as the keynote speaker Abby Johnson, expressed her excitement for the closure of San Angelo’s Planned Parenthood location.
Johnson was once a clinic director for Planned Parenthood. She started working there as a college student, with the understanding that she was helping women receive affordable health care.
“I didn’t know that there was a network of federally qualified health centers across the country. More than 10,000, in fact, compared to the now 600 Planned Parenthood locations,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who worked at Planned Parenthood up until 2009, explained how she had the understanding that if abortion was made illegal in the U.S. women would have to go to the back allies.
“I didn’t realize at the time that what takes place inside safe and legal abortion clinics is actually no different than what happened in the back ally,” Johnson said.
She explained that her views changed from pro-choice to pro-life when she helped perform an ultrasound-assisted abortion for the first time.
“I think people assume that seeing a child become dismembered and torn apart in his mother’s womb is the worst part, but you see, I knew that was going to happen because I had already seen the aftermath of abortion,” Johnson said.
She said, “It wasn’t the death of the child that caused a conversion in my heart. It was seeing the humanity of that child that caused a conversion in my heart.”
Johnson said the worst part was that, “I just stood there and did nothing.”However, Linda Kornasky, a pro-choice professor at ASU said, “While all reasonable opinions about any such important issue deserve to be debated vigorously, Abby Johnson is clearly not a legitimate representative for the anti-abortion viewpoint.”
When criticizing Johnson, Kornasky referred to an article by Nate Blakeslee, a Texas Monthly reporter.
In Blakeslee’s report, he stated, “Johnson has told the story of her journey from pro-choice activist to pro-life celebrity many times in many venues, and the crux of the tale is always the same: her moving description of what she saw on the ultrasound that September day in the Bryan clinic’s operating room.”
Blakeslee said, “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.”
When the reporter questioned Johnson, she said “Anything to discredit me is what they’re gonna do,” about Planned Parenthood’s records.
Johnson, the speaker at Tuesday’s event, explained that while working at Planned Parenthood she thought of herself as a feminist.
But now she says, “I realized that I actually had no faith in women. I realize now that I saw them as weak, as people unable to navigate through a crisis.”
Johnson asserted that she now believes the mission of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, has been brought to fruition.
She said, “I didn’t know that Margaret Sanger said things like, ‘Negroes are human weeds that need to be exterminated from the human garden.’”
Johnson continued, “I didn’t know that 78% of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are centered in minority areas in order to do what Margaret Sanger said—to exterminate their race.”
She said about the community of San Angelo: “You have a very beautiful task. You live in a place that is abortion free.”Johnson explained, “You have the bigger job of changing the culture of this community because you don’t have to worry about abortion being here. See our goal isn’t about making abortion illegal it is about making it unthinkable.”
Sandra Franke, the director of Pregnancy Help Center in San Angelo, said she is trying to do just that.
“We are more about the whole person. It is about how we can help them spiritually, physically, and mentally,” Franke said.
According to Franke, the center has seen an influx in clients since the closing of Planned Parenthood.
“We are trying to expand our services,” she said of how they are wanting to reach out and take over the role of Planned Parenthood as an affordable health care center.
Pregnancy Help Center currently offers ultrasounds, parenting classes, healing and information services along with providing clothing and essentials for families in need. They cannot offer contraception because there is not a doctor on site, however they are working toward having STD testing at their location.
Kim Schwartz, the president of Pro-Life Rams, was present at the fundraiser. Her organization also celebrated National Pro-Life Cupcake Day on Wednesday.
Schwartz explained that they celebrated the day in order to,“...recognize the birthdays of 55 million babies that didn’t get to because of abortion.”
The group gave away 500 cupcakes throughout the day on the ASU campus.
She said, “Our organization isn’t focused on making abortion illegal. We are focused on creating a culture of life.”
The San Angelo Planned Parenthood clinic closed at the end of August 2013, citing political attacks and the tougher abortion clinic regulations passed by the 2013 meeting of the Texas Legislature. The San Angelo clinic did not perform abortions in San Angelo, but referred clients to the Odessa, Texas office for the procedure.