Planned Parenthood: Hold It Accountable. Don't Take Its Funding

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Feb. 2 2011 2:15 PM

Planned Parenthood: Hold It Accountable. Don't Take Its Funding

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Rachael Larimore Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

I will be very blunt: I don’t like Planned Parenthood. I don’t like that they are the nation’s largest abortion provider . I don’t like that staffers have been caught giving terribly inaccurate information medical information to undercover "patients." I especially don’t like that the purpose of that woefully wrong information (sorry, folks, there is no difference between a  "heart tone" and a "heart beat"* and the baby has a real live heart beat much closer to 17 days than 17 weeks , as one staffer tells a patient) seems geared toward encouraging a woman to have an abortion rather than consider other options for her pregnancy.

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And Planned Parenthood doesn’t come off much better in today’s expose from Live Action, which is headed by Lila Rose and which is responsible for the previous sting videos.  In the video released today, a man and a woman posing as a pimp and a prostitute visit a New Jersey Planned Parenthood office, where the office manager offers them advice for how to get the allegedly 14- and 15-year-old girls in their employ access to birth control, physical exams, and abortions.

Two scenes jumped out at me. The manager on the tape described one of the nurses who did exams-and who asked a lot of questions, to make sure that girls weren’t being preyed on by older men-as a "fu*&ing c*nt." The other one is where the manager, when the "pimp" asks about getting abortions for 14-year-olds, gets all secretive and gives them the location of a clinic that will do such abortions. (Planned Parenthood has fired the manager in the video .)

It’s one thing entirely to give birth-control pills to 16-year-old girls without their mother’s consent. It’s entirely another to have a conversation with a man "admitting" to be a pimp about what kind of sexual activity his "workers" can engage in during the two weeks after an abortion when they can’t have sexual intercourse ("Waist up," says the manager).  That shows an actual disregard for the well-being of young women.

BUT, and here is where I’m going to lose a bunch of my pro-life friends, trying to get Planned Parenthood defunded-as Live Action and other pro-life groups are trying to do using this video as the launch of their campaign-is the wrong step to take. There is no better way to prevent abortion, as Amanda points out, than to make sure women have access to affordable contraception. Whatever feelings I have about Planned Parenthood’s uglier side, one thing the organization does damn well is to provide cheap birth control and medical exams.

I don’t know how many bad eggs there are within Planned Parenthood, those who will tell a woman that her 10-week-old fetus doesn’t have a heartbeat, or hand over the address for an unscrupulous clinic that will perform illegal abortions. But it’s either more prevalent than most would like to admit or Lila Rose, who is profiled in this post by Libby Copeland , has an incredible knack for finding them.

Still, defunding is not the answer. Planned Parenthood should be responsible for the actions of its employees. It should at least be held to the same standards that the left wants crisis-pregnancy centers held to -no false advertising, no erroneous medical information. But it’s extremely unlikely that there are multitudes of men walking into Planned Parenthood trying to get cheap abortions for their sex workers. And the young women who count on the group’s cheap birth control will be the ones who are harmed if Planned Parenthood loses its federal funding.

*Clarification, Feb. 2: When I first published this post, I wrote that there is no such thing as a "heart tone." Of course, a "heart tone" is just a synonym for heart beat. What I was referring to was a Live Action sting video in which a Planned Parenthood staffer told a woman that at 10 weeks, her fetus didn't have a heart beat, "it only had a heart tone." There is no precursor to the heart beat called a "heart tone," which is what I was trying to say, but it came out wrong. I apologize for any confusion.

Photograph by David McNew for Getty Images.