Last month, Planned Parenthood health centers in five states—Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia—and Washington, D.C. were visited by men claiming to be sex traffickers and seeking information about how Planned Parenthood could provide services to minors who were part of a sex trafficking ring. As it turns out, one of the men involved in these visits appears to be associated with or influenced by Live Action, a radical anti-abortion organization best known for using secret videotaping and manipulative editing for its antichoice issue campaigns. Organizations like Live Action have repeatedly tried to “entrap” Planned Parenthood to get them in trouble with the law and the public.
But Planned Parenthood is a safety net provider to millions of people who do not have health insurance, many of whom are people of color and immigrants. Government funding allows Planned Parenthood to provide marginalized communities with family planning services, screening for sexually transmitted infections and reproductive cancers, prenatal care, and basic well-woman care. These services account for 97 percent of the care they provide.
One of the goals of Live Action is to get members of Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. It’s no coincidence that this incident comes on the heels of Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) introduction of H.R. 217, the “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act.” The bill was introduced with the specific purpose of targeting Planned Parenthood.
So what’s at stake? Planned Parenthood operates 820 health centers around the country and provides sexual and reproductive health care, education, and information to over 5 million women, men, and adolescents each year. These services would largely disappear without continued funding.
In similar, earlier stunts, Live Action’s founder Lila Rose visited Planned Parenthood clinics posing as a 15-year-old (when she was an adult) seeking an abortion, accompanied by a man claiming to be her 23-year-old boyfriend. She used concealed video cameras to obtain video to support her claim that Planned Parenthood was under-reporting cases of statutory rape.
Rose also worked with James O’Keefe to paint Planned Parenthood as racist. In that project, actors called Planned Parenthood clinics across the country posing as donors asking to donate money solely for aborting black babies.
These tactics are directly related to the “sting” operation launched by James O’Keefe against ACORN, an organization dedicated to organizing low- to moderate-income people on housing and other issues of relevance to their communities. The release of O’Keefe’s video of ACORN employees resulted in the defunding of the organization, leading to its eventual bankruptcy.
Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion care. That means that Live Action and Rep. Pence’s attack on Planned Parenthood’s funding is not an attack on abortion, but on the multiple other services that Planned Parenthood provides—and on a trusted community service provider that cares for people who often have nowhere else to go to obtain quality health care.
Jessica Arons is the Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at American Progress and a member of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative. Alex Walden is a Policy Analyst with the Women’s Health & Rights Program at American Progress.