The "Sting" That Wasn't: Right-wing Media Hype Bogus Version Of Planned Parenthood Video Story

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

Following right-wing group Live Action's first release of a video allegedly "exposing" Planned Parenthood's "cover-up of child sex trafficking," conservative media have rushed to accuse Planned Parenthood of engaging in criminal activity. In fact, at least two weeks before the video of the sting operation in a New Jersey Planned Parenthood was released, Planned Parenthood reported to the FBI a "potential multistate sex trafficking ring" and later fired the employee behaving improperly in the video.

Live Action Releases Video Allegedly "Exposing" Planned Parenthood's "Cover-up Of Sexual Abuse Of Minors"

Live Action Claims Video Shows Planned Parenthood's "Cover-up Of Sexual Abuse Of Minors." On February 1, the anti-choice organization Live Action released video secretly shot inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The video shows one Planned Parenthood employee, Amy Woodruff, appearing to advise a man and a woman posing as sex traffickers how to procure abortions, STD testing, and contraception for underage prostitutes. Lila Rose, President of Live Action, claimed on the group's website, "This proves 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." Live Action's press release further claimed that the video showed Planned Parenthood's "cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors." [Live Action, 02/01/11]

Right-wing Media Claim Video Shows Planned Parenthood's "Cover-Up Of Child Sex Trafficking"

Red State: "Planned Parenthood Caught Aiding And Abetting Sex Trafficking Of Minors." A February 1 post on the conservative blog Red State embedded the Live Action video and concluded, "The exploitative roots and track record of Planned Parenthood is largely an untold story that can no longer be ignored." The post failed to note that Planned Parenthood notified federal authorities after the man posing as a pimp visited their clinics. From the post:

New footage released just this morning shows a Planned Parenthood manager in New Jersey coaching a man and a woman posing as sex traffickers on how to secure secret abortions and other services for their female underage sex slaves.

The Planned Parenthood manager explains to the "pimp" how to make their operation "look as legit as possible" and how to lie to avoid mandatory reporting laws.

You have to see it to believe it:

[...]

The new video is released by Live Action, a pro-life group led by 22-year-old Lila Rose. Live Action is sending full footage to appropriate national and state law enforcement agencies.

The exploitative roots and track record of Planned Parenthood is a largely untold story that can no longer be ignored. The horror of the logic behind Planned Parenthood's founding has come to roost in this modern form: it is the primary partner of those who degrade and exploit women. [Red State, 02/01/11]

Red State: Planned Parenthood "Facilitates Both" "Slavery And The Sexual Abuse Of Minors." A second entry about the Live Action video, posted to Red State on February 2, claimed that "we in this country like to believe that as a country we take strong stands against both slavery and the sexual abuse of minors. Yet here we have an organization which, by uncontroverted proof, facilitates both." The February 2 post also failed to note that Planned Parenthood alerted federal authorities. [Red State, 02/02/11]

Wash Times Op-Ed: Video Is "Cold, Hard Evidence Of...The Lengths To Which Planned Parenthood Will Go To Sell Abortions To Women - And Girls - Of Any Age." In a February 2 op-ed in The Washington Times, Steven Ertelt, editor of the anti-choice website LifeNews.com, wrote that the videos depict "cold, hard evidence of the mentality behind the abortion industry and the lengths to which Planned Parenthood will go to sell abortions to women - and girls - of any age." From the editorial:

This week, the Planned Parenthood abortion business was caught in the latest undercover video investigation - this time helping two people representing themselves as sex-trafficking-ring operatives bent on getting abortions for the underage girls they victimize.

[...]

The videos provide more than impassioned rhetoric or facts and statistics. They depict cold, hard evidence of the mentality behind the abortion industry and the lengths to which Planned Parenthood will go to sell abortions to women - and girls - of any age.

The videos could become the next partial-birth-abortion controversy - a game-changing look at the issue of abortion in a way that goes beyond the typical pro-life-vs.-pro-choice bumper-sticker slogans; they hit at the reality of abortion. [The Washington Times, 02/02/11]

NRO: "Planned Parenthood, 'Safe Haven' For Sex Trafficking: A Shocking, Breaking Video." In the days following the release of the Live Action video, the National Review Online had several posts about the video and Planned Parenthood. Only one of these posts mentions "recent media reports that Planned Parenthood is onto Live Action's most recent routine and wants the FBI involved." From that February 1 post:

When Lila Rose and her Live Action team came up with their latest undercover scenario, they came up with an admittedly "obvious and bold one." She explains: "We tried to make it easy for Planned Parenthood to do the right thing."

And so the actor playing the pimp literally walks into a New Jersey Planned Parenthood clinic announcing he is involved in sex work and that some of the girls are underage.

The clinic office manager clearly gets the picture. Not that she's being set up. But that he needs her help to keep operating. And she's willing to help. He says he has a sexually transmitted disease and is worried one of the girls working for him may have given it to him. But he also has other service inquiries to inquire about.

And all of this seems like another day at the office for the Planned Parenthood clinic worker. Where she's coaching this sex trafficker on how to get underage girls he indicates he is employing as sex slaves from Asia.

[...]

The release of the video this morning has been "expedited" by recent media reports that Planned Parenthood is onto Live Action's most recent routine and wants the FBI involved. There is nothing Lila Rose would welcome more. (She has yet to receive any notification from Planned Parenthood or the FBI. All she knows she's read in the media.)

From her undercover work, it is absolutely clear, Rose says, that "the perfect partner for a pimp is Planned Parenthood itself." This Perth Amboy clinic presents itself "a save [sic] haven for sex trafficking." [National Review Online, 02/01/11, 02/01/11, 02/02/11, 02/02/11]

But Planned Parenthood Notified Law Enforcement Of "Potential Multistate Sex Trafficking Ring"

Planned Parenthood Informed Federal Authorities Of Potential Sex Trafficking. On January 24, Planned Parenthood released a statement saying that it had notified "FBI investigators and local authorities" the previous week of a "potential multistate sex trafficking ring." From the statement:

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 [sic] 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.[Planned Parenthood, 01/24/11, emphasis in original]

AP: "Planned Parenthood Seeks FBI Probe." In a January 24 article, the Associated Press reported that the previous week, Planned Parenthood had notified the FBI that at least 12 of its health centers were visited by "a man purporting to be a sex trafficker but who may instead be part of an attempted ruse to entrap clinic employees." The article also noted that staff at clinics in Arizona notified local police. From the article:

Planned Parenthood, a perennial protest target because of its role in providing abortions, has notified the FBI that at least 12 of its health centers were visited recently by a man purporting to be a sex trafficker but who may instead be part of an attempted ruse to entrap clinic employees.

In each case, according to Planned Parenthood, the man sought to speak privately with a clinic employee and then requested information about health services for sex workers, including some who he said were minors and in the U.S. illegally.

Planned Parenthood's vice president for communications, Stuart Schear, said the organization has requested an FBI probe of the man's claims and has already fielded some initial FBI inquiries. However, Schear said Planned Parenthood's own investigation indicates that the man has links with Live Action, an anti-abortion group that has conducted previous undercover projects aimed at discrediting the nation's leading abortion provider.

[...]

Last week, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder summarizing the visits and requesting an FBI investigation. If the man's assertions were true, she wrote, they would indicate possible violations of federal laws dealing with interstate sex trafficking of minors.

[...]

Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said staff at the clinics in Tucson and Scottsdale were in a state of vigilance when the visitor showed up on Jan. 15, because of alerts that had come from affiliates in the East about suspicious visits earlier that week. Also, Arizona clinics had been the target of a Live Action operation in the past.

"So there's a high degree of awareness here," Howard said. "When someone walks through the door, it is possible they're not there for the reason they say they are."

Howard said his staff at both clinics notified local police. [AP, 01/24/11]

NJ Planned Parenthood Has Fired The Employee In The Live Action Video Released February 1

Planned Parenthood Was "Shocked" By Video, Said Employee Was "Behaving In a Repugnant Manner" And Fired Her. Following a review of the full video, Planned Parenthood of New Jersey fired Woodruff on February 1. As The Washington Post reported the following day:

The Planned Parenthood employee caught on tape giving inappropriate advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute has been fired, the organization announced Wednesday.

The video, taped as part of an undercover sting by an antiabortion group, showed a clinic manager in New Jersey apparently advising the pair on how to obtain services for illegal immigrant prostitutes and sex workers as young as 14.

"We were profoundly shocked when we viewed the videotape released this morning, which depicted an employee of one of our health centers behaving in a repugnant manner that is inconsistent with our standards of care and is completely unacceptable," Phyllis Kinsler, chief of Planned Parenthood of New Jersey, said in a statement. "The employee in the video was immediately suspended from her duties this morning and was terminated this evening."

The statement was dated Tuesday but released to The Washington Post on Wednesday. [The Washington Post, 02/02/11]

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times, National Review Online, Live Action
Person
Washington Times
Show/Publication
Red State
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