Right-Wing Media Attack Planned Parenthood For VA Video Showing No Wrongdoing
Research ››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN
Since the release of a second video from anti-choice group Live Action, which shows a Planned Parenthood worker at a Richmond, Virginia, clinic advising a man and woman posing as a pimp and prostitute, right-wing media have suggested that the video shows Planned Parenthood engaged in wrongdoing. In fact, the Richmond clinic reported the incident to Planned Parenthood's national security team, and legal experts have agreed that the worker's advice in the video is consistent with state law.
Live Action Releases Second Planned Parenthood Video From Richmond, VA, Clinic
Live Action Releases Video From Richmond, VA, Planned Parenthood Clinic. On February 3, Live Action released a second video secretly filmed inside a Planned Parenthood clinic by a man and a woman posing as a pimp and prostitute. In the video, a Planned Parenthood worker responds to the couple's questions about obtaining STD testing, contraception, and abortion for sex workers. When they tell her that "some of the girls" who "need help" are as young as "14, 15," she tells them that minors younger than 18 usually need parental consent to get an abortion, but that in some cases, minors can use a legal procedure called "judicial bypass" to circumvent the need for consent. [Live Action, 2/3/11]
Live Action Claimed Planned Parenthood "Is Willing To Facilitate The Sexual Exploitation Of Minors And Young Women." In a statement accompanying the video on its website, Live Action wrote, "The investigation continues to unearth alarming evidence that Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $350 million from the American taxpayer every year, is willing to facilitate the sexual exploitation of minors and young women." [Live Action, 2/3/11]
The video is the second in a series of undercover videos that Live Action began releasing on February 1. The first video appears to show a New Jersey Planned Parenthood employee advising a man and woman posing as a pimp and prostitute how to skirt the law in order to obtain abortions, STD testing, and contraception for an underage sex ring. This incident, and similar incidents at clinics nationwide, were reported to Planned Parenthood, who subsequently informed the FBI, weeks before Live Action's video releases. In addition, New Jersey Planned Parenthood fired the employee in the video after it was released on February 1. [Live Action, 2/1/11; The Washington Post, 2/2/11]
Right-Wing Media Claim New Planed Parenthood Video In VA Shows Wrongdoing
Beck's Blaze: Planned Parenthood Worker Was "Coaching ... On The Ways Minors ... Can Go About 'Bypassing' The Laws If They Need An Abortion." A February 3 post on Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, claimed that Live Action's new video shows the Planned Parenthood worker "coaching the actor on the ways minors -- especially his underage sex workers -- can go about 'bypassing' the laws if they need an abortion." In addition to falsely suggesting that judicial bypass is illegal, the post also fails to mention that Planned Parenthood contacted the FBI following this incident and similar incidents across the country. From the post on The Blaze, titled, "Busted Again: VA Planned Parenthood Worker Coaches Fake Pimp On Underage Abortions":
The anti-abortion group Live Action has released a new video as a follow-up to its undercover "pimp" video from earlier this week. The new video shows another sting-style operation, this one at a Planned Parenthood facility in Virginia.
The facility's worker can be heard coaching the actor on the ways minors -- especially his underage sex workers -- can go about "bypassing" the laws if they need an abortion. The most shocking part? The worker admits the facility facilitates about two such abortions a month:
Planned Parenthood's problems go far beyond New Jersey. Our new video shows their Richmond clinic willing to aid and abet the sexual exploitation of minors and coaching a pimp about how girls as young as 14 -- 15 could circumvent parental consent laws for secret abortions," Live Action President Lila Rose said in a statement. [The Blaze, 2/3/11]
Fox's Bream: The Planned Parenthood Worker "Explained How To Circumvent The Law Requiring Notice To A Legal Guardian If A Girl Under 18 Comes In Seeking An Abortion." On the February 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream led a segment on the Live Action video from the Richmond clinic. Bream did mention that Planned Parenthood released a statement saying the Richmond incident was reported to the FBI, but she falsely suggested that the judicial bypass procedure the worker mentions in the video is illegal. From the broadcast:
BRET BAIER (host): A year-and-a-half ago, the community group ACORN was the subject of an undercover video sting campaign that helped bring it down. Now, Planned Parenthood is facing the same sort of attack. Correspondent Shannon Bream has the pictures.
BREAM: For the second time in four days, the Web site LiveAction.org has released undercover video shot at a Planned Parenthood clinic in which actors posing as a pimp and prostitute seek birth control and abortion advice after divulging that they're running a, quote, "sex work operation" with young teens who may not be in the country legally.
BREAM: Rather than turning the actors away, a worker at the Richmond, Virginia, clinic explained how to circumvent the law requiring notice to a legal guardian if a girl under 18 comes in seeking an abortion.
BREAM: Earlier this week, a similar video from a clinic in New Jersey was released. Planned Parenthood fired the New Jersey employee who was involved but says the, quote, "anti-choice fringe" is using the undercover videos to spread lies about the organization. In reaction to the latest video, Planned Parenthood said today, quote, "After the encounter, the staff member immediately notified her supervisor, who subsequently notified members of Planned Parenthood's national security team who are working with the FBI, which is investigating these visits."
The woman behind the undercover video is 22-year-old Lila Rose, who says there are many more videos to come welcomes the scrutiny.
ROSE [video clip]: The evidence, when it comes out, when it speaks the truth about the sexual abuse cover-up that's widespread, that's institutional at Planned Parenthood, I think Americans, we women, young women start to understand that this is an organization that is not on their side.
BREAM: The videos come as Republican Congressman Mike Pence has introduced a bill designed to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. Today, the organization accused Live Action of coordinating its undercover videos specifically to support the Pence legislation. [Fox News, Special Report, 2/3/11]
Ingraham And Guest Suggest Planned Parenthood Routinely Overlooks Illegal Activity And Helps Sex Workers Get Around Abortion Laws. On the February 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor; guest-host Laura Ingraham invited Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor, on the show to discuss the Richmond Planned Parenthood video. Though Ingraham noted that Planned Parenthood reported the incident, she also suggested that the video showed "gross malfeasance" and that the clinic worker was "clearly willing to look the other way." Her guest agreed, at one point saying that the worker "turn[ed] a blind eye" to "[s]exual trafficking and rape of female children." From the show:
INGRAHAM: In a Factor follow-up segment tonight, another undercover tape released by the pro-life film makers, Live Action. Now this one shows a Planned Parenthood worker in Richmond, Virginia, giving advice to investigators purporting to run an underage sex ring.
Planned Parenthood released a statement today saying that its employee acted professionally and they reported the situation at the time. They also attacked the filmmaker -- that's a big surprise -- Lila Rose, calling her an extremist and implying that she may have edited the tapes. By the way, Ms. Rose has received death threats because of these tapes. She's also released the full tape today.
We invited Planned Parenthood to be on our program tonight, but once again the Planned Parenthood folks refused to make the employee or anyone from that organization available to us for questions.
Joining us now from Boston is Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor. Wendy, as a former prosecutor in this area of trafficking underage girls -- I find this to be so incredibly appalling. And Planned Parenthood's reaction -- almost every time one of these sting operations reveals gross malfeasance -- at the very least, gross malfeasance -- they end up attacking the filmmakers instead of coming clean on what happened. Your take?
MURPHY: Yeah, I mean we saw that with ACORN. This is so much worse in my opinion. You know, the thing that disturbs me the most about this, Laura, is that Planned Parenthood likes to present itself to the public as the great liberator of women. You know, we care about women's freedom and equality. We're talking about the ultimate act of subjugation: violence against children. Sexual trafficking and rape of female children. And to have someone from Planned Parenthood turn a blind eye to that.
Did you notice in the clip, what they basically said was, oh, abortion is really private, but the rape of children, I'm not even going to mention that. I mean, did you notice, she didn't say a word about the fact that the guy was basically acknowledging he was selling kids for sex. But she was telling him to get around those rules about limitations on abortion rights.
Look, I'm pro-choice, but I'm disgusted when the voice on behalf of women as a class and children as a class is not heard on these issues because they're so worried about abortion rights and Planned Parenthood and whatever the politics and ideology is behind that. When they would put the interests of children, trafficked children, aside and go into the silence mode. I'd like to hear from NOW. I'd like to hear from any organization --
INGRAHAM: Where are these people?
MURPHY: -- that claims to give a damn about women and women's freedom, and women's safety, and rape, and targeted violence against women and children. Where are they? Where are they on this?
INGRAHAM: I don't know where the National Organization for Women is, the Feminist Majority, all these groups out there that routinely will, again, portray themselves as we're for women, we're for this, we're for rights, we're for openness and for freedom when in fact, in this case, we see a clinic worker clearly willing to look the other way. And one of the most heinous crimes you can think of, the use and abuse of children in sex crimes.
She -- remember what she says also, Wendy, in this, she said, we do this once or twice a month, when she was talking about ways to get around parental consent. Now, there is a judicial bypass in a lot of states across the country. But it's the way -- the way she said it. Like, oh yeah, wink wink, we can get around that. And that then raises the question, Wendy, does this happen in a widespread fashion across the country at Planned Parenthood offices? Of course, it says, no, it doesn't. We report this when this comes up, and you don't need to worry about us, we're OK. But attorney generals in New Jersey investigating it, Wendy, and now Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia is waiting for the full tape, but they might look into it.
MURPHY: Let's talk some data for a minute -- 300,000 kids a year are raped, sex trafficked, and pimped. In this country. OK? The average age of the victim? Thirteen. Thirteen. And you know they're getting treatment and abortions someplace. So why are we not monitoring these federally funded entities to see whether they are helping save children from sex slavery? [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/3/11, emphasis added]
Carlson: "It Sounded To Me Like" Criminal Activity Is "Part Of The Culture" At Planned Parenthood. In a second segment about the video, Ingraham invited Kathy Areu, an editor for The Washington Post Magazine, and Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson on the air to further discuss the video During the segment, Areu repeatedly called for the Virginia Planned Parenthood employee to be fired. At one point, Carlson said: "You have to ask the question tonight, is this part of the culture? It sounded to me like this was sort of the way that [Planned Parenthood does] business." From the February 3 broadcast:
INGRAHAM: Kathy, I don't know how much more explicit these undercover folks can get. But the pimp says, we're working with -- we're doing -- this is sex work. They're involved in sex work, and says that they're girls and go on to say that the girls are 14 and 15. You can't get any more explicit than that, can you, Gretchen?
CARLSON: You can't. Laura, this is jaw dropping. I do television every single day. This video, both of them, jaw dropping to me. And to me this has nothing to do with abortion. This is about whether or not they are breaking the law with sex trafficking, and I think that's a really important point to point out here tonight.
Also, here's the other thing. If you have these two women, how many other videotapes do we have, by the way? Do we know? And number two to me, it appears to be part of the culture more than just bad apples.
INGRAHAM: They make hundreds of millions of dollars on abortion every year. Why, Gretchen, American taxpayers are forced to cough up $360 million, at a time where we're broke, we're giving money to Planned Parenthood. Even aside from all this stuff, it seems like this is just an abomination. It's ridiculous.
CARLSON: Listen, this is the way I see this. Abortion is legal in this country right now. What is not legal is sex trafficking of children. And so for me, that's why I'm separating these two issues. And I just have to say that I just don't believe that these two women just happen to be bad apples. I mean, you have to ask the question tonight, is this part of the culture? It sounded to me like this was sort of the way that they do business. [The O'Reilly Factor, 2/3/11]
But VA Employee "Act[ed] Professionally," Informed Actors Of "Legal Rights"
ABC: "Legal Experts" Said Worker's Advice "Is Consistent With State Law." A February 4 ABC article about the second Live Action video stated that "unlike the first video, the Richmond clinic worker appears to act professionally and appropriately." The article further explained that "the clinic worker's advice on how a minor could obtain an abortion without her parents' consent is consistent with state law." A lawyer interviewed for the article noted, "It would be ethically required of a health worker to notify a minor seeking an abortion of her right to a process known as 'judicial bypass,'" because it is "a clearly recognized constitutional right of minors to seek a judge's approval without their parents knowing." From the article:
The new video was shot Jan. 12 and features the same staged scenario involving a man and woman posing as sex workers and inquiring about sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, birth control options and abortions for underage girls.
But unlike the first video, the Richmond clinic worker appears to act professionally and appropriately, informing the couple of their legal rights to privacy under the law, regardless of their backgrounds.
"We see people from, um, every walk of life," said the clinic worker. "So, no judgment, no sharing of information, like, uh, nothing here."
The worker also laid out legal guidelines for a minor seeking an abortion, including the requirement of parental consent or permission from a judge before one can be performed.
Legal experts reached by ABC News also said the clinic worker's advice on how a minor could obtain an abortion without her parents' consent is consistent with state law.
"It would be ethically required of a health worker to notify a minor seeking an abortion of her right to a process known as 'judicial bypass,'" said Lois Shepherd, a lawyer and professor at the University of Virginia Center for Biomedical Ethics. That process allows minors who may choose to do so to contact a judge for permission to receive an abortion instead of their parents.
"It's not just permissible under Virginia law, it's a clearly recognized constitutional right of minors to seek a judge's approval without their parents knowing," she said. [ABC News, 2/3/11]
Judicial Bypass Is A Legal, Constitutionally Required Process In Virginia -- And Many Other States
Virginia Offers Judicial Bypass To Minors Seeking Abortion Without Parental Consent. According to Virginia law:
After a hearing, a judge shall issue an order authorizing a physician to perform an abortion, without the consent of any authorized person, if he finds that (i) the minor is mature enough and well enough informed to make her abortion decision, in consultation with her physician, independent of the wishes of any authorized person, or (ii) the minor is not mature enough or well enough informed to make such decision, but the desired abortion would be in her best interest.
If the judge authorizes an abortion based on the best interests of the minor, such order shall expressly state that such authorization is subject to the physician or his agent giving notice of intent to perform the abortion; however, no such notice shall be required if the judge finds that such notice would not be in the best interest of the minor. In determining whether notice is in the best interest of the minor, the judge shall consider the totality of the circumstances; however, he shall find that notice is not in the best interest of the minor if he finds that (i) one or more authorized persons with whom the minor regularly and customarily resides is abusive or neglectful, and (ii) every other authorized person, if any, is either abusive or neglectful or has refused to accept responsibility as parent, legal guardian, custodian or person standing in loco parentis. [Va. Code § 16.1-241 (V), accessed 2/3/11]
U.S. Supreme Court Has Held That Parental Consent Laws Constitutionally Require The Inclusion Of Judicial Bypass Procedures. According to Current Care Of Women, a medical handbook on women's health, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that "laws requiring the consent or notification of a minor's parent(s) or legal guardian prior to the provision of abortion services are constitutional only if they include a constitutionally sound 'judicial bypass' procedure allowing the minor to request a court-issued waiver of the consent requirement." The book continues:
For a judicial bypass provision to pass constitutional muster, it must not unduly burden the young woman's right to an abortion. The Supreme Court has held that a bypass provision must: (1) allow the minor to bypass the consent requirement if she establishes that she is mature enough and well enough informed to make the abortion decision independently; (2) allow the minor to bypass the consent requirement if she establishes that the abortion would be in her best interests; (3) ensure the minor's anonymity; and (4) provide for expeditious bypass procedures. [pg. 25, Current Care of Women: Diagnosis and Treatment, Dawn Lemcke et. al, 2004]
Planned Parenthood Reported Potential Sex Traffickers To Local, Federal Authorities
Employee In Richmond Video Reported Visits To Supervisors, Who Reported Possible Criminal Activity To Federal Authorities. On February 3, Planned Parenthood distributed a statement to the media that reads, in part:
In a recent round of secret videotaping in January 2011, at least four health centers in Virginia received visits in a short period of time from persons claiming to be involved in the sex trade, involving vulnerable minors. Local authorities, as well as federal authorities, were alerted to these visits. In this morning's publicized tape, the Planned Parenthood staff member reacted professionally to a highly unusual person posing as a patient. After the encounter, the staff member immediately notified her supervisor, who subsequently notified members of Planned Parenthood's national security team, who are working with the FBI, which is investigating these visits. [Planned Parenthood, 2/3/11]
Planned Parenthood Reported Potential Sex Trafficking To FBI Weeks Before Live Action Released Its Videos. As Media Matters previously documented, Planned Parenthood issued a press release on January 24 indicating that it had "alerted federal authorities to a potential multistate sex trafficking ring" following visits to at least 11 of its clinics from men claiming to be prostituting underage girls. [Media Matters, 2/4/11]