Undercover pro-life tactician Lila Rose was the featured speaker at a "vigil for victims" in front of the Washington, D.C., Downtown Planned Parenthood Center, about eight blocks north of the White House. The vigil, which was attended by about 100 people, was one of about 200 such events held at noon outside Planned Parenthood offices throughout the country, organizers said.
The vigils followed nearly two weeks of releases of hidden-camera videos that have further damaged the reputation of Planned Parenthood, which performed more than 324,000 abortions at its clinics during 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available. The series of videos secretly recorded at Planned Parenthood clinics showed its employees' apparent willingness to aid sex traffickers whose prostitutes are in their early teens. The undercover operation used actors.
The result has been renewed and intensified calls for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), which received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Rose, the 22-year-old president of Live Action, told Baptist Press after the vigil, "We're seeing more and more people pay attention gradually, more and more, more and more, and we believe that we're reaching a tipping point here. Americans are finding out, and we're reaching a tipping point where they're becoming so upset and they're becoming so outraged at the violence and the abuse cover-up that goes on in these clinics every day."
Though Live Action is based in Los Angeles, the recent UCLA graduate said her organization is trying to provide members of Congress with the evidence they need on Planned Parenthood.
At a time when members of Congress are planning to cut the federal budget by billions of dollars, Rose and her allies don't understand how any representatives or senators, regardless of their position on abortion, "would give money to an organization that exploits young girls and that covers up abuse and that kills the most innocent among us. And so I think that we're going to reach a tipping point in Congress as well."
Charmaine Yoest, a pro-life, public-policy veteran of two decades, said this "is the best opportunity we've had in memory" to defund Planned Parenthood. "inally people are starting to understand how grossly our tax dollars are going to Planned Parenthood, and that awareness is really critical" in the defunding effort, said the president of Americans United for Life.
While the House of Representatives may have the votes necessary to approve legislation to cut funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, the scenario does not appear hopeful in the Senate.
"The Senate needs to understand that when you have the kind of economic crisis that we have right now that it's obscene to be funding over $350 million a year to the nation's largest abortionist," Yoest told Baptist Press.
A primary vehicle for eliminating some of Planned Parenthood's federal funding is the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., and has 164 cosponsors. The proposal would bar Title X funds from going to organizations that provide abortions. Planned Parenthood is the leading recipient of Title X funds.
Title X is the federal government's family planning program. Although Title X funds do not go directly for abortions, pro-life advocates contend federal money frees up other contributions to Planned Parenthood for the promotion and performance of abortions.
The Feb. 14 vigil in Washington, D.C. featured not only Rose and Yoest but speakers from the Susan B. Anthony List, 40 Days for Life, Concerned Women for America, Students for Life of America and Family Research Council Action. The organizations are part of a new coalition, Expose Planned Parenthood.
From Feb. 1 to 8, Live Action released video footage from hidden-camera investigations at six clinics that showed Planned Parenthood staff signaling cooperation with a self-described pimp in providing birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and/or abortions for his alleged, under-age sex workers. The pimp and, in some cases, a prostitute who accompanied him to the clinics were actors doing undercover work for Live Action. An undercover audio from another Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., released Feb. 10, revealed a similar response from a staff member.
The clandestine videos were shot at Planned Parenthood clinics in New Jersey, New York and Virginia from Jan. 11 to 14, according to Live Action.
The latest video investigation "further proves what we have known to be true all along -- that this is institutional, that the sexual abuse cover-up is endemic, and it goes as far as actually working with the abusers, commercial abusers, exploiters, ... traffickers in order to keep their victims on the street," Rose told Baptist Press Feb. 14.
The newly released video stings are the latest in a series of undercover investigations Live Action has conducted during the last four years.
A previous hidden-camera project by Live Action caught Planned Parenthood employees in Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana and Tennessee seeking to cover up alleged child sexual abuse, prompting some state investigations. Another video sting showed a counselor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin providing erroneous information about fetal development.
In a different undercover investigation by Live Action, Planned Parenthood workers in seven states were caught on audio tape agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
PPFA's national office said employees at some of the clinics reported to their supervisors the visits by the alleged pimp and prostitute. Federal and state authorities were notified, and the FBI has been investigating, according to PPFA.
Live Action has released unedited, video footage shot at the clinics on its website and said it has sent it to federal and/or state officials as well.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. To learn more, visit ExposePlannedParenthood.com or LiveAction.org.
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