Yesterday, right wing website Live Action broke a story attacking Planned Parenthood after 22-year-old president of the organization, Lila Rose, released an undercover video seeking to demonstrate that Planned Parenthood engages in criminal activities.
Predictably, right-wing blogs have seized on the video to accuse Planned Parenthood of all sorts of atrocities. What these blogs failed to report, however, is that over two weeks ago and well before Live Action's video was released, Planned Parenthood reported this incident and other similar incidents to authorities.
On January 24, Planned Parenthood released the following statement, titled "Planned Parenthood Informs Federal Authorities of Potential Sex Trafficking" [emphasis in original]:
Last week, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) alerted federal authorities to a potential multistate sex trafficking ring. Over a five day period, visitors to Planned Parenthood health centers in six states said they were seeking information from Planned Parenthood about health services Planned Parenthood could provide to underage girls who were part of a sex trafficking ring. Subsequent to alerting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Planned Parenthood learned the identify of one of those involved and believes these visits are likely a hoax by opponents of legal abortion seeking to discredit Planned Parenthood, which delivers preventive health care and abortion services to three million women each year.
Men, sometimes accompanied by a woman, have visited at least 11 Planned Parenthood health centers in six states within a one-week time frame. During their visits, they claimed to be involved in sex trafficking of teens, some of whom are in the United States illegally. These men appeared at health centers without appointments and said that they were seeking health services for themselves, but they quickly turned the conversation to the sex ring they said they were managing.
"When Planned Parenthood learns of an operation that exploits young women, we vigilantly work with law enforcement authorities to uncover and stop this abhorrent activity," said Stuart Schear, PPFA vice president for communications. "Planned Parenthood's top priority is the health and safety of our patients and the health and well-being of women and teens across the country, and we have been in contact with federal and local authorities to identify the persons involved in these visits."
One of the men involved in these visits has now been identified, and he appears to be associated with or influenced by Live Action, an anti-Planned Parenthood organization that uses surreptitious videotaping and manipulative editing for media and political campaigns. The pattern of these visits and the highly unusual nature of the information being shared with staff lends credibility to the possibility that these multistate visits are part of this organization's ongoing effort to "bring down" Planned Parenthood, a nearly 100-year-old organization with more than 800 health centers from coast to coast. Live Action is associated with James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who was arrested for attempting to wiretap the offices of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
In recent years Planned Parenthood has been the target of activists attempting to portray the organization negatively by secretly videotaping inside health centers and publicizing heavily edited versions of those tapes to the media. Recent incidents are the first time that such visitors have told Planned Parenthood staff that they are involved in sex trafficking of minor girls.
"If a multistate sex trafficking operation is in place, those responsible must be pursued to stop the exploitation of girls and young women," said Schear. "If these visits are part of a 'dirty tricks' campaign, they must be condemned. Falsely claiming sex trafficking to health professionals to advance a political agenda is an astoundingly cynical form of political activity."
All Planned Parenthood staff have been alerted to the suspicious visits, and Planned Parenthood is working with FBI investigators and local authorities.
Some right-wing blogs that mentioned the story failed to report that at the time the video was released, Planned Parenthood had already contacted the authorities to report the incident. For instance, a February 1 RedState.com post claimed that "Planned Parenthood [was] caught aiding and abetting sex trafficking of minors" and went on to declare that "[t]he moment for taxpayers to reject our compulsory involvement in Planned Parenthood has arrived." Yet, no mention was made that Planned Parenthood had gone to the authorities immediately upon hearing reports of potential sex traffickers utilizing their clinics and that this action occurred weeks before the videos were released. The same goes for NRO's "The Corner," which in a February 2 post also highlighted the incident to hope it "will give some momentum to congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood." Ditto for a February 1 Verum Serum post accusing Planned Parenthood of engaging and a coverup and also calling for "defunding Planned Parenthood."
As of Tuesday evening, Planned Parenthood had fired the clinic manager seen in the video. (Oh and in case you're wondering, NRO did not mention this either in their November 2 post, which was published after the firing).
Oh well, if right-wing blogs have taught us anything, it's that reporting part of a story is still a falsehood and misinformation.