An anti-abortion group recently released secretly-recorded videos that target Planned Parenthood offices. In one video, a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute try to arrange contraception and abortions for underage prostitutes.
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As Congress debates the issue, an anti-abortion-rights group based here in California is taking matters into its own hands. Live Action is releasing a series of secretly recorded videos made at Planned Parenthood clinics in half a dozen states. Some of the videos show couples seeking abortions and other care for underage girls, girls who the couples claim are working as prostitutes. Abortion rights opponents say the tapes prove Planned Parenthood covers up crimes against minors, an allegation Planned Parenthood denies.
NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.
KATHY LOHR: In one undercover video, actors pretending to be a pimp and prostitute enter a Planned Parenthood clinic in New Jersey. An employee gives advice about how young girls can get medical services including abortions and avoid questions about their partners.
(Soundbite of audio from videotape)
Unidentified Woman: Even if they lie and just say, oh, he's the same age as me. It is just that mainly 14 and under we have to, doesn't matter, if their partner is the same age or younger or whatever, 14 and under, we have to report...
LOHR: It may be a bit hard to understand, but the staff member is telling the couple to lie about the age of the girls and their partners. Planned Parenthood subsequently fired the New Jersey clinic manager. Still, the anti-abortion group, Live Action, that made the videos, says Planned Parenthood is covering up the sex abuse of minors. The group's president is Lila Rose.
Ms. LILA ROSE (Live Action): All these tapes show them aiding and abetting human traffickers, self-proclaimed pimps saying that they have underage girls and working with the pimps to show them how to work the system, how to get all the different services, how to get the discounts. The footage speaks for itself.
LOHR: Not true, says Planned Parenthood. And the group says in most cases, its employees do act properly. Stuart Shear is a spokesman for Planned Parenthood.
Mr. STUART SHEAR (Spokesman, Planned Parenthood): They answered the questions that they were asked and then they went and did what they are supposed to do, which is that they told their superiors that they had a visitor who was talking about crimes that might affect the welfare of a child. And Planned Parenthood both informed the FBI and the attorney general, who are investigating.
LOHR: Shear says the videos, including those recorded in New York and Virginia, are misleading. He says they've been edited, doctored and can't be trusted. Still, Planned Parenthood has responded with a retraining program for 8,000 of its employees.
Mr. SHEAR: We wanted to make sure that it was crystal clear that Planned Parenthood holds nothing more important than the welfare of minors and we are going to ask all of our staff between now and April 1st to go through a retraining on mandatory reporting.
LOHR: But Lila Rose with Live Action says more training will not solve the problem. The group is one of many abortion opponents lobbying to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The group gets about $360 million in federal and state funding, including $79 million in federal Title X funds. That money helps pay for health care, exams and contraceptives for low-income women, but cannot be used for abortion.
On Capitol Hill, Republican congressman from Indiana Mike Pence said the undercover videos show multiple violations, and he made his case to defund Planned Parenthood yesterday at a House subcommittee hearing on his own bill.
Representative MIKE PENCE (Republican, Indiana): Planned Parenthood is far and away the largest abortion provider in America, and they are also the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X. And I believe the time has come for that to end.
These videos have only intensified the debate over abortion, and Live Action says it plans to release more of them in the coming weeks.
Kathy Lohr, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.