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Anti-abortion rights webcast features Abby Johnson, calls for donations to arm CPCs with sonogram machines


For the past few weeks, anti-abortion rights organizations and news services have been advertising a webcast featuring one of the stars of the resurgent anti-abortion rights movement this year: Abby Johnson. But the true star of Tuesday’s webcast, which was sponsored by Focus on the Family, was the sonogram. The event’s host, Kelly Rosati, vice president of community outreach for Focus on the Family, called it “pairing technology with the love of Christ.”

Johnson’s story, written with the help of Cindy Lambert in her book Unplanned, published in January, centers around an ultrasound-guided abortion she claims to have assisted for a woman 13 weeks into her pregnancy. After eight years working in some capacity for Planned Parenthood, it took an ultrasound monitor for Johnson to realize what an abortion was.

That’s the narrative that unfolded throughout the one-hour webcast, with several young women testifying in separate videos, during which Focus on the Family Senior Communication Specialist Yvette Maher quoted from the Bible and solicited donations. In these videos, the young women said they would have had an abortion had they not seen a sonogram image of their fetuses, and that’s the narrative that has played out in many state legislatures, where mandatory sonogram bills have either been passed or are pending.

The webcast was broadcast live before a studio audience in Columbus, Ohio, at the headquarters of Heartbeat International — one of the largest networks of pregnancy care centers in the country — which was also celebrating its 40th anniversary Tuesday night. Rosati said the event (shown at 8 p.m. in every time zone except for 9 p.m. in the Maritimes) was being viewed by people from more than 100 countries. During the hour, there were several plugs for *Unplanned * and its accompanying documentary. Viewers were encouraged to purchase the $43 package for $25, $10 of which was supposed to go to crisis pregnancy centers, namely Heartbeat International, Care Net and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). Rosati also frequently solicited $10 donations (by texting P-L-I-F-E), saying that “every cent will go to help these women and change the future of abortion.”

Johnson told her story the way she has told it on television interviews and speaking events throughout the country, why she started at Planned Parenthood and why she defected.

“I believed as long as abortion was going to be legal, women needed a safe place to have an abortion,” she said, explaining a view she once held.

When Rosati asked Johnson about her own “abortion experience” (Johnson has admitted to having two abortions but only spoke of them in the singular sense during the webcast), Johnson said having an abortion was a “power motivation” for getting her started as a Planned Parenthood volunteer and said it helped justify her own abortion.

“I’m on a sinking ship,” she said. “I’m going to drag as many people as I can on the sinking ship with me.”

Her story was first called into serious question by a Texas Monthly investigation from February 2010, in which reporter Nate Blakeslee conducted interviews with Johnson and Planned Parenthood staff at the Bryan, Texas, clinic she ran and combed through Induced Abortion Report Forms from the Texas Department of State Health Services. His investigation pointed to evidence that contradicts the image Johnson claims to have seen on the sonogram and her very presence in the abortion room that day. But Johnson has stood firm and claimed that Planned Parenthood doctored the forms.

After Johnson’s interview, Shawn Carney — the national director of the Coalition for Life, who began volunteering for the organization the same day Johnson began as a Planned Parenthood volunteer and helped Johnson establish her new career as an anti-abortion rights spokesperson — was interviewed briefly over the phone. He couldn’t make the event because his wife, Marilisa Carney, was going through labor.

“Oooh, have the contractions started yet?” Rosati asked, beaming.

The second half of the webcast was devoted to testimony by a panel made up of directors from the largest crisis pregnancy center networks in the country: Peggy Hartshorn of Heartbeat International, Melinda Delahoyde of Care Net, Tom Glessner of NIFLA and Lola French of Canada Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS).

The CPC directors told stories of the effectiveness of ultrasounds in changing hearts and the importance of using love in their work counseling women.

Glessner spoke out for men, whom he said are forgotten in the abortion debate. Men, he said, are the key to ending abortion if they are given a chance to look at the ultrasound image of their unborn child.

“Sonograms can actually turn men’s hearts,” he said, noting that the machines are expensive. “Open up your wallets for local pregnancy centers.”

The American Independent previously reported on a federal bill that was introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) in January that would authorize grants to crisis pregnancy centers to purchase ultrasound equipment, but the bill has no co-sponsors and has not seen any real support in the House or from Care Net or Heartbeat International.

Watch an excerpt from Johnson’s documentary Unplanned:

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