Published on The Daily Femme – Friday, Feb. 4, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
By now, you may have heard about the recent covert video “stings” conducted by anti-abortion group Live Action at several Planned Parenthood locations across the country. As part of these stings, which took place during last month, Live Action, founded by anti-choice activist Lila Rose, set up a sex trafficking hoax, sending actors portraying a pimp and adolescent prostitute into clinics to procure information on STD treatments and abortion care for minors. The latest edited video to be released was filmed in a Planned Parenthood location in Richmond, Virginia, and shows an employee offering the “pimp” advice on the state’s wholly legal judicial bypass, which allows a woman younger than 18 to go to court if parental consent of an abortion is refused, after being asked how a 15-year-old may receive an abortion–actions that Planned Parenthood defends. The worker, according to CNN, alerted her supervisor of the incident, who then reported it to Planned Parenthood’s national security team, which wrote to the US Attorney General about the possibility of an anti-abortion group-led hoax, and is now working with the FBI, who is investigating the stings.
The footage that blew this whole case open, however, is not as cut-and-dry. Posted to YouTube by Live Action earlier this week, the video depicts Amy Woodruff, a counselor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, insinuating that the young girl should fib about her age to receive services, methods around mandatory reporting laws for abortion, and locating another provider with more lenient protocols in the event a minor needs an abortion. Like her colleague in Virginia, Woodruff reported the incident but, unlike the Virginia staff member, she was fired for what was deemed reprehensible behavior.
Whether Woodruff acted in a manner that was, as Planned Parenthood spokeman Stuart Schear said, “completely inexplicable and inconsistent with what Planned Parenthood does,” the video isn’t nearly as damaging as Live Action hopes–or believes–it is (Rose has claimed that these videos prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws and covers up the abuse of the young girls it claims to serve”). While, at first blush, Woodruff’s actions may seem “egregious and repugnant,” she’s merely one of several thousand workers employed by Planned Parenthood and providing proper reproductive health services to the low-income women who desperately need it. Her seemingly irresponsible behavior is in no way reflective of a nationwide organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of women for nearly a century. If that were the case, the entirety of businesses with federal tax IDs should be shut down.
More importantly, the staunch anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List labels this behavior as “Aiding, Abetting Sex Trafficking of Minors” but how can it be so certain? As Meredith Melnick points out over at Time Healthland, since the public video is edited, it’s almost impossible to know the conversation’s entire context, or whether her “seeming encouragement of the purported sex trafficker” was, in part, an effort to persuade the “sex trafficking victims” alone in the safety of her care so she can offer crucial assistance away from the coercive stronghold of their alleged abuser (Talking Points Memo reported that Live Action sent the unedited version to the FBI and state investigators, while CNN reported the raw Virgina tapes were turned over to state authorities, with Live Action requesting an investigation by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, an abortion opponent). After all, offers Melnick, Rose’s cohort, the infamous 26-year-old anti-choice activist James O’Keefe, is responsible for releasing carefully edited footage of a 2009 “sting operation” of the anti-poverty group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)that ”showed” employees acting “unethically”–claims rebuffed by the Congressional Research Service after it reviewed the raw tapes and cleared the organization of any iniquities.
While Planned Parenthood responded to the Woodruff case in the most professional way possible–by firing an ostensibly harmful counselor from their organization–is it not possible that this, too, is just another deceptive move on the part of the anti-choice movement? Is it not possible that a potentially innocent worker who may not have been fully equipped to handle such a deft and harrowing situation beyond reporting it to supervisors was let go?
And for what? What is Live Action’s true intention in all of this? Is it to end government funding of reproductive health and abortion care? Or is it to eradicate sex trafficking? Or is it both? If Live Action’s agenda was to, as CNN reports, expose their allegations that Planned Parenthood counselors mask the sexual abuse of minors, then why not, as Melnick asks, finance projects whose missions are to fight sex trafficking with the $125,000 anonymous grant it received to fund these “investigations”? Those are the organizations that need the help the most. Consuming the time, energy, and services of Planned Parenthood workers on such duplicitous cases is an ineffective strategy in preventing sexual violence and aiding actual victims of sexual abuse, some of which may have been among genuine clients waiting for care while these stings were taking place. Instead, what this hoax shows is that Rose cares absolutely little for these victims and more for her destructive parochial end-game–to inhibit federal funding of health-care clinics that provide abortions, the places where victims turn to for aid because they have nowhere else to go. How is that helping anyone?