Debating the Legitimacy of the Planned Parenthood Sting Videos

Did Live Action's video merit a response? Planned Parenthood is retraining its employees

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The undercover Planned Parenthood videos, seeming to show employees of the abortion and health services provider turning a blind eye to underage prostitution, have elicited a nationwide response. On Monday, Planned Parenthood announced that thousands of its employees will be retrained on its rules about reporting sex trafficking involving minors. "We're doing this to reassure the public that we take these reporting requirements seriously," Stuart Schear, a Planned Parenthood vice president, told The New York Times.

Ever since the anti-abortion group Live Action began publishing undercover videos (first in New Jersey, then in Virginia, then in New York City, released today) the footage has been controversial. The tapes show pro-life activists posing as pimps--seeking advise about abortion services for 13 and 14-year-old girls. In the aftermath of the New Jersey sting, a Planned Parenthood manager was fired. While a number of conservatives called for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, Media Matters and other liberal voices dubbed the videos a "hoax," nothing that the organization did in fact notify the FBI of a suspicious sex trafficking ring.

The announcement by Planned Parenthood that it's retraining its workers has reignited a debate about the legitimacy of Live Action's undercover videos. With footage freshly available from the New York episode, there's plenty to discuss:

  • Conservative Attacks Are Overblown, writes Dave Weigel at Slate, who reviews the New York and Virginia videos:
What I notice is that the actors are rather guarded about what they're doing -- they describe it as "sex work" in quiet tones, doubtlessly because they are not getting far out of the reception room -- and try to get as much detail about non-abortion services as they can. This was what happened in Falls Church, too, where the "pimp" got confirmation that girls didn't need ID for non-abortion services, but "some things have to be reported" if an underaged girl is brought in and tries to get an abortion. This isn't "complicity with sex abusers."
  • The Videos Speak for Themselves, writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, commenting on today's video from a New York clinic: "These videos show that the clinics themselves seem very comfortable with providing strategies for pimps looking to cover up their exploitation of underage girls. Is that what American taxpayers get with the $300 million in funding that goes to Planned Parenthood each year from the federal treasury?"
  • On the Contrary, writes Media Matters: "Conservative media have rushed to accuse Planned Parenthood of engaging in criminal activity. In fact, at least two weeks before the video of the sting operation in a New Jersey Planned Parenthood was released, Planned Parenthood reported to the FBI a 'potential multistate sex trafficking ring' and later fired the employee behaving improperly in the video."
  • Planned Parenthood's Response Amounts to 'Window Dressing,' writes Live Action President Lila Rose: "Live Action’s investigation has uncovered a serious, institutional crisis in which Planned Parenthood is willing to aid and abet sex trafficking and exploitation of minors and young women."  Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review agrees: "A clear takeaway from the Live Action videos we have seen this week seems to be that Planned Parenthood condones advising pimps. Even when the prostitutes are underage. That’s something Planned Parenthood--regardless of their future federal aid status--ought to address."
  • Not So Fast, writes Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly: "To be sure, the far-right activists are still trying, but they're still failing. They've managed to get Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's (R) attention, but sensible people everywhere have come to see the Planned Parenthood stunt for what it is: a fiasco."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.