Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Abby Johnson's Story - Part II

Every one deceives his neighbor,
and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;
they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.
Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit,
they refuse to know me, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:5-6)

We do it so early:

"Mom! May I have a cookie?"
"No, it's too close to dinner."
"Dad! May I pleeeez have a cookie? I’m so hungry!"
"Okay, but just this one time. And don't tell your Mother! She'd say it's too close to dinner."

Result: A cookie.

Learned: If one authority says No, another will say Yes! Keep going to authorities until the right one agrees.

Skill: Lie to yourself about the existence of authority so as to protect the secret that you are your own ultimate authority; you decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong.

Abby Johnson volunteered to escort women into the facilities in Bryan, TX, she interned with the group and, after college, began working for Planned Parenthood (PP) – an organization that she felt helped women and gave them alternatives, provided them with gynecological care and reproductive services such as birth control and, when absolutely necessary, abortion. But Abby believed that women should have choices so when her Southern Baptist church “felt there was a spiritual conflict in what [she] was doing” and when it and a nondenominational one told her she could not join, Abby and her husband made the sort of choice many, many self-respecting people make today, they began worshipping at an Episcopal church that welcomed them. “Though she was raised Southern Baptist… [she] just [began] to rationalize it. [She] didn’t want to leave these women without options, so [she began] to think [she was] doing the right thing, although it [didn’t] feel right.”*

Abby worked her way up to director of PP in Bryan, TX and found herself responsible for twelve service areas including contraceptives and abortions. At PP, Abby learned many things. She learned that non-sonogram guided, surgical abortions cost about $475, that the doctors who performed them were paid about $75, that other costs were minimal and so PP earned nearly $400 each for these types of abortions; medical (RU486) and surgical abortions brought in more money than contraceptive and healthcare services. Abby learned to reconstruct the pieces of dismembered babies on a tray to ensure there were no parts of the body left in a woman’s womb; it was dead tissue. When the economic climate changed she learned that there was no need to be concerned because abortions offset losses from contraceptive and healthcare services which were being used less frequently.

Eventually, Abby was told to increase the number of abortions because PP was unhappy with it’s balance sheet. When she mentioned that reproductive and women’s healthcare services were PP’s mission, she was told to focus on getting in as many abortions as possible. Doing so was simple. PP, which had previously provided abortions only on alternate Saturdays, began to provide medical abortions every day while it continued to provide surgical abortions only on alternate Saturdays. The more abortion was available, the more women came to have them. One day, a married couple came in planning to have an abortion because they said they could not afford to have more children. They wanted to know if the mother was pregnant with twins and when a sonogram revealed that in fact the mother was carrying two babies, they were elated and realized they couldn’t abort. Abby counseled them to trust that decision. After the couple left, she was asked if she had at least collected the fee for the sonogram – she had forgotten. Abby began to realize there was a problem with PP and she was right in the midst of it.

Then came the Saturday that Abby was asked to assist with a sonogram guided abortion. Those cost more and were more rarely performed. The mother was sedated and unaware of the drama playing out around her and her child. Abby’s job was to move the probe on the mother’s abdomen to locate the child in his mother’s womb. What she saw on the screen was astounding. Abby, the mother of a three year old child, saw a perfectly formed thirteen week-old baby; she had seen the same image while having a sonogram when she was twelve weeks pregnant with her own daughter. “What am I doing here!” she asked herself as the doctor inserted the instrument. As soon as it touched the placenta, the baby jerked, Abby jerked. Then she watched in horror as the tiny infant frantically paddled his feet trying to escape. Abby realized the baby was alive and desperately fighting for his life. The doctor brought the instrument up against the baby’s perfectly and delicately formed spine and turned on the suction. Abby watched the tiny spine crumple and then whoosh! The baby was gone. She dropped the probe.

Abby’s hand was resting on the mother’s abdomen and she realized, there was a life here and now he is gone. The doctor looked at her in anger because she had dropped the probe. Abby picked it up and told herself, “I will never do this again.”

* I felt it important to change Abby's quotes from second person to third person so that her words would be directly describing her own personal experience.

** Part III coming soon.

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