What the Planned Parenthood Stings don’t show

In Portland we’ve seen a little of the anti-abortion activism that goes on in this country, but only a small amount. I remember driving by the empty space on Martin Luther King Boulevard where a Planned Parenthood was going to be put in and seeing a small group of people protesting with their picket signs. And from time to time I would also see them on Fremont and 15th, near an already opened Planned Parenthood. This was already scary enough to me, to see people simply protesting against an organization that I really like.

The recent sting operations against Planned Parenthood definitely scare me more, and this is the second time something like this has happened to them.

Just this January, an anti-abortion group called Live Action had 12 men acting as pimps go into Planned Parenthoods in 6 different states and ask about receiving medical care, birth control and abortions for their prostitutes, giving ages as young as fourteen. The experiences the men had were recorded. Two videos have been released since, though analysis shows they were doctored before being released. One Planned Parenthood Manager in one video was fired for her upsetting behavior and comments that were recorded, while the other woman recorded is said to have accurately represented Planned Parenthood’s values. Live Action is trying to “expose” Planned Parenthood for breaking state and federal laws and for covering up abuse against young girls that the organization says they protect. They are ultimately trying to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding.

To read a full article on the situation, go here. You can also read about Live Action, the doctoring of the tapes, and Planned Parenthood’s reaction on their website here.

This extreme scenario of trying to access services for underage prostitutes is a perfect way to get Planned Parenthood in trouble – one wrong word in a situation like this and you are the bad guy. It’s also perfect because it would be making them out to be abusing a group of people they want to protect, young women being coerced into prostitution. This is harassment against individual workers, however, not a productive way to fight Planned Parenthood’s values. Instead of gaining social momentum and using people as power behind their movement, they are using shallow tactics to try to disrupt or end Planned Parenthood. Also, since the videos were edited, then who knows how the exchange even happened? It’s clear that what occurred in these videos do not represent what Planned Parenthood truly stands for. As for the manager that got fired, it is quite unfortunate she acted the way she did (though again, it would be useful to see the unedited footage), and her firing is an appropriate response. Planned Parenthood reacted quickly and how their supporters would want them to, showing they are still protecting their own values.

This is a different approach to undermining and trying to exterminate Planned Parenthood, one that is scarier than protesters. What else are these groups willing to do to end this organization? And what does it mean to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood? It means taking away a huge resource for women, for men, for young people, for us. I use Planned Parenthood’s services, as do many of my friends. I knew the name Planned Parenthood before I ever knew what birth control was. Threatening a leader organization in reproductive rights is expected, but it doesn’t mean it’s not scary. Planned Parenthood stands for so much to so many people; this is a threat to more than the workers that were recorded and the specific locations that were targeted. This is a threat to the entire movement of reproductive rights, healthy sexuality, and access to cheap, safe and affordable reproductive healthcare.

To me this was a reminder that I need to protect Planned Parenthood and organizations like it when I can. As established as Planned Parenthood may seem, there are those who still fight against them. I don’t want to fight against the fighters, but I want to protect what they are attacking.

What does Planned Parenthood mean to you? What would it mean if these sting operations were ever powerful enough to affect their funding? What can you do to protect things like Planned Parenthood? Remember to vote if you can, and take action through volunteering and talking with your peers.


Angela Carkner