WASHINGTON (BP)–Another series of videos secretly recorded at Planned Parenthood clinics — in this case apparently showing its employees agreeing to aid sex traffickers whose prostitutes are in their early teens — has renewed calls for the federal government to defund the country’s largest abortion provider.
From Feb. 1 to 8, the pro-life organization Live Action released video footage from hidden-camera investigations at six clinics that showed Planned Parenthood staff signaling cooperation with a self-described pimp in testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and providing birth control and/or abortions for his alleged, under-age sex workers. The pimp and, in some cases, a prostitute who accompanied him to the clinics were actors doing undercover work for Live Action.
The clandestine videos were shot at Planned Parenthood clinics in New Jersey, New York and Virginia from Jan. 11 to 14, according to Live Action.
Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., called for passage of his bill, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, to eliminate federal funds for Planned Parenthood after the first video was released.
Calling the activity of a clinic worker on the video “an outrage,” Pence said Feb. 2, “Every American should be shocked that an employee of the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X has been recorded aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking.
“The time to deny any and all funding to Planned Parenthood is now,” he said in a written statement. Title X is the federal government’s family planning program. Although Title X funds do not go directly for abortions, pro-life advocates contend federal money frees up other contributions to Planned Parenthood for the promotion and performance of abortions.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), which has 95 affiliates and 865 health centers nationwide, showed in its 2008-09 report it received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts during the year. Its affiliates performed more than 324,000 abortions in 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available. PPFA recently issued new rules requiring at least one clinic per affiliate to perform abortions.
The video stings showing the willingness of Planned Parenthood staff to assist in the sex trafficking of girls as young as 14 years of age are the latest — and likely most damaging — in a series of undercover investigations Live Action has conducted during the last four years.
A previous hidden-camera project by Live Action caught Planned Parenthood employees in Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana and Tennessee seeking to cover up alleged child sexual abuse, prompting some state investigations. Another video sting showed a counselor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin providing erroneous information about fetal development.
In a different undercover investigation by Live Action, Planned Parenthood workers in seven states were caught on audio tape agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
Video recorded at the Perth Amboy center of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey and released Feb. 1 was particularly damaging. An animated Amy Woodruff, identified as the clinic manager, told the pimp and prostitute to have their underage sex workers lie about their ages and those of their sexual partners. Woodruff encouraged them to take the girls to another clinic, Metropolitan Medical Associates, for abortions because “their protocols aren’t as strict as ours and they don’t get audited the same way that we do.”
Metropolitan Medical Associates, which is in Englewood, N.J., agreed in 2009 to pay $1.9 million to a young woman who went into a coma for three weeks and underwent a hysterectomy after a second-trimester abortion at the clinic.
Woodruff was asked on the video what sexual acts the girls can perform for the business if they have to wait at least two weeks after an abortion to have intercourse. She said, “Waist up or just be that extra action walking by” to advertise for possible clients.
Said Live Action President Lila Rose after the first video release, “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. Time and time again, Planned Parenthood has sent young girls back into the arms of their abusers. They don’t deserve a dime of the hundreds of millions they receive in federal funding from taxpayers.”
Phyllis Kinsler, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Central Jersey, announced later Feb. 1 Woodruff had been fired, saying, “We were profoundly shocked when we viewed the videotape released [Tuesday] 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.”
PPFA’s national office said employees at some of the clinics reported to their supervisors the visits by the alleged pimp and prostitute. Federal and state authorities were notified, and the FBI has been investigating, according to PPFA.
Live Action said it was sending the unedited video footage from the New Jersey clinic, and other centers, to federal and/or state officials as well.
Video shot at Planned Parenthood centers in four Virginia cities — Richmond, Falls Church, Charlottesville and Roanoke — and New York City showed similar, if not as dynamic, responses. In some cases, clinic workers were shown expressing a willingness to provide abortions for underage prostitutes. In the videos filmed in the Charlottesville and Roanoke clinics, Planned Parenthood staff did not offer secret abortions but showed a willingness to provide birth control and testing to minors.
After the Feb. 8 release of video from a Planned Parenthood center in the Bronx borough of New York City, PPFA’s Stuart Schear charged the “tapes are clearly doctored and cannot be trusted.” PPFA’s vice president of communications said the videos “do not accurately portray what happened.”
Live Action, however, said it had released at least some unedited video of the clinic visits on its website and had sent raw footage from Virginia clinics to state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Schear also said Feb. 8 that PPFA had announced that all its staff who are in contact with patients and teenagers would be retrained by April 1 regarding its policies and procedures in situations when the welfare of a minor appears to be threatened.
Rose described the retraining announcement as “nothing more than window dressing to try and patch over a major crisis engulfing all levels” of PPFA.
“Planned Parenthood’s story keeps changing,” she said in a written statement. “First they attacked Live Action — while admitting guilt and firing their New Jersey manager. Then they defended their Virginia staff saying they acted ‘professionally’ and claiming that they ‘offer excellent training to our staff.’ They even went so far as to say ‘there is no training that could prevent this from happening’ on national television.
“Planned Parenthood can’t keep their story straight because our clear and unequivocal footage shows their staff willfully assisting sex trafficking of underage girls. Our investigation clearly shows that minors and young women are at grave risk when they walk through the doors of Planned Parenthood.”
Some anti-trafficking advocates spoke out against the behavior shown on the videos.
“To provide abortions or contraception to a child who is being sexually exploited is to sustain that exploitation — just the same as the adult who pays for sex with a child sustains the exploitation,” said Steven Wagner, president of Renewal Forum and former director of the human trafficking program at the Department of Health and Human Services. “It is incomprehensible that a health care provider is so eager to abet a trafficker, and for a national organization which receives public funds to support in this way our national epidemic of child sexual exploitation is vile.”
Video and transcripts released by Live Action of the clinic visits are available at www.liveaction.org.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.