Anti-Abortion Activist Abby Johnson Is Speaking at Tonight’s RNC. So Who Is She?

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Anti-Abortion Activist Abby Johnson Is Speaking at Tonight’s RNC. So Who Is She?

Jessica Mason Pieklo

From lies about abortion to pretending to help women's rights, here are five of Abby Johnson's outrageous claims.

Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood employee turned anti-choice activist. You’re going to hear her spew a bunch of nonsense about abortion tonight on day two of the Republican National Convention. (We’re told Democrats also care about abortion, but who can be sure?)

Johnson has a long and colorful history of making up stories when it comes to abortion, while she frames her work as “helping” women. Here is a snapshot of some of her most outrageous claims.

1. Johnson said doctors perform abortions on patients who aren’t even pregnant

Really. She did.

A common trope among anti-choice activists is that abortion providers are unethical predators willing to do anything for a buck—including performing make-believe abortions on patients who aren’t even pregnant. What anti-choice activists like Johnson are actually talking about when they peddle this misinformation is miscarriage management. But most people are not familiar enough with reproductive health care, let alone reproductive health care in a clinic setting, to understand the difference between that and ABORTION in neon letters like Johnson suggests.

Johnson revived this trope in 2012 in defense of anti-choice Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who got dragged for repeating the claim, and her response—which dehumanizes providers and pushes scientific disinformation to advance a political agenda—perfectly sums up anti-choice advocacy.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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2. She thinks racial profiling is a positive thing

The connections between anti-choice activism and white supremacy run deep, but they’re not necessarily well-known or widely discussed.

This summer, Johnson gave us an opportunity to revisit that conversation. In a video she posted and has since taken down, Johnson stands in front of a cross while speaking about mass incarceration, racial profiling by police, and Black fathers. She released the video, titled “My Biracial Boy,” during a national uprising against police violence targeting Black lives. Johnson’s video was so bad it prompted other anti-choice activists to write a letter to the Catholic Church urging it to stop promoting Johnson and her work.

Yikes.

3. She fights for women’s rights

Call it a Mrs. America throwback, but Johnson is among the high-profile women in the anti-choice movement who see their work rolling back reproductive rights and gender equality as a mission to help women. Johnson frames her work as a form of pro-life feminism that “respects everyone’s choices.”

In reality, though, it’s just repurposed paternalism.

Take her stance on “family voting,” which existed before women got the right to vote and which Johnson said she’d support bringing back. Yeah, no.

4. She knows a good grift when she sees it

Johnson exploded onto the anti-choice activist scene following the publication of her memoir, Unplanned, in 2011. In it, Johnson describes her “conversion” moment from “extremely pro-choice” Planned Parenthood employee to anti-choice crusader after witnessing an ultrasound-assisted abortion.

Johnson’s story had a few holes in it, but that didn’t stop it from being made into a movie. The Hallmark Channel released Unplanned the film in 2019, and it is quite a production.

5. Making money by lying to patients—it’s the Abby Johnson playbook

Back in 2011 and 2012, anti-choice lawmakers were laser-focused on enacting forced ultrasound laws, which are abortion restrictions designed to add delays and expense while steeping the patient in uncertainty and shame.

It should come as no surprise then that Johnson would parlay her individual success in grifting into a playbook for the movement writ large, including teaching so-called crisis pregnancy centers how to parlay procedures like ultrasounds and additional testing into revenue streams for these fake clinics and propaganda vehicles to try and shame patients out of abortion care.