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February 08, 2011

Live Action, the Left, and a Modest Proposal

Recently, a group called "Live Action" has been releasing videos of their recent visits to Planned Parenthood offices. In the videos, the filmmakers pretend to be workers who are running a prostitution ring involving underaged girls. In the videos, the filmmakers ask the Planned Parenthood employees for advice on how to avoid getting in trouble if they needed to engage the services of that organization. Incredibly, they are given the advice they need.

In an odd and somewhat disjointed article at Slate, David Weigel argues that so far, the reaction to the videos has fizzled and credits fast reaction by the left:

The LiveAction videos aren't so powerful. Planned Parenthood has fired one of the accidental stars of the videos, but only two state attorneys general have made noise about investigating Planned Parenthood, in New Jersey and Virginia. But coverage of the videos has focused more on the career of LiveAction's Lila Rose—profiles never fail to mention that she's an aspiring actress—and less on what's in the videos.

There are plenty of reasons for this. Media Matters and other liberal groups pounced as soon as the video went up. Media Matters welcomed the videos with a "refresher course on Andrew Breitbart's dishonest tactics" and the screaming headline "HOAX VIDEO EXPOSED." The hoax? Planned Parenthood had already warned the FBI about the sting. Subsequent Media Matters reports alleged that audio in the tapes had been spliced and mashed to make stuff up. Within 72 hours, the group put together a conference call for Planned Parenthood leaders to speak out about Rose and a joint letter to members of Congress from 26 progressive groups.

Weigel goes on to say that the goal of this defense is to prevent another movement like the one that led to the defunding of ACORN. The left's reaction is a telling one: they seem more concerned with a potential loss of federal funds than they are with the fact that their ideological ally may have been giving advice to pimps and prostitutes.

After facing some criticism of his article on Twitter, Weigel wrote a blog post in which he argued that the Planned Parenthood video was oversold.

What I notice is that the actors are rather guarded about what they're doing -- they describe it as "sex work" in quiet tones, doubtlessly because they are not getting far out of the reception room -- and try to get as much detail about non-abortion services as they can. This was what happened in Falls Church, too, where the "pimp" got confirmation that girls didn't need ID for non-abortion services, but "some things have to be reported" if an underaged girl is brought in and tries to get an abortion. This isn't "complicity with sex abusers." (That's a fun phrase, by the way -- what's a law that requires parental consent even for a woman raped by her father? Is that complicity with sex abuse?)

But we have to back up. The objection of some conservatives is not just to abortion -- it's to any family planning activity supported by taxpayers. Keep unspooling this and it's really not that compelling.

First of all, let's deal with Weigel's snarky little parenthetical about the "fun phrase" that is "complicity with sex abusers." In the United States, 22 states require one or both parents to consent to an abortion, 11 require one or both parents be notified and 2 require both consent and notification before an elective abortion can occur. Parental consent is not some fringe concept worthy of snide mockery - it is law in a number of states and comparing the complexity of that issue with giving advice to those engaged in illegal activity is not a serious argument. Of the states that require parental consent, only three require the permission of both parents. In all of the other states, only one parent is required. So such "complicity," as Weigel argues, is rather unlikely. I'm not sure whether this was an intentional obfuscation, or just a thoughtless aside, but there are some political debates that do not lend themselves well to snark. This is one of them.

Weigel then attempts to argue that the videos are "not that compelling" in part because the Planned Parenthood offices did call the FBI. This argument is rather easily dealt with by Stephen Gutowski at Eyeblast. I would add this: even if Planned Parenthood workers were informing the FBI of the visits by people they thought were sex workers, that does not make the giving of such advice more acceptable. All of the sound and fury of the left's pushback against these videos ignores (or perhaps is intended to cover up) the fact that when faced with the choice of helping a potential sex worker those who seek to exploit minors or kicking them out of the office and reporting them to the police, Planned Parenthood workers helped them on a number of occasions. (Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for suggesting the edit.)

Planned Parenthood currently receives millions in federal funding. Here's a modest proposal for the liberal groups defending the organization: if you're against the removal of that funding, can we agree to pressure Congress to make that funding contingent upon new training for all PP workers? Training that requires them, if asked for advice on criminal activity, to refuse to give such advice? Is that too much to ask, or is the evidence that such a provision is required not "compelling" enough?

Update - In the comments, JR offers another reason this story should be more "compelling" to the national media:

This isn't about training, this is about being MANDATORY REPORTERS when it comes to potential child abuse.

ALL states consider the age of consent at 16, below that it's illegal. And there is absolutely no question whatsoever that a child involved in the sex trade is legally being abused, regardless of whether or not she gives consent, or over the age of 16.

Licensed healthcare providers are MANDATORY REPORTERS. Meaning that they themselves can be prosecuted or lose their licenses if they do not report this stuff. Being one myself, the law is pretty clear.

It's also pretty clear that state, local and the federal government is looking the other way. DEMAND enforcement of current laws, people. Report all of those people to their licensing boards and do it across the nation. I"m not joking. Start with the joke of a nurse practitioner in that film. I want her license to practice yanked, and her sanctioned and fined.

This isn't about abortion, contraception or 'family planning'. This is about supporting the exploitation of children.

All 50 states have some form of mandatory reporting law. If you live in one of the states 'featured' in these videos, perhaps a letter to your state's attorney general's office would be a good idea.

Update II - Some great thoughts on this story at POWIP.

digg this
posted by Slublog at 02:45 PM

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