News Religion

University of Washington Students Apparently Don’t Believe Women Have “Too Many Rights”

Robin Marty

A sponsored event at University of Washington turned into a bit of a free for all after students made it clear that women don't have "too many rights."

When the panel is entitled “Do Women Have Too Many Rights?” you would think it would be a one-word presentation. “No.” But anti-choice activist Abby Johnson apparently got a little more of an animated audience than she expected when she showed up on the University of Washington campus for her speaking engagement.

Johnson’s event, sponsored somewhat silently by UW Catholic Newman Center’s Respect Life Student Group (yes, I actually had to dig around to find out who was putting on the talk) was allegedly meant to discuss if “the woman’s right to her body more important than the child’s right to life?” 

But when protesters arrived and took over the event, it instead turned into an on-the-spot rebuttal of Johnson’s words.

Via The Daily:

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The atmosphere of the room was everything but calm as the audience shouted and raised their signs, interrupting Johnson as she tried to speak.

“Citation needed” and “liar” were common phrases heard throughout the talk.

“I think the most offensive part is the just the scientific inaccuracy,” UW freshman Robin Sacks said. “She’s saying that because the fetus moved, that means it was feeling pain. Really, they don’t have the capacity to feel pain yet.”

So do women have too many rights?  They definitely have the right to protest, and many students took full advantage of that right at least.

News Abortion

“Do Women Have Too Many Rights?” Abby Johnson’s Dangerous Message Delivered With Sugar

Jessica Mack

Pro-life activist Abby Johnson came to the University of Washington in Seattle last week. While I feel pro-choice protestors were disrespectful of her right to speak, Johnson's beliefs, being played out in legislation across the country, are the far more dangerous affront to human rights and freedom, especially for women.

If Abby Johnson, former Texas Planned Parenthood Director-cum-pro-life maven, came to your event, she would respect your rights. That’s what she said last Thursday night over the shouts of rowdy pro-choice protestors who were packed into an auditorium at the University of Washington to hear her speak on the topic: “Do Women Have Too Many Rights?” 

And you know what? I believe her.

The hollers and eventual scuffles didn’t subside once during her hour-long talk, and plans for a post-talk Q&A were aborted as a very pregnant Johnson exited early, flanked by campus police. Yet aside from a few snide remarks to some of the more disruptive protestors, Johnson remained respectful. She sounded intelligent and even witty.

The juxtaposition between her composure and the palpable rage and disrespect shown her by pro-choice protestors was stark. Incessant shouts only accented her point about the anger that resides in the pro-choice community – “anger that comes from hurt,” she cooed – and which contributes to a shameful hostility.

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“We are living in a society that is hurting. People will justify their own hurt by allowing the killing of the innocent,” she said.

Yet for many reasons, pro-choice anger is warranted. We are (still) in the midst of a downward spiral and backward slide on reproductive rights and access to health care in this country. Alarmingly, people like Johnson and the policymakers they’ve elected are winning on many fronts, and deftly using the banners of rights, care, and even “choice” to do it. We are fired up and we should be. I also question the tactics of Students for Life of America, the group that sponsored Johnson’s talk, in creating such a provocative title for that talk by which even Johnson herself seemed repelled. (On Twitter, she agreed with my assessment that the title was “ridiculous, inflammatory, and antiquated.”) And while I didn’t like what she had to say, Johnson did not deserve to be bullied the way she was. More importantly, it was a waste of our breath and a disservice to our movement. We should have been better, because, frankly, we are better.

Other than rowdy young feminists, the audience was a sea of white, wealthy hair. If everyone in that audience had magically disappeared into a wormhole, Seattle would have been rid of the lion’s share of its conservative pro-life citizens. But to those few and proud, Johnson offered reassurance:

“Don’t be discouraged. There are many people willing to stand up for the real rights of men and women.”

But what are real rights, and who gets to claim and exercise them? Everything but individual reproductive rights; everyone but women with unwanted pregnancies.

“I don’t think women have too many rights. I actually don’t think women have enough rights. […] I do support choice, but not when it comes to the killing of innocent humans,” said Johnson.

Then she segued into a defense of informed consent. “We have to give women an informed choice. I believe in that.” Education and access to “the full truth” is paramount, for women and for every individual. We should be educated about our beliefs, she said, and I agree.

Yet the point of informed consent is that it’s not informed consent unless it’s fully informed, and without bias, and unless real choices exist on which to act. Yet the education and information that the pro-life movement puts forth is too often religiously-based and unscientific, serving only to place the burden (of unwanted pregnancy, of rape, and other aspects of sexual and reproductive health) on women themselves.

Take, for example, the well-documented coercion women receive at crisis pregnancy centers, or the propagation of scientifically-unfounded claims of a post-abortion syndrome, of disproven links between abortion and breast cancer, of biologically inaccurate claims that emergency contraception is an abortifacient. Further, a completely corrupted version “informed consent” has increasingly become a tool of anti-women and anti-reproductive rights efforts. It’s less and less about actually ensuring women have information, and more about putting in place a stumbling block to inhibit women’s access to real information and real choice.  It’s become a code for “you can’t decide for yourself.”

Yet many of the points Johnson discussed in her talk actually weren’t that problematic to me. Again, she sounded for the most part reasonable. It was the logical hops, skips, and jumps she made from those points that created a nebulous of misrepresentation. For instance, in an effort to unify patient services across the country, all Planned Parenthood clinics will be required to provide a full range of services, including abortion, by 2013 (currently, services are not completely standardized among clinics).

From this, Johnson concluded that the decision was completely (and only) abortion-focused and money-driven. That Johnson has a perpetual bone to pick with her former employer is no secret. In fact, she is chief strategist for Live Action, the pro-life media group responsible for the barage of “exposes” on Planned Parenthood, which have continued to fall flat.

But from this, I concluded: “about time!” Planned Parenthood, as the largest and most trusted women’s health care provider, should be offering comprehensive services, including abortion, at every clinic, because so many women have literally no other option. Remember 87 percent of US counties have no abortion provider.

Johnson’s logical leaps continued unbounded, but they could not then – or ever – be deterred. Yet less than the words coming out of her mouth, it’s the story that she represents which is so pernicious to our individual reproductive rights. Johnson is one of those women who’s had an abortion, and even supported abortion access, and then did a complete 180.

She is the “once was lost, now am found,” repentant-whore-good-mother archetype, all rolled into one. And that’s the narrative that society has prescribed for women, for centuries, and the society that policymakers limiting reproductive rights are trying to legislate. Johnson deserved more respect for her right to speak than she got in her reception at the University of Washington last week, but the bigger story she fits into is a horror story that we cannot let play out.

Morning Roundup: “Don’t Say Gay” in Tennessee

Beth Saunders

Tennessee wants to ban any mention of homosexuality in grade school, Iowa may be legalizing the murder of abortion providers, and Planned Parenthood clinics - and their advocates - across the country warn about the devastating impact of the Pence amendment.

Tennessee wants to ban any mention of homosexuality in grade school, Iowa may be legalizing the murder of abortion providers, and Planned Parenthood clinics – and their advocates – across the country warn about the devastating impact of the Pence amendment.

  • Tennessee legislators have introduced a bill opponents are calling, “Don’t Say Gay,” which would ban the mention of homosexuality in any sexuality curriculum in grades K-8. They say it is to ensure age-appropriate education, but it’s really about fear and bigotry. Bill sponsor Stacy Campfield says, “If we’re talking about homosexuality, we are talking about specific acts that are going to be unhealthy for anybody to engage in outside of marriage.” First, unhealthy? What makes a specific sexual act unhealthy? And secondly, gay folks can’t get married in your state, so that sentence pretty much makes no sense.
  • South Dakota backed down from its bill that would legalize the murder of abortion providers, but a combination of laws in Iowa could lead to the same result. The legislature has introduced two separate bills – one to declare personhood from the moment of conception, and another to allow the use of deadly force “’any place at which the person has a right to be present,’ and that in such instances, the citizen has the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect himself or a third party from serious injury or death or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
  • Planned Parenthood clinics across the country are bracing for impact based on the House vote last Friday to defund the organization. In Arizona, 40,000 people would lose access to care, a California representative says the results of the cuts would be devastating, a Minneapolis woman says her sisters life was saved by a routine exam at Planned Parenthood, the Pennsylvania chapters of the organization say they would have to shut their doors if the amendment became law, hundreds of thousands of families in Texas would be without basic reproductive health care, in Utah, over 40,000 people would be affected,  and the Southern Oregon affiliate says their 25,000 patients are at risk.

Feb 23