Another day, another story about abortion rights that will make you want to vomit. Yesterday, anti-abortion activist Live Action released an edited video of “sting operations” at Planned Parenthood, which show hired actors playing a pimp and an underage prostitutes. The footage, which was secretly taped throughout January, allegedly shows Planned Parenthood counseling a man who says he needs to speak privately about getting STD treatments for some young girls, some of whom are portrayed as illegal immigrants or as young as 14. In one of the videos, the Planned Parenthood employee seems to suggest the girl could lie about her age to get services. In total, actors claiming to be sex traffickers visited 12 clinics in Virginia, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Arizona and in all the cases, Planned Parenthood contacted the local authorities afterwards to warn about sex trafficking. Eventually, the organization caught on to the fact they were being hoaxed and penned a letter to the U.S. Attorney General on January 18 suggesting they were being had by an anti-abortion group. The FBI has now been asked to probe into the “sting” activities.Although they are being coy with the media, Live Action, which is run by anti-abortion activist Lila Rose, 22, seems to think it has a smoking gun in allegedly catching the clinics trying to help an underage girl get reproductive health services. That aligns with the conservative idea that Planned Parenthood is in the “abortion business” and will do anything for money. (I mean, why else would you kill babies? The money!)
Planned Parenthood has responded to the potentially embarrassing situation the best way to be expected. In a statement, Phyllis Kinsler, chief executive of the Central New Jersey chapter of Planned Parenthood said:
“The behavior of our employee, as portrayed on the video, if accurate, violated [Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey] policies, as well as our core values of reflecting the welfare of minors and complying with the law, and appropriate action is being taken.”
The sad part of this whole thing is that going forward, Planned Parenthood counselors and other abortion clinic counselors may be wary of doing anything to help their clients in case it’s another “gotcha!” video. My personal feelings about abortion rights are that parents should not have to approve or be notified about a girl’s reproductive choices. I personally think some laws regulating women and girl’s bodies are wrong and therefore I don’t care if clinics comply with every aspect of the law. That one particular clinic employee may turn out to have violated the law. But isn’t there something to be said for responding to a moral conundrum in the appropriate manner? Is telling a hypothetically pregnant 14-year-old girl who is being sex trafficked by a pimp “no, you can’t get birth control” or “no, you can’t have an abortion” really the moral thing to do?
Frankly, the whole situation makes one wonder why Live Action chose an extreme situation like a sex trafficker and an underage girl. Wouldn’t it have been more of a smoking gun if they had brought in some regular old suburban 14-year-old girl in a Justin Bieber T-shirt? What is Live Action’s point? That Planned Parenthood didn’t make a citizen’s arrest and catch the (fake) pimp? That they take money from (fake) sex traffickers? Did it ever occur to Live Action that maybe Planned Parenthood employees will get a 14-year-old girl who is being sex trafficked alone in a room and then try to help her, not try to help her via the pimp? That speaks more to the anti-abortion idea that women and girls are not stewards of their own body — someone else is, whether it’s a pimp or the government or organized religion.
And while I’m on the subject of morals, there is nothing even remotely moral about wasting the time of a clinic that is dedicated to proving reproductive health care to women. The appointment times — or walk-in times, whatever — taken up by these hoaxers could have gone to real women and real girls with real problems. While anti-abortion extremists are busy editing videos and talking about fake STD infections, the good people of Planned Parenthod and clinics across America are doing the real work every day.