Pro-Life Convert Takes the Floor in Sonogram Debate

After the Senate State Affairs committee reconvened this afternoon, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, got his star witness.

Abby Johnson, the controversial former director of the Bryan/College Station Planned Parenthood created a media storm when she resigned—she said—after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion, showed up to testify in support of the revised Senate Bill 16. She made a name for herself in 2009 when she went a rampage against Planned Parenthood and its practices, and today she was back to debunk the organization’s earlier testimony that physicians provide sonograms and necessary information before performing abortions.

“Women who chose abortion to not get the informed consent they deserve,” she told the committee. Women “deserve to know that a doctor will blindly go into their uterus with sharp abortion instruments, they deserve to see and hear a fetal heartbeat.”

Back in 2009, Johnson went on a media blitz, telling anyone who would listen that she quit her Planned Parenthood job and went to work for a pro-life organization after assisting in an abortion. However, others speculate that she quit after finding out she was about to be fired. 

While her credibility has been questioned, Patrick, almost giddy, could barely contain his excitement as she laid out her testimony. Johnson strongly rebuked the organization’s earlier statements, telling the committee that even though sonograms are performed, they’re done “usually by someone with only a high school degree.” She also said that the sonogram only reveals the top of the fetus’ head and is used not to provide informed consent but to determine the gestational size of the fetus “so that Planned Parenthood knows how much to charge the patient.”

“Many times, women are denied access to their sonogram image; they are always denied access to the fetal heartbeat,” she said.

As far as protecting the sanctity of a physician’s relationship with a patient, Johnson alleged that that relationship doesn’t exist in a Planned Parenthood exam room.

“There is no doctor-patient relationship,” she said. “He never speaks to her before the procedure, he never speaks to her in recovery after the procedure.”

What Patrick seems to forget in his exchange with Johnson is that there are other clinics besides Planned Parenthood that provide abortions. Instead of analyzing the bill, Johnson’s 10-minute testimony seemed more like an attack on the organization than an analysis of the bill.

Alexa Garcia-Ditta is a staff writer (and former intern) covering women's health, reproductive health and health care access.

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Published at 10:13 pm CST
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