A group seeking to discredit Planned Parenthood released a video Tuesday that depicts two hired actors posing as a pimp and a prostitute seeking services at a New Jersey clinic, in an operation resembling one that helped take down a liberal anti-poverty group two years ago.
The Los Angeles-based group, Live Action, says its secretly taped footage shows a Planned Parenthood employee advising the couple on ways to get abortions and other services for their prostitutes, some of them illegal immigrants and girls as young as 14. The employee also appears to suggest that some of the girls lie about their age when seeking services.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America officials say that the heavily edited video does not tell the whole story and that Live Action has for years tried unsuccessfully to smear the abortion provider's reputation with its undercover operations.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood spokesman Stuart Schear acknowledged that the employee on the video may have violated the organization's policies. But he said that immediately after the Jan. 13 visit, the clinic staff alerted the national organization and contacted local authorities about the possibility of a sex ring operating in the area.
"The behavior of our employee, as portrayed on the video, if accurate, violates [Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey] policies, as well as our core values of protecting the welfare of minors and complying with the law, and appropriate action is being taken," Phyllis Kinsler, chief executive of the Central New Jersey chapter, said in a statement.
Abortion foes said the release of the video Tuesday will bolster their calls for an end to federal funding to the abortion provider, a perennial demand. Planned Parenthood receives tens of millions of dollars each year from the federal government to provide non-abortion family-planning services to low-income people.
At least 12 clinics in six states received visits in January by men claiming to be engaged in sex trafficking, according to Planned Parenthood. In each case, the clinic's staff notified federal and local authorities. Planned Parenthood also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Jan. 18 citing its concerns about sex trafficking and suggesting that the visits might be part of a hoax.
"The group that has undertaken this secret taping is on the record as saying its goal is to 'take down' Planned Parenthood over the next 10 years by creating 'controversy' in the organization and making Planned Parenthood 'not feel safe,' " Schear said in the Tuesday statement.
The effort by Live Action, an anti-abortion group, resembles a similar one undertaken by conservative activist James O'Keefe in 2009.
O'Keefe and an associate posed as a pimp and a prostitute and secretly filmed their attempts to elicit damaging comments from workers with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which provided housing and other assistance to low-income people. It was the first of a series of controversies that led to the ACORN's bankruptcy last year.
Live Action President Lila Rose, 22, worked with O'Keefe on undercover operations at Planned Parenthood clinics four years ago, she said in an interview. Rose, an anti-abortion activist who founded Live Action at age 15, said her group has not worked with O'Keefe for three years.