Introducing Lila Rose

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Feb. 2 2011 1:39 PM

Introducing Lila Rose

I have a feeling we're just beginning to hear from Lila Rose, the 22-year-old anti-abortion activist and wannabe actress whose James O’Keefe-styled "creative extremism" has yielded heavily edited videos from inside Planned Parenthood clinics. Most recently, Live Action , the group Rose founded at 15, is helping spearhead the anti-Planned Parenthood campaign that Amanda just wrote about. As part of this, Rose has released a video that purports to show a clinic employee "advising a sex trafficker how to get medical care for prostitutes as young as 14," reports the New York Times . Planned Parenthood has said it reported the visit by the pretend pimp and prostitute to authorities after it happened, and that it’s investigating the employee’s conduct.

Rose calls herself a "student activist" at UCLA. A 2009 profile in the Los Angeles Times , in which she answered questions by email, reveals that she’s from San Jose, Calif., is the third of eight children, and was partly home-schooled. She has been interviewed by Bill O’Reilly and makes speeches on her anti-abortion crusade, in one instance being introduced as "a young Sarah Palin." "We will work to de-fund them in every state wherever it is possible," she has said of Planned Parenthood, "to de-license them and to expose them." In one appearance, she suggested that so long as abortions are legal they should "be done in the public square." (Eventually, she explained, the nation would become "so sick and tired of seeing them that we would do away with the injustice altogether. … Maybe then we might hear angels singing when we ponder the glory of conception.")

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In the past, Rose has worked with O’Keefe, the pretend "pimp" from the ACORN videos and many other renegade adventures . In 2008, as part of an effort to mobilize black anti-abortion activists (and to disparage Planned Parenthood), she released a recording of O’Keefe trying to make a donation to that organization specifically on behalf of black women’s abortions. (In the recording, according to the New York Times , O’Keefe is heard saying, "You know, we just think, the less black kids out there, the better." The employee on the other end replies, "Understandable, understandable." Planned Parenthood apologized.)

Rose takes her inspiration from all over the political spectrum. "The world is in dire need of creative extremists," she says at one point in a CNN profile from last year, paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.  Both she and O’Keefe were inspired by left-wing grassroots organizer Saul Alinsky’s "Rules for Radicals," according to the Los Angeles Times .

Rose is perfect for TV – her glamour and her baby-voiced delivery temper her political extremism and questionable tactics. In the CNN interview, she reveals she might like to be an actress. We watch her clearly enjoying getting into character as a gum-cracking, reticent, abortion-seeking 15-year-old. (In the series of undercover forays we get to see, she is pretending to be pregnant by a much older boyfriend; the set-up is to see whether abortion clinics report the statutory rape.) We watch her getting her hair dyed so she won’t be recognized by Planned Parenthood staffers. "This is a great adventure," she says, looking in the mirror. "I never had blond hair before."

After she gets out of the clinic, she lifts a hidden tape recorder out of her T-shirt and examines it. "This baby is still recording. Praise God! Praise God!"

If we as a nation have gotten better at having adult conversations about abortion, at looking for compromise on an issue in which the common ground may consist of just a few feet -- maybe only a few inches -- Lila Rose takes us in the other direction. She is the face of divisiveness. She is the face of all-out war.

Libby Copeland is a writer in New York and a Slate contributor. She was previously a Washington Post reporter and editor for 11 years. She can be reached at libbycopeland@gmail.com.

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