Undercover 'Sex Work' Videos Fuel Congressional Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

This article originally appeared on February 03, 2011.

Undercover ‘Sex Work’ Videos Fuel Congressional Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

By: Staff

In this Jan. 23 photo, a statue representing women’s empowerment stands in front of a Planned Parenthood facility in Tucson, Ariz.

Undercover videos similar to the ones that brought down ACORN are causing big problems for Planned Parenthood, fueling an effort in Congress to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Two sting videos have so far been released allegedly showing local Planned Parenthood managers giving advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute on how to obtain services for underage sex workers.

The first video, shot at a clinic in Perth Amboy, N.J., was released Tuesday. The anti-abortion group Live Action released a second video Thursday showing a similar scene at a clinic in Richmond, Va.

The manager in the first video, identified as Amy Woodruff, was fired by Planned Parenthood after the video was released.  

Phyllis Kinsler, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey, said the organization has a “zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior” and that the employee was immediately suspended Tuesday before being fired.  

“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,” she said in a written statement Tuesday. “We are fully committed to delivering high-quality reproductive health care to the women of our communities, complying with all laws, and upholding the highest ethical standards.”

But Live Action is calling for an investigation in both cases. It’s not clear how many videos the group will release, but it claims it has enough footage to demonstrate a “pattern” of illicit activity.

“We wanted to demonstrate how severe this problem was,” Live Action President Lila Rose told “People are really starting to pay attention. … This is institutional.”

Rose has released undercover footage involving Planned Parenthood before, but these are the first to deal with the issue of sex trafficking.

The video released Tuesday quickly gave momentum to Rep. Mike Pence’s, R-Ind., effort to strip federal funding for abortion providers. With Planned Parenthood the biggest recipient of those funds, Pence said Americans should be “shocked” that the organization “has been recorded aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking.”

“The recent release of an undercover video exposing duplicity and potential criminality by an employee of Planned Parenthood is an outrage,” Pence said. “The time to deny any and all funding to Planned Parenthood is now.”

He urged Congress to immediately bring his bill, which would end family planning grants for abortion providers, to the floor for consideration. Pence reintroduced that bill last month. According to a Government Accountability Office study last summer, Planned Parenthood tapped into $657 million in federal dollars between 2002 and 2009.

Rose said she thinks the videos will move the bill along, saying it’s “atrocious” that taxpayer dollars are going toward the organization.

The Susan B. Anthony List also announced that it was banding together with other anti-abortion groups to kick off a campaign to build congressional support for Pence’s proposal in light of the footage. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a co-sponsor on that bill, linked to the first Planned Parenthood video on her Facebook page, vowing to introduce her own bill “that would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving any future federal money directly or indirectly.”

The undercover videos bear similarities to those that united lawmakers in opposition to low-income advocacy group ACORN. The New Jersey Planned Parenthood video showed a couple walking into the Perth Amboy clinic for help with their “sex work.”

The man in the video can be heard explaining to the Planned Parenthood employee that his “girls” — some of whom he describes as being 14 or 15 years old and illegal immigrants — need to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. He also inquires about abortion services.

After initially telling the couple that Planned Parenthood is “obligated” to report certain information about minors, the employee says she “doesn’t want to get anyone in trouble.” She pulls out a piece of paper and refers them to what is apparently another clinic for abortion services.

“You never got this from me,” she says. “If they’re 14 and under, just send them right there if they need an abortion. … Their protocols aren’t as strict as ours.”

The employee said her clinic wants “as little information as possible” and later tells the couple to come talk to her if there are any problems. She urges any underage girls to lie about their age.

“Worse ever comes to worst, you guys come see me,” she says. “I’ll jump in … with nobody looking. … That’s why you come and ask for me only.”

New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow has since launched a preliminary review into the tape. Spokesman Paul Loriquet told that Dow referred the evidence to her criminal justice division — the state will afterward determine whether a full investigation is warranted.

But Planned Parenthood, after the second tape was released Thursday, accused Live Action of “coordinating its activities” in order to push Pence’s bill. The organization stood by the employee in the Virginia video, saying the worker notified her supervisor and that the report was then relayed to other staff members.

The organization claims it was already aware of a possible attempt to smear it. Though Planned Parenthood sacked the manager in the New Jersey tape, the organization apparently got ahead of the impending release last week, issuing a statement saying that it had alerted federal authorities to a “potential multistate sex trafficking ring” last month. The organization said it had notified Attorney General Eric Holder of that possibility after learning that people claiming to be in the sex-trafficking business had sought advice at nearly a dozen clinics across six states in the course of a week.

Planned Parenthood said it had suspected the visitors might be part of a “hoax” by anti-abortion activists looking to discredit the group. The group specifically named Live Action as the organization potentially behind the sting.

“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,” spokesman Stuart Schear said in a written statement. “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.”

Schear went on to say that while sex trafficking must be stopped, “dirty tricks” must be “condemned.”

“Falsely claiming sex trafficking to health professionals to advance a political agenda is an astoundingly cynical form of political activity,” Schear said.

Planned Parenthood released another statement Tuesday reiterating that its workers had “immediately” notified their superiors after being visited by people claiming to be involved in sex trafficking. The group said Live Action’s goal is to “take down” Planned Parenthood.

Rose dismissed Planned Parenthood’s explanation.

“They clearly didn’t think it was a hoax if they fired their manager,” she said. “They’re talking out of both sides of their mouths.”

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