Thursday, November 05, 2009

Okay, so I count myself lucky to have friends of a wide variety of personal conviction--Christian to Muslim to atheist, pro-choice to anti-choice and that nebulous in-between where you would never have an abortion yourself but you totally support other women's right to have abortions when please, if you're honest with yourself, you can't know how you would act were such a situation to arise but at least you're not one of those women who are totally anti-choice right up to the point where they find themselves pregnant but then they get to have an abortion because they have a good reason and everyone else just hates babies.

A friend of mine of the Christian, anti-choice variety (who is also generally a very nice and reasonable man, and he and his wife are currently housing a 20-week-old fetus in her abdomen, which they're very excited about, and thus so am I) posted a link on Facebook without comment: Why does Planned Parenthood need a restraining order against Abby Johnson? And my response to that is, well, because.

Let me disclose right away that I am not generally a fan of Double X (for all values of "generally" equal to "at all"). Their XXFactor blog claims to give voice to "what women really think," but its content seems liberally sprinkled with the kind of "just because I don't espouse any generally accepted feminist values doesn't mean I'm not a feminist" drivel that gives Sister F***ers something to link to approvingly in their blogs.

Another thing I'm not a fan of is intellectually incurious--to the point of suspicion--blog posts. Regardless of writer Rachael Larimore's stated intent to "kee[p] an eye on" the issue, she's gotten off to a weak start with a post that accurately parrots a local news story and goes into no further depth, accepting Johnson's accusations about Planned Parenthood's business model without question and speculating--entirely to PP's detriment--from then on.

I won't pretend to know anything more about the subject than Larimore does, and I hope that more information will be forthcoming, but if she's not going to ask questions, I will. If either of my readers has any informed, relevant knowledge on the subject, I invite you to fill in my blanks.

Three questions...

1. Larimore presents the news that Abby Johnson left her job as director of a Planned Parenthood health center (she doesn't say when, but it was October 6) after seeing the ultrasound of an abortion, which I'm sure would be rather a moment for anyone, regardless of value affiliation on the subject. But one has to wonder how Johnson managed to work for Planned Parenthood for eight years--two of those as director--and not know what was going on in those procedure rooms. Was she aware of how surgical abortions work? Did she never wonder what those bleepy machines with the little TV screens were for? What did she think they were doing back there?

Question 1: How did she go eight years without realizing how surgical abortions work?

2. Larimore also repeats without questioning a quote from Johnson:
Johnson says she became conflicted because “she was told to bring in more women who wanted abortions,” and that the organization was “changing it's business model from one that pushed prevention, to one that focused on abortion.”
Johnson has said that she never received any e-mails or letters instructing her how to raise profits but that "Every meeting that we had was, 'We don't have enough money, we don't have enough money — we've got to keep these abortions coming.'" (Larimore didn't provide that quote herself, but a quick Google search provided a Fox News interview with Johnson as its second result.)

So. In their 2008 annual report, Planned Parenthood claims that three percent of the services provided at their health centers are abortion-related, while 36 percent are related to contraception; they say that 82 percent of their clients received contraception services in 2007. And they say that less than 40 percent of their overall revenue comes from their health centers. And PP's health center in Bryan, Texas, is only one of 850 in the nation.

(If you have a minute, check out Johnson's KEOS interview six weeks ago where she repeated those statistics, talked about the importance of reproductive rights, and mentioned how dishonest and threatening the Coalition for Life were and how she considered the 40 Days of Life to be harassment. Funny, that)

Recognizing that one abortion would certainly provide more income than, say, one pregnancy test or one pack of birth-control pills (although less, potentially, than one IUD or one year of BCPs), how many more abortions would Johnson have to bring into her clinic to have a substantial impact on Planned Parenthood's business model? Would she be expected to go out and recruit new clients to come in and have abortions, or would it be more effective to convince current clients not to use contraception after all?

Question 2: How many more abortions would Johnson have to bring in to have an impact on Planned Parenthood's business model?

3. In that Fox News interview that Larimore never managed to come across in her research on the subject, Johnson says that a visiting doctor could perform "30 to 40 procedures on each day he was there," two days a month. How many could one doctor actually perform in a day? I have this image of a doctor scrubbing in, performing the procedure, scrubbing out, and scrubbing right back in for the next one, like a game of whack-a-mole that leaves him with no time for chart notes or lunch. Is this realistic, or might Johnson have been exaggerating and/or sensationalizing a bit to Fox News because Bill Hemmer is such a muffin?

Question 3: Does the Bryan PP health center force its visiting doctor to work through lunch, or is Bill Hemmer a muffin? (The judges will accept "both" as an answer)

Larimore does ask one question in her post. She asks, "Why does Planned Parenthood need a restraining order against Abby Johnson?" (and also, "Is Planned Parenthood going to such lengths to keep Johnson from discussing its 'business model?'" but that's kind of the same thing). She doesn't want to jump to conclusions. And neither do I.

... and an answer

I do have access to this mystical device called "the Google," though, and it reveals to me wondrous things. For instance, the Google tells me that Salon obtained a copy of Planned Parenthood's petition for the restraining order, which included allegations that the same day Johnson was put on a "performance improvement plan," she was seen copying files and "removing items" from the health center, and that Johnson herself told clinic employees that she'd passed information along to the Coalition for Life and that "something big" was coming up.

Now, Johnson denies the allegations, but considering the threatening nature of much anti-choice activism (which Johnson herself decries in the aforementioned KEOS interview) and the Coalition for Life's own tactics of, for instance, calling the homes of clinic patients to tell their families that they've had abortions, it may be a safer move to restrain now and ask questions later. Later, for instance, on November 10, when a court date has been set up so that both parties can ask questions, and if the allegations turn out to be unfounded, the temporary restraining order won't be extended. But I like to think that if I were a PP patient, my medical records would remain confidential and my family unharassed by anti-choicers even if the clinic director did have a "change of heart."

Anyway, that's one thing that might be an answer to the only question that Rachael Larimore bothered to ask. We'll see how this thing pans out. I'll be watching.

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