comments_image Comments

Planned Parenthood Responds to "Sting" Videos


Written by Deborah Kotz for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The following article originally appeared on and is being republished with permission from U.S. News & World Report's "On Women" blog.

For nearly two years, Lila Rose has been a thorn in Planned Parenthood's side. The UCLA student has taken a hidden video camera to various clinics across the country and posed as a minor who is several weeks pregnant by a much older boyfriend. Her aim is to see if clinicians follow state laws regarding the reporting of statutory rape and getting parental consent for abortions. In nine cases, her videos suggest they weren't.

In fact, two weeks ago Alabama put a Birmingham Planned Parenthood clinic on probation after an inspection triggered by one of Rose's videos. State health inspectors found that the clinic failed to get the signature of minors on its forms verifying parental consent for abortions. Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood's vice president for medical affairs, told me the national office is "concerned" and that this affiliate will soon be merged with a Georgia affiliate that "has more resources."

In one of the videos, taped in July 2008 at a clinic in Memphis, Rose poses as a pregnant 14-year-old who wants to have an abortion immediately. She's told that as a minor she has to bring a parent along but then convinces the receptionist to allow her to talk to a counselor. During the ninth minute in this unedited video, Rose says that she's 14 and her boyfriend (who's not with her) is 31 and then asks if he's going to get in trouble. "No," the counselor says. "You promise?" Rose asks. The worker then says the boyfriend could if she tells her manager but adds, "I'm not going to tell anybody. Please don't say that I told you this. ... Just say that you have a boyfriend 17 years old." Tennessee state law defines statutory rape as someone at least four years older than the victim having sex with someone older than 13 and younger than 18. The state requires a reporting of such cases to authorities.

The counselor did tell Rose that she'd need to see a judge if she wanted to have an abortion without her parent's consent. The counselor said that she should tell the judge that her boyfriend was also a minor to protect him from a statutory rape charge.

A similar scenario had occurred when Rose took her hidden video camera to an Indianapolis clinic a month earlier.

A Planned Parenthood spokesperson who didn't want to speak for attribution says that the counselor on the Memphis tape was no longer an employee by the time the tape was released. Nonetheless, the clinic immediately retrained all its staff, the spokesperson says. According to a December 2008 statement from Planned Parenthood of Indiana, the Indianapolis clinic dismissed two employees who were featured in Rose's video, and the president of the state organization said that "we've already made changes to tighten procedures and reinforce our reporting policies with all health center staff across the state."

Though Rose refers to herself as a student journalist, she clearly has an agenda. In an interview Tuesday, Rose, 20, told me she's "unabashedly a pro-life advocate" and that abortion is a "human rights abuse." She says that she'd like to see all taxpayer dollars taken away from Planned Parenthood and that her videos show that the organization "doesn't take the law seriously and doesn't take adult-child sexual relationships seriously." She declined to reveal to me the source of funding for her group, Live Action, which makes and posts the videos on its website, except to say that it's not funded by "active" antiabortion groups like National Right to Life and that in 2009 it spent $124,000, which was provided by individuals and a few foundations sympathetic to the cause.