Planned Parenthood Threatens to Sue Undercover Activist

Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:06pm EDT
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( - Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles is threatening to sue a student pro-life activist who recorded an abortion clinic employee encouraging her to lie about her age to avoid being reported as a victim of statutory rape.

Lila Rose, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of California Los Angeles, is the founder of a pro-life magazine on campus. In March, she entered a Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles (PPLA) clinic, posing as a pregnant 15-year-old and said her boyfriend was 23 years old.

A girl in that position would be considered a victim of statutory rape because she was under 16, and California law requires clinics such as Planned Parenthood to report cases of statutory rape. In hidden camera video of the encounter, a PPLA employee tells Rose that she could "figure out a birth date that works" to avoid having PPLA notify police.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President Kathy Kneer criticized the undercover investigation as "manipulative," but admitted that the PPLA employee had violated the organization's policy to follow all applicable laws.

Following news of the undercover operation, Kneer said the organization had reminded all of its employees of the law and its own policies.

On Monday, PPLA sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rose, warning her that "surreptitious" recordings of PPLA employees without consent violates California privacy laws.

California law prohibits recording "intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication." Violating the prohibition could mean a $2,500 fine, plus civil penalties of $5,000 or more.

In the letter, obtained by Cybercast News Service, PPLA president Mary Jane Wagle demands that Rose stop the undercover investigations, remove existing clips from online video sharing site YouTube, and turn the original tapes and all copies over to Planned Parenthood.

"If you do not agree to take these three steps, PPLA will seek all appropriate legal remedies," Wagle wrote.

Cybercast News Service obtained a copy of the video and audio before the cease-and-desist letter went into effect and has preserved it for our readers' benefit. (Click here for the full video -- a large file that may take time to load. As produced by Rose, the video features clips of a song by rapper Ludacris and singer Mary J. Blige called "Runaway.")

David French, an attorney with the Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund, accused Planned Parenthood of "engaging in a bully an 18-year-old to distract attention from the fact that their employees were engaging in unlawful behavior."

French, who is serving as Rose's legal adviser, said, "Nothing changes the truth of what's contained in those videotapes. Planned Parenthood was advocating that a patient lie, advocating a way around mandatory reporting requirements for statutory rape, and nothing that Planned Parenthood does as far as trying to bully her regarding the tapes themselves can change those facts."

Regardless of Planned Parenthood's activity in the clinic, French said his client hopes to avoid the court. "She's going to comply with the bulk of their demands on it regarding the videotapes themselves, so I would hope that Planned Parenthood would not pursue any further action against her," he said.

Kneer told Cybercast News Service Monday that the cease-and-desist letter was meant "to protect the privacy of our patients and our employees and maintaining and complying with California laws, all of the laws, is important to us, and we think Lila needs to be more respectful of California laws."

She reiterated that Planned Parenthood has reminded its employees of California law regarding mandatory reporting of statutory rape and said that Lila's case is rare.

"We essentially believe that in 99.9 percent of the time, our employees do follow the laws," Kneer said, adding that "attacks" from "anti-choice extremists" have led to national audits of abortion providers.

"A thorough audit was done across the country and essentially came to the conclusion that providers are complying with state laws and there are no violations," Kneer said.

She said she couldn't comment on what happened to the employee in Rose's tape, but she did say that a clinician who breaks the law is "subject to losing their license. That's a personal issue for each employee, and as the employer, we want to make sure our clinicians know how to comply with the law and at the same time, make sure that patients can trust us."

"Nothing we can say will most likely change Lila's views," Kneer said, "but I can tell you every day the American public trusts Planned Parenthood and that's because one in four individuals has been to a Planned Parenthood in their lifetime and they know the quality of healthcare we provide to our patients."

'Hundreds' caught on tape

In 2002, an activist group called Life Dynamics ran a campaign in which a woman posing as a 13-year old impregnated by a 22-year-old and called clinics operated by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. The group has compiled tapes of workers encouraging girls to lie about their age to avoid being reported as a victim.

The group claims to have collected "over 800 tape recordings that show how Planned Parenthood and NAF workers secure business from victims of statutory rape by undermining parental authority, encouraging children to lie and promising minors that their employees will ignore mandatory reporting laws."

"[T]ell them your boyfriend is 16 or something because he could get in a lot of trouble," one employee in Alaska told the caller. A worker in North Carolina told the caller, "I wouldn't advise you to say anything about your boyfriend being 22, because that's statutory rape."

Life Dynamics founder Mark Crutcher told Cybercast News Service Monday that telling girls to lie about their age is standard practice for abortion clinics because "there's lots of money in this."

He said the fact that Planned Parenthood threatened to sue Rose is a sign that the organization is interested in continuing the practice rather than reforming. "If they were interested in using this as the opportunity to educate their people then that would be their thrust and how the girl got the tapes would be somewhat irrelevant," he said.

Crutcher said his organization has never heard a response from Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Federation. It has never faced legal challenges, he said, because the calls were placed from Texas, which requires only that one participant in the conversation consent to having it taped.

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