It’s not just Alabama


Don’t blame the citizens of Alabama exclusively for their misogynistic laws. This poison is everywhere. Even in Minnesota. Even in your local community. It’s happening here in bucolic Morris, Minnesota.

Our local movie theater has given in to pressure from church groups, like this rag-tag mob of regressive bible-thumpers, to host a showing of the movie Unplanned in town. I can’t blame the theater, they are trying to represent the views of the community, and they did turn down a request to put it in their regular week-long rotation and are instead showing a single Sunday matinee. Still, we’re going to have a showing of a dishonest anti-choice propaganda film right here in my town. We get a fair number of religious films at the theater (the latest was Breakthrough), and I’m not going to complain — I’m just not going to attend. Unplanned, though, is worse than that, because it lies.

It is the story of Abby Johnson, who was a director of a Planned Parenthood in Texas who had a sudden conversion, resigned, and became an anti-abortion advocate. That much is true. She did make a surprisingly abrupt about-face on abortion. Was her motivation principled and honest, though? Probably not.

Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood turned out to be a more complex story than it first appeared. At a court hearing for an injunction sought by Planned Parenthood to prevent Johnson from divulging confidential information to her new allies, two of Johnson’s former co-workers testified that she told them in the days before she resigned that she was afraid she was about to be fired. At one time, Johnson, who was named the regional Planned Parenthood affiliate’s employee of the year in 2008, seemed to have a promising future with the organization. By mid-2009, however, her relationship with her employer had begun to deteriorate. Salon reported that on October 2, Johnson was summoned to Houston to meet with her supervisors to discuss problems with her job performance. She was placed on what Planned Parenthood calls a “performance improvement plan.” It was just three days later, on Monday, that Johnson made her tearful appearance at the Coalition for Life. The following day she faxed Planned Parenthood a resignation letter, which mentioned nothing about a crisis of conscience.

She claimed that she was pressured by Planned Parenthood to increase the number of abortions at her clinic, which is just bizarre. PP does not push clients toward abortion, if anything, it’s the opposite — their purpose is to serve the medical needs of the women. There was an increase in the number of abortions at her clinic before her sudden departure, but it was because they were providing more abortion pills at clients’ request. Only 3% of the services offered at her clinic were abortions. Johnson claimed she had an epiphany while observing an ultrasound guided abortion, during which she claimed the fetus struggled to escape from the suction, which is absurd. The fetus is only a bit more than half a centimeter long at six weeks. It has mere bumps for limbs, it still has prominent branchial arches, it’s not motile at all.

Oh, about that abortion in the sixth week: Johnson claims it was a 13 week abortion. At that stage, the fetus is about 7cm long and does have small limbs which exhibit spontaneous movement. Planned Parenthood does keep very careful records of all procedures, of course, and there was no early second trimester abortion on the day she claimed — only one 6th week abortion. So she lied about that, too.

Of course, the movie is going to exaggerate and dramatize everything even further, and lie about the realities of abortion every step of the way — it’s made by the same people who made God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2, both of which were shown here in Morris, no doubt at the urging of the same ignoramuses who are bringing in this latest abomination from Pure Flix.

Some of us are planning some kind of response. I’ll be attending the movie on the 19th of this month (oh, the pain I suffer to be informed), and we’ve talked about having a post-movie discussion, although I suspect none of the proponents of religious stupidity will attend. We’re also hoping to bring in a showing of No Choice, an excellent documentary from Bill Moyers on why women need this right for a matinee showing the week after — the distributors have been helpful and willing, and the theater is considering helping us out — but I doubt that we’ll get much participation by the people who need the information most.

We are not going to adopt the histrionic scare tactics of the deplorable anti-abortionists, which does tend to limit the magnitude of potential reactions. So no, sorry, we’re not going to stand outside the theater with bullhorns. Does anyone have any other suggestions about what can be done? Unplanned is being shown on Sunday the 19th, while we’re hoping to show No Choice on Saturday the 25th.

Comments

  1. Artor says

    Is there a good journalist working for the Morris paper? Perhaps you could contact them and ask them to write a piece analyzing the two movies, fisking the multiple lies in the first, and explaining how the second is a more accurate reflection of reality.

  2. Hoosier X says

    Just for variety’s sake, you’d think that the Conservative Movement could find just one issue where they don’t have to lie and exaggerate and rationalize and employ torturous sophistry to support their opinions.

    I take that back. Because, no, you wouldn’t think that if you’d been observing the Conservative Movement for forty or fifty years.

  3. Wrath Panda says

    I say organise a bunch of protesters to hang around the theatre entrance to give the religious types a barracking as they enter and leave. See how they enjoy that when they’re not going through a deeply personal and emotional experience. I’m sure they’ll see nothing wrong with it, just like they see nothing wrong with doing it outside a PP clinic.

  4. Chris Habecker says

    Expose the fact that liars lie about their motives and their morals.
    A. Pro-Lie
    B. Pro-Lifers aren’t.
    C. If you actually valued life, you wouldn’t have time for your womb fetish.
    Expose the fact that loving the unborn is entirely unilateral, “protecting” that love is entirely selfish, and that claiming to speak on behalf of the unborn is entirely self-serving. A self-aware brain appears some time after birth; the unborn are unaware of their own existence (PZ, please verify). If being a person means anything, it must be that the person has a self-aware brain.
    A. Fetuses for Choice.
    B. The unborn don’t care, at all, about anything.
    C. The unborn don’t share your fetishes.
    D. Sweetie, I love you regardless of whether you are self-aware.

  5. microraptor says

    I got in trouble in college when a group came to campus to advocate for opposing abortion.

    I stood across the walkway from them holding a wire coat hanger.

  6. astro says

    “It is the story of Abby Johnson, who was a director of a Planned Parenthood in Texas who had a sudden conversion, resigned, and became an anti-abortion advocate. That much is true.”

    i went and read that texas monthly article, as well as a few targeted searches on my own. i’m not sure i’d agree that she had a “sudden conversion.” every reasonably objective source for the story suggests, quite strongly, that she left PP because she was on the verge of being fired, and the anti-choice place gave her the replacement job she was desperate for. she comes off in the stories – including her own – as highly unpleasant, and she undoubtedly would have had a hard time finding a job on her merits.

    to justify her new job she had to dig herself a hole. i believe her when she admits, naively, that she didn’t expect to become a media darling for the anti-choice crowd. so like so many liars before her, her response was to keep digging.

  7. ridana says

    We are not going to adopt the histrionic scare tactics of the deplorable anti-abortionists

    Why not? Histrionics is what they understand, and if you’re a person of childbearing potential or care about someone who is, this is terrifying. People should be scared.

    Offer facts, offer anecdotes, offer counter-arguments, offer reality. Especially the reality of people affected by anti-abortion legislation.

  8. curbyrdogma says

    Where to begin on this subject… Yes, NOT just Alabama. Republicans in Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, Virginia, etc. are also flexing their Stone Age muscles and passing similar laws.

    To make matters worse, the legislations being proposed/passed make no provisions with regard to rape or incest. A-hole rejects everywhere (who think women’s right to choose a partner is “too many rights”) are probably applauding this measure as it increases their chances of reproducing their DNA.

    There are unfortunately countless stories about preteen girls who’ve been raped by adults, including family members. Check your state’s sex offender list – this is more common than one thinks.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/05/15/alabama-ohio-abortion-heartbeat-restrictions-choice-column/3679623002/ Unfortunately even this may not be hard-hitting enough, as some of these extremists probably view a girl’s bodily autonomy as not that important.

    Someone ought to make a documentary about how many times “secret” abortions have been performed by right-wingers to remove evidence of incest or infidelity. Someone ought to make a documentary about the quality-of-life conditions in countries with similar laws. Do you think the “pro-lifers” have even thought of proposing how to deal with such an influx of unplanned births and subsequent economic hardships? They’re probably the same ones who complain about people on welfare…

  9. microraptor says

    curbyrdogma @9:

    Do you think the “pro-lifers” have even thought of proposing how to deal with such an influx of unplanned births and subsequent economic hardships? They’re probably the same ones who complain about people on welfare…

    Cut them off welfare and let them die in the street, most likely.

  10. curbyrdogma says

    microraptor @10:

    …or, use them as our dirt-cheap labor stock like it was 1910 all over again (the “Again” of “MAGA”?)

    When the GOP finally has its way (see their platform proposing the elimination of labor protections) we’ll have our own home-grown third-world regions to replace our dependence on China and other foreign countries.

  11. DanDare says

    Time to go all Constable Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets as people go in.

  12. ck, the Irate Lump says

    ridana wrote:

    Why not? Histrionics is what they understand, and if you’re a person of childbearing potential or care about someone who is, this is terrifying.

    I can’t disagree. I’d say that we should try to force them on the defensive instead of allowing them to only attack. So, when they bring up Margaret Sanger’s eugenic past, perhaps bring up Georgia Tann’s who more or less created the modern practices around adoption. She did this through the theft of over 5,000 children, and along the way, she sexually and physically abused many of those children and covered up the deaths of many of them (because properly feeding and caring for them wasn’t worth the expense).

    Yeah, it’s disingenuous, but so is the eugenics thing.

  13. Jazzlet says

    Posters of what the foetus actually looks like at the relevant stages. No need to say anything unless asked, just stand with the posters labelled 6 weeks etc as they go in, and even more importantly as they come out.

  14. Chris Habecker says

    Pro-Lie: the only “f” they give about life.

    Jazzlet’s suggestion to show posters of actual fetuses (to counter the Gerber babies that pro-lifers imagine) is tricky because size is one of the lies. If you placed a 6-week fetus on a plate at an outdoor restaurant, pro-lifers passing by wouldn’t notice – it looks like charcuterie. Blow up that image to poster size, and pro-lifers know they should let their imagination take over.

  15. andiek712 says

    Perhaps let them know that apparently women who have miscarriages are going to be investigated as well. It’s only one heinous part of a whole horrifically heinous bill, but just maybe you can get one or two women to listen if they realize that even if they desperately want their child, if they have a miscarriage they’re going to face suspicion and interrogation at one of the most brutally traumatic times of their life.

    I’d also bring up the fact that an abortion ban wouldn’t stop abortions but only lead to danger for the women involved, but apparently the lives of actual living females don’t matter a bit. But if it helps, remind women on the anti-abortion side that maternal health care is increasingly terrible. With an abortion ban, not only will more women die during back-street abortions, more will die when giving birth.

  16. ck, the Irate Lump says

    andiek712 wrote:

    Perhaps let them know that […]

    I’m sure that it would probably be possible to appeal this way to those who say, “I’m pro-life, but I don’t want to stop others from getting abortions” (I’m aware of the contradiction, but real people define themselves this way), but the dyed-in-the-wool activists won’t care. To them, the potential life they’re trying to preserve is a soul which is pure and unsullied by sin by virtue of being unborn, while the existent life they’re hurting is fallen, sinful soul which deserve any misfortune that comes to them.

  17. says

    Showing a documentary opposite a drama isn’t very convincing. Unplanned (which I have seen) is just competently made enough to be effective propaganda.

    I don’t know if it is possible given the age of the film but maybe try to get a screening of Vera Drake along with the documentary in response. Or at least in panels recommend the film. Bonus: Vera Drake is one of the best films of 2000’s and probably Leigh’s best film.

  18. andiek712 says

    ck, the Irate Lump wrote:

    “To them, the potential life they’re trying to preserve is a soul which is pure and unsullied by sin by virtue of being unborn, while the existent life they’re hurting is fallen, sinful soul which deserve any misfortune that comes to them.”

    I totally agree, but what I was thinking was that even anti-abortion women are going to be affected by this clause, and maybe they need to understand that. OK, you want to carry a child, but if you lose it, you’re going to be investigated the same as any other woman.

    As for the maternal health care issue, I can’t help but wonder why anti-abortionists care so much about a collection of cells in the days after conception, but don’t seem to care about the fetus a mere nine months later. If they want to save the unborn, why aren’t they more concerned with the fetus’s health at moment of birth?

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