Standing with Planned Parenthood

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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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Crime, Health, Medicine, Politics, Reproductive Rights and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Standing with Planned Parenthood

  1. Inoculated City says:

    I am adamantly against what Live Action is trying to do, but do people realize that Planned Parenthood routinely discriminates against trans women? Despite their policy prohibiting, it is a constant occurrence, and it’s troubling to not see that mentioned.

  2. gretel says:

    @Inoculated City: I actually don’t know anything about that, so if you could provide some background, I would appreciate it. It does seem like part of the fallout in all this is that they need to reevaluate their hiring practices. I know someone awesome and very involved with LGBTQQIA issues who is starting a job there soon, so it gives me hope.

  3. Sid says:

    “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? ”

    This happened in Falls Church? That’s right nearby, but I can’t find that in any of the links.

  4. Makes me wonder what sort of push back we could do. If we wished to fight fire with fire (not necessarilyrecommended by me) we could do an hidden camera expose on those pregnancy test centers that are really fronts for anti-choice propaganda. These places scare the be-Jesus out of young women by filling them full of guilt and shame should they even consider having an abortion.

  5. Amadei says:

    Makes me wonder what sort of push back we could do. If we wished to fight fire with fire (not necessarilyrecommended by me) we could do an hidden camera expose on those pregnancy test centers that are really fronts for anti-choice propaganda. These places scare the be-Jesus out of young women by filling them full of guilt and shame should they even consider having an abortion.

    Were I pregnant (just to give it more credibility), I would totally be a part of that sting operation.

  6. Kristen J. says:

    Comrade Kevin: Makes me wonder what sort of push back we could do. If we wished to fight fire with fire (not necessarilyrecommended by me) we could do an hidden camera expose on those pregnancy test centers that are really fronts for anti-choice propaganda. These places scare the be-Jesus out of young women by filling them full of guilt and shame should they even consider having an abortion. Comrade Kevin

    I think that would be a brilliant idea. I know anecdotally that they misinform pregnant people about their legal rights and medical facts. I even had a client who was misinformed about her conception date based on an ultrasound (she knew because she was not sexually active when they said she conceived and PP later confirmed).

  7. Tony says:

    Live Action is not the only one with this idea. When I was a RA at university 6 or 7 years ago, one of the graduate students’ Ph.D. dissertation was based on calling abortion providers and pretending to be a woman seeking an abortion to embarass them and ultimately publish a study about how racist they are.

  8. Jim says:

    “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.”

    In fact that is about the most counter-productive tactic I can think of. What it does accomplish is to sensationalize the issue at the expense of making these underage girls into collateral damage. It’s pretty hard to see the proposal as having any other object.

  9. latinist says:

    This has been hinted at above, but: It would really helpful if this post (or its comments!) included some advice about how to stand with PP: i.e., are there congressman who need to be called, specific bills that need to be resisted, whatever, or is this just sort of a general alert? Either way, thanks.

  10. LongHairedWeirdo says:

    What really sickens me about this kind of thing is that they’re taking advantage of medical ethics and people’s unpreparedness to deal with crazy situations to try to play this kind of game.

    It’s one thing to take a person’s prepared statements out of context and attack them for what the attacker wants to pretend they “really” mean. That’s vile in and of itself, but it’s very separate from this.

    *No one* can be counted on to look good in a crazy situation. That’s how shows like Candid Camera used to go for laughs.

  11. BethB says:

    As a former organizer at ACORN, I’m glad to see there’s a movement to stand with Planned Parenthood, since I witnessed most of the left abandon ACORN when they were similarly attacked, and it was truly disheartening.
    We need to hold any media who give this story traction full accountability (attack their advertisers, promote a boycott). We also need to promote the stories of the AMAZING services that women and men who visit Planned Parenthood receive and get the word out publicly: share YouTube videos, write letters to the editors, tell our stories of the indispensable health care we have received at this clinics across the country.

  12. RD says:

    They saw it worked with ACORN (that was James O Keefe too) so now they are going after other orgs they don’t like. Seriously, they got everything they wanted with the ACORN thing. Congress dropped funding and most of their big private donors got spooked and dropped funding too, and ACORN closed down. End result? Fewer low income people registered to vote (republicans want this, since most low income people are democrats), and fewer services re: housing, foreclosure, etc.

    That was a huge success for them. That’s why they are doing the same thing to planned parenthood.

    Also, yeah, calling in local PD would be absolutely, unequivocally, the WORST possible response. And if they had done that, and I heard about it, I would *definitely* have stopped going to planned parenthood. Not just out of horror that they did that, but because I would not feel safe, at ALL.

  13. RD says:

    In NYC, I go to Callen Lorde. Anywhere else, planned parenthood.

  14. Nancy Green says:

    I can’t find the news story for this, because it happened over 20 years ago, but my local Planned Parenthood in Providence Rhode Island rescued a young woman from sexual abuse.
    She went to the clinic because she was afraid she might be pregnant, disclosed that an older man was coercing her into sex, and the man ended up arrested and convicted.

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  16. Jim says:

    Thanls for that story, nancy. What are the chances he would have been arrested and tried if the police had gone busting onto that situation? How could PP have done anything to help her in the midst of that kind of chaos.

    This is all of a piece with the harrassment that PP clinics got during the Bush years when the feds were instructed to ignore all of it. The fundies have lost that power for now, so they resort to these other tactics.

  17. David says:

    Yeah, fuck the republican party. I’m thankful every day that those jerks don’t have a majority in the senate.

  18. J. B. says:

    Inoculated City: Do people realize that Planned Parenthood routinely discriminates against trans women? Despite their policy prohibiting, it is a constant occurrence, and it’s troubling to not see that mentioned.  

    I have to disagree. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte pioneered one of the first trans care programs in the country. They have forms and training to help health care practitioners better serve transgender people as well.
    http://diversitycenter.org/programs/transgender-program/

    If certain staff members discriminate, I really encourage you to report it to health center managers. This behavior is contrary to what PP stands for, and managers will take it seriously and use the information to improve their staff.

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  20. RD says:

    So how much traction is this story getting? Is there a chance this is gonna end the way the ACORN thing did?

  21. RD says:

    You know, one thing this has done at least, is to show the ACORN “scandal” for what it was – but too late to save the actual organization. :(

  22. Azalea says:

    Tony: Live Action is not the only one with this idea. When I was a RA at university 6 or 7 years ago, one of the graduate students’ Ph.D. dissertation was based on calling abortion providers and pretending to be a woman seeking an abortion to embarass them and ultimately publish a study about how racist they are.  (Quote this comment?)

    There was a call where a man donated money specifically and ONLY to abort black babies so there would be less (use your imagination here) for his white son to have to deal with. The PP representative assured him that not only could it be done but people do that all the time (donate for very specific reasons). I doubt and hope they didn’t actually abide by that and was just saying what was necessary to take his money. But stuff like that fuels the fire for groups that say abortion is some sort of genocide conspiracy for people of color.

    I think the best way to fight these groups is for them to move forward and always be leary of extremes like racist donating to ensure “inferior races” have less babies or pimps who fell out of the sky with minor rape victims (because if they are FORCED into sex work, it isnt work, its rape) from other countries, eyebrows should be raised. These sting operations are caricatures of the boogeymosters these anti-choice groups love to tout about. Dont give them the pleasure of saying AHA!

  23. Nola says:

    Its not asking too much for Planned Parenthood to have *some* policy other than collaborating with pimps of under-age sex slaves. Feminists are supposed to be against that stuff.

    BTW, Planned Parenthood management has fired the relevant people, so I’m guessing they agree, even if Feministe does not.

    One would have thought, though, that PP should have been aware of this issue… Didn’t ACORN fall for the exact same gag?

  24. Kersten says:

    https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=12424&s_src=defendpp2011_taf&JServSessionIdr004=wvnwrjw7r2.app210b

    latinist: This has been hinted at above, but: It would really helpful if this post (or its comments!) included some advice about how to stand with PP: i.e., are there congressman who need to be called, specific bills that need to be resisted, whatever, or is this just sort of a general alert? Either way, thanks. latinist

  25. Dabodius says:

    “James O’Keefe… who tapped Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phone…”

    O’Keefe is not OK, and I abhor him, and Lila Rose, and their nefarious deeds, as much as Jill does. But he never succeeded in tapping the phones Sen. Landrieu’s NOLA offices, and the case that he was trying to do so wasn’t sound enough for prosecution (never mind that the account of what O’Keefe’s phony crew were actually trying to do makes little sense.)

  26. RD says:

    Nola: Its not asking too much for Planned Parenthood to have *some* policy other than collaborating with pimps of under-age sex slaves.Feminists are supposed to be against that stuff.

    Notifying the FBI and US attorney general is “collaborating with pimps of underage sex slaves” now??!?!?!?? You want them to do the most harmful possible thing because you think its “feminist”??? Actually, what they should do is find out what the girls in question need, and if that includes LE, THEN involve LE.

  27. RD says:

    I know they are mandated reporters…but you know what, that woman they fired had a point, mandated reporting really sucks. Its really harmful to kids.

  28. Jim says:

    RD: I know they are mandated reporters…but you know what, that woman they fired had a point, mandated reporting really sucks. Its really harmful to kids. RD

    And typically it doesn’t result in a good strong case because all the actual witnesses shut up and try to disappear. Victim witnesses have to be handled carefully. Also a reputation for knee-jerk reporting is going to chase them away from services in the first place, so then there are no victims to report.

  29. RD says:

    Right. Its another thing forcing you to keep shit secret, basically.

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  31. TDR says:

    I am always so shocked that the idea of an abortion performed on a minor child without parental notification or consent is so blindly accepted.

    The school can’t give my daughter a tylenol without my consent because she is under 18, a dentist can’t fill a cavity without my consent because she is under 18, but she could have an abortion not only without my consent but without even notifying me.

    This is not a choice issue for me and it really doesn’t have anything to do with abortion. I do not want any medical procedure performed on my child without my knowledge.

  32. Jadey says:

    TDR: I am always so shocked that the idea of an abortion performed on a minor child without parental notification or consent is so blindly accepted.

    Who said it was “blindly” accepted? I’m assuming by “blindly” you mean accepted uncritically and in ignorance (which is nothing like being blind – pick a less exploitative metaphor), and that couldn’t be further from the truth. There has been extensive debate on the subject, much of which has addressed your point of wanting total insight into your daughter’s medical experiences until she reaches the age of majority. Suffice it to say, your story isn’t sufficiently representative of the whole issue.

  33. GumbyAnne says:

    Abortion is fundamentally different than getting an asprin at school because if your parent is some jerk who hates asprin and loves headaches (refuses permission for care), you won’t actually have to be stuck with that headache for the rest of your life because of it.

    Also, the likelyhood that you will be beaten or disowned or shunned over having a headache is much less than it is if you are pregnant. And it is unlikely that the headached could be resulting from sexual abuse at home, not so for a pregnancy.

    And if you are any sort of decent parent, your child is likely to tell you she is having an abortion anyway. I don’t think we should be making any laws that make it harder for minors in abusive or unstable home situations to keep themselves safe.

  34. ElleBeMe says:

    Comrade Kevin: Makes me wonder what sort of push back we could do. If we wished to fight fire with fire (not necessarilyrecommended by me) we could do an hidden camera expose on those pregnancy test centers that are really fronts for anti-choice propaganda. These places scare the be-Jesus out of young women by filling them full of guilt and shame should they even consider having an abortion.  (Quote this comment?)

    NARAL Virginia did EXACTLY THAT. FOund out some of the “clinics” were just houses receiving “pro-life” license plate funding…and then there were those who were storefronts telling girls that abortion causes breast cancer and infertility.

    YOu can see the study here:

    http://www.naralva.org/action/~1.shtml

    And did any press come from it? no.

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