Addressing the Abby Johnson Controversy

Image courtesy of National Catholic Reporter

By Gabrielle Dankanich 

As a member of the Catholic University community, a member of the Cardinals for Life executive board, and a member of the political scene on and off campus, I would like to voice my personal thoughts and understanding of the recent events surrounding the controversies of Abby Johnson. I am not speaking on behalf of Cardinals for Life. To read the official statement by Cardinals for Life, visit this link.

To preface, I want to state that it is not possible for any one person to truly know the intentions of another person or to truly know another person’s heart. We can make educated assumptions and we can investigate, but the only person that knows the genuine intentions of a person’s words or actions is the person him or herself and God. 

Genuine concerns have arisen around statements that prominent speaker Abby Johnson had given this past summer. In a video which has since been made private, Johnson has declared that “statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.” This is one of many public statements Johnson has made that warrants controversy. I do not believe it is my job as a college student to justify her statement, nor do I want to do so. Is Abby Johnson a racist? I assume she is not, since she left a racist organization which had been founded in order to “exterminate” the Black race. This does not mean that I do not recognize that Abby Johnson’s words are problematic at best and demand clarification. 

As a conservative college student, I understand the perspective of wanting to fight against a cancelation of Abby Johnson’s event. We have seen countless examples of leftists shutting down right-wing speakers because they do not agree with their message. For example, conservative speaker Ben Shapiro had been labeled a Nazi by college students on other campuses, despite himself being Jewish and the target of Anti-Semitic hate crimes. 

Young conservatives have paid witness to ridiculous instances of slandering political opposition and because of this there has been a natural inclination with this specific event to discredit the concerns of those in protest.  Those who are against Johnson speaking have been labeled as “cafeteria ‘Catholics,’” or “far-left activists.” I believe this is a mistake.

There were most definitely political actors involved in the petitioning to cancel the event, to ignore that fact would be naïve. I do not believe that this was the majority, nor do I believe that the concerns people have for the way that Abby Johnson has expressed her views should be ignored.

Here are screenshots of Abby Johnson’s Facebook posts discussing this event, the first image being the original and the second is an updated edit.

There is a stark difference between canceling someone for holding different political beliefs and questioning their position and holding her responsible. I would have liked to see a clarification from Abby Johnson herself on what she truly meant in the main video that had sparked outrage.

I wanted to voice my opinions on this issue because of the blatant misinformation surrounding the event. It is not my understanding that Cardinals for Life bowed to the mob, rather I believe that Cardinals for Life is set to change hearts and minds, not to prove any political point. 

I joined Cardinals for Life because I want to champion human dignity from conception until natural death. Abby Johsnon has been instrumental to the pro-life movement, yet she has compromised and tarnished that work with comments that are contradictory to what it truly means to be pro-life. Being pro-life means supporting all human life, from conception until natural death. I will not attempt to understand her heart or to characterize her as a racist, but her statements make it difficult and objectionable to defend her.

Abby Johnson, thank you for the wonderful work you have done for the unborn and for the women in such awful positions. However, I would like to ask you to clarify your positions, specifically those regarding race, specifically those that have hurt my campus community.

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