Lila Rose has struck again, now with a video supposedly showing a Milwaukee Planned Parenthood ignoring a statutory rape claim. Planned Parenthood has responded with new training, but the video highlights the difficulties of providing reproductive services to teens.
Rose has made it her mission to discredit abortion clinics by making undercover videos, in some cases with her posing as someone seeking an abortion. The footage above was originally shot in June 2008 but released this week, possibly to coincide with Obama's meeting with lawmakers about healthcare reform. In it, Rose says she's 14 and her boyfriend, who is 31, will be "really upset" if she doesn't get an abortion. As Planned Parenthood president and CEO Terry Huyck has said, the video is difficult to understand and heavily edited — a 20-40 minute interview has been condensed into just under 4 minutes. The only thing that seems clear is that the counselor doesn't immediately take steps to report a statutory rape, violating Wisconsin law.
The video is so old that the counselor it depicts no longer works for Planned Parenthood. And the organization says it actually conducted its own undercover checks, leading to a system in which all possible victims of abuse or statutory rape are referred to a special "skills interviewer" who explains the privacy and reporting issues at hand. Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood's vice president for medical affairs, says interviewers "must send the primary message that this is an unhealthy relationship, and parents need to be brought into the teen's confidence, though we can't legally inform parents."
This tension between helping a teen in need, involving the parents without violating privacy laws, and providing a medical service illustrates how complex Planned Parenthood's job is. And while Cullins says Rose's videos have prompted extra scrutiny, it's important to note that statutory rape victims put Planned Parenthood in a difficult position. On the one hand, they clearly shouldn't ignore a crime, or a danger to a teenager's health or wellbeing. On the other, they don't want to discourage teens from seeking out necessary services because they fear reporting.
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What if a teenager needs STD testing — as Cullins points out, 90% of Planned Parenthood's business is unrelated to abortion — but is afraid her boyfriend will be jailed? What if said boyfriend manipulates her into getting a back-alley abortion or forgoing necessary contraceptives because of fears of Planned Parenthood's reporting? None of this is to say that the organization should break the law — simply that its counselors have probably always been aware of the delicacy of the situations they deal with, and its perhaps not surprising that some of them would choose not to make the mandatory reports. Planned Parenthood needs to be a safe space for teenagers, and this seems like a far more likely motivation for failure to report than some notional hunger for more abortions (we've already debunked Rose's claim that PP is raking in bank on the procedures).
The number of places girls and women can turn for abortions and other reproductive services is fast dwindling. Operation Rescue is crowing about successfully blocking a new clinic to replace George Tiller's. And crisis pregnancy centers offer young people misinformation in the guise of help. Planned Parenthood does need to train its staff to comply with the law and report abuse, but we should also remember that they're trying to help teens in the face of many obstacles, and this larger goal deserves praise.
Planned Parenthood's Response To Undercover Sting Videos [Us News & World Report]
Advocacy Group Releases Video Of Planned Parenthood Visit [JS Online]
Victory: Campaign To Prevent Reopening Of Late-Term Abortion Clinic Successfully Concluded [Operation Rescue]