There are many aspects of anti-abortion – or anti-choice – campaigning that I find deeply disturbing, and wrong. But while listening to a debate on Woman’s Hour with anti-choice campaigner Abby Johnson (listen here) what struck me most was how utterly hypocritical, deluded and full of lies she was.
Johnson has had two abortions. She fell pregnant whilst at college and felt it wasn’t the right time to give birth to, and look after, a baby. She was also a director for Planned Parenthood – a US family planning organisation that offers abortions. So you’d have her down as an advocate but no – she’s changed her mind and is now trying to persuade other healthcare workers to stop providing abortions.
Lisa Hallgarten, who works for UK Voice for Choice, was taking part in the debate and began by saying that it’s perfectly acceptable for someone to change their mind about abortion and leave a workplace on that basis. I agree with this – but to then work towards preventing other women from making decisions about their own bodies; the same decision Johnson was allowed to make when she opted to terminate those pregnancies? That’s not acceptable.
In fact, for anyone to think they can control women’s bodies, or dictate what should be growing in, or removed, from their womb is shitting on all the foundations feminists have laid to help women claim their bodies back, rather than have men (or anyone else) controlling them.
A woman’s body is her body – it belongs to her and no one else. Not a man, not a parent, not a doctor, not an anti-choice campaigner.
So what changed Johnson’s mind?
She says that during her time as director of Planned Parenthood she facilitated 20,000 abortions and coerced many of those women into going ahead with a termination. This, she explained, was due to meeting a quota.
Why on earth would you coerce women into having abortions to fulfill a quota rather than challenging the people setting this so-called quota? But more importantly – and what was raised by Hallgarten – is that most women who arrive asking for an abortion have already made up their minds and so ‘coercion’ is part of a harmful, and inaccurate, register enlisted by Johnson and other anti-choice lobbyists to disparage abortion providers.
But then Johnson, who says she doesn’t believe “anyone should have the choice to take the life of an unborn child” needs to employ some strong, aggressive language – because persuading people that she knows more about what should be done with a woman’s body than that woman does is quite a claim.
She feels strongly about this matter because she has, apparently, known and met “thousands upon thousands of women all across that world that deeply regret their abortion decision.” Interesting – as I’ve never met ONE woman who regrets her decision.
Hallgarten’s gripe is with the lies bandied about by people like Johnson. She said: “In the UK people are repelled by you misinforming women, intimidating them outside of clinics and sending them to crisis pregnancy centres where they’ll be given actual lies about fertility.”
(Abortion DOESN’T cause infertility).
But then Johnson comes from Texas where a law has just been passed to make it even harder to seek an abortion. New facility requirements have caused three clinics to close down already. And a woman has to be shown an ultrasound of the foetus before being granted ‘permission’ to go through with the termination she’s already set on. If you want to talk ‘coercion’ – THIS is coercion; it’s forcing women to form an emotional attachment to a foetus that they’ve already decided they don’t want to carry to full term.
This debate reminded me of an encounter I had with an anti-choice campaigner at Sussex Freshers’ Week when I started there in 2005. There was a bowl of jelly babies on a desk and a boy handing them out (he might have been 18, but not older), whilst asking people to sign a ‘pro life’ petition to ban abortion. I asked him why he felt he had a right to tell women what to do with their bodies. He looked scared. I told him that his bowl of jelly babies was offensive and mocking the seriousness of abortion. And I asked him how he’d feel if his girlfriend was violently raped and became pregnant. He looked even more scared.
Why? Because anti-choice campaigners like to make threats, to target vulnerable women and to be the ones doing the scaring. They don’t want to be confronted themselves.
My stance is this. There are already far too many unwanted babies shafted off into care homes or living in horrendous poverty, so if a woman doesn’t want to go through with a pregnancy – WHATEVER her reason – I vehemently support the termination of that pregnancy.
Johnson said that “Planned Parenthood is not a healthcare provider that cares about women.” I say: anti-choice campaigners do not care about women. Anyone who thinks they have a right to tell a woman how to use her body does not care about women. Anyone who denies women the right to prevent pregnancy, or to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, doesn’t care about women. That’s you, Abby Johnson.