This week, the anti-choice group Live Action released a series of (often heavily edited) videos where an actor posing as a pimp and actresses posing as sex workers went into Planned Parenthood clinics asking for care. Their story made it sound like the fake sex workers were underage and the victims of human trafficking. They visited a dozen clinics, and clinic workers did exactly what they’re supposed to: They told the girls about their legal rights to health care and privacy, they offered them health care resources, and then they not only reported the visits to the local police and the FBI, but contacted Attorney General Eric Holder. One Planned Parenthood employee, of the dozens who were targeted in this sting operation, didn’t follow protocol and was fired as soon as PP found out — even at that PP center, though, the visit was reported to law enforcement.
Live Action says that the videos reveal an “endemic problem” at Planned Parenthood. Jill Stanek, to whom I am not going to link, quotes Live Action founder Lila Rose as saying:
“It is utterly disgusting that Planned Parenthood’s response to this is that their employee reacted ‘professionally,’” said Live Action President Lila Rose. “The only acceptable response to encountering a self-identified sex-trafficker of underage girls is zero tolerance. The only ‘professional’ response is to immediately call law enforcement to the scene and push for an arrest.
Our investigation – and their response – continues to show that an institutional crisis has engulfed the highest levels of PP. If you’re a sex-trafficker of minors or young women, you have a partner in PP. But if you are a minor or a young woman, you are not safe at PP clinics,” Rose continued.
Yeah, but no. I understand that Rose has an agenda, but calling local police in, say, Falls Church, Virginia to deal with what may be an international sex ring involving underage girls, and demanding that they come immediately and make arrests? Is really, really not the way to deal with trafficking situations. The outcome there is arresting the girls, ensuring that sex workers will not use Planned Parenthood’s very necessary services in the future, and giving the traffickers notice so that they can hide their tracks. The best thing that a health care worker can do in that situation is to do their job — to give their patient the health care they’re seeking within the confines of the law — and then to report the situation to law enforcement agencies that will be able to coordinate a comprehensive, sensitive and effective response.
The real story here, though, is how Live Action has made a years-long effort to take down Planned Parenthood. Lila Rose is an anti-choice extremist who thinks that if abortions are legal, they should be “done in the public square” so we can all see what they’re about (I wonder if she would say the same thing about, say, sex between married Christians?). She has collaborated with James O’Keefe (the guy who tapped Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phone and attempted to entrap a CNN reporter) on various anti-PP stings, with remarkably little success. She’s dishonest and thoroughly unethical, and the message she’s attaching to these latest videos is, basically, “Planned Parenthood employees will help girls get birth control, STI tests and abortions without telling their parents.” Which, yeah, is true! And totally legal! And should be legal!
It’s pathetic, but the media is biting, and anti-choice congressmen are pushing bills that would cut federal funds to Planned Parenthood because of PP’s status as an abortion provider. But more than 90 percent of the services offered by Planned Parenthood are preventative; abortion makes up a tiny fraction of what the organization does. PP provides contraception for nearly 2.5 million patients every year; four million tests and treatments for STIs, including HIV; nearly one million life-saving screenings for cervical cancer; and more than 830,000 breast exams. One in four American women has received care from Planned Parenthood. I certainly have — I was able to get an annual exam and contraception for free at a time when I didn’t have insurance. I was very thankful that PP was there when I needed them.
The efforts by Live Action aren’t intended to make Planned Parenthood better, to keep them accountable; they aren’t intended to help trafficking victims or women and girls. They are explicitly purposed to make Planned Parenthood and its employees “not feel safe.” The point is to take away health care from women and girls — not just because Lila Rose and her team dislike abortion, but because they oppose reproductive care generally. They’re against women having access to birth control. They’re against women and men having access to STI testing. They’re against anything that recognizes the reality that people have sex, usually before marriage, and not everyone thinks they should be punished for that sin. They’re against, essentially, any responsible decision-making or self-care when it comes to sex, because that might mean that people could actually enjoy their sexuality outside of the confines of what anti-choice extremists believe to be appropriate.
So they try to punish everyone, and take away basic health care access. It’s disgusting and it’s offensive, and they’re trying to shift the media narrative by claiming that Planned Parenthood helps human traffickers. Planned Parenthood helps all of its patients, regardless of their status. If these fake sex workers were actually trafficked girls, Planned Parenthood’s actions would have helped them much more significantly than Lila Rose’s suggestion to call the local cops and demand arrests. This attack is pathetic, but it’s gotten some traction. Don’t let it. Stand with Planned Parenthood.
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