'stina (texaslawchick) wrote,

Using media for good.

Back in November, a former employee of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan announced that she quit, had a conversion, and joined the other side. She had worked in the clinic for 8 years, and had moved pretty high up the chain at Planned Parenthood. She was the clinic director when she left. She said her conversion came from observing an ultrasound abortion. She also said something about her superiors pressuring her to up revenues by getting more abortions scheduled. This was in the middle of the 40 days of Harrassment.

Fortunately, mainstream media didn't really pick up her story. Except salon.com, which noted that the employee had been put on an Employee Improvement Plan by her superiors two days before she left and was seen removing confidential information from the clinic, and RH Reality Check, which looked at her story with some incredulity. Unfortunately, the whackadoo conservative media ate it all up. She hit the right-wing talk show circuit in October and November, and they loved her. She repeated her conversion story over and over again, describing in detail the ultrasound image she saw of a 13 week pregnant woman's abdomen during a surgical abortion.

The Right Wing Media didn't look too deeply into her story. Texas Monthly did. And their story on the matter hit their website today. On top of the questions about the timing of the Employee Improvement Plan and the conversion, several statements from befuddled friends and co-workers, and Ms. Johnson's own statements on a radio show the day after her supposed conversion, Texas Monthly quickly discovered that Ms. Johnson never heard of the Induced Abortion Report Form that is required to be sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services. It contains data on all abortions performed in the state, including demographic information on the patients, weeks of gestation, type of procedure. This is the form.
The Bryan clinic reported performing fifteen surgical abortions on September 26. Johnson has consistently said that the patient in question was thirteen weeks pregnant, which is plausible, since thirteen weeks is right at the cusp of when physicians will consider using an ultrasound to assist with the procedure. Yet none of the patients listed on the report for that day were thirteen weeks pregnant; in fact, none were beyond ten weeks.
When Texas Monthly pressed Ms. Johnson on the issue,
Johnson volunteered that the patient in question was a black woman, a description that she has never previously included in her account. Only one patient from September 26 was black, according to the Induced Abortion Report Form, and she was in the sixth week of her pregnancy. There would be no medical reason for a doctor to use an ultrasound to guide an abortion performed on a woman at such an early stage. Even if one was used, it’s hard to imagine how Johnson, who said she has seen hundreds of ultrasound pictures in her career, could mistake a one-quarter-inch-long embryo for a three-inch, thirteen-week fetus.
Johnson later suggests that Planned Parenthood doctored the form to discredit her, though apparently she's never disclosed the race of the pregnant woman before so it would have been difficult to pre-determine her statement. I don't know if Texas Monthly got the Induced Abortion Report Form from Planned Parenthood or the Texas Department of State Health Services. I suspect the latter under a public information request, since the form does contain information that could be considered individually identifiable under HIPAA (date of service, for you HIPAA junkies out there). The Texas Administrative Code says the data has to be submitted annually, but facilities can submit the form on a monthly or quarterly basis for greater efficiency. I don't know how often Planned Parenthood submits the form, but the story about the conversion didn't come out until November 4, and the procedure that supposedly triggered the conversion ocurred on September 26th. The end of September tends to be the end of the third quarter, and the end of the month would have been the same. Give a few days to compile data and send it in, it would have hit the State by mid-October, well before Ms. Johnson's story came out.

This story really upset me back in November when it broke. I'm very close to the people who work in this branch of Planned Parenthood. And I'm glad to see a mainstream publication take the story apart piece by piece.
Tags: media, reproduction

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