After the release of a new round of videotapes in which Planned Parenthood employees agree to cover up a sex trafficking ring, the abortion provider announced on Feb. 8 that it would be retraining its employees across the nation, in order to bring them into compliance with U.S. law.
“We want to be crystal clear for those millions of people who come to us and trust us,” said Planned Parenthood's national spokesman Stuart Schear, announcing the retraining initiative. “We will never put a minor at risk.”
The organization has recently struggled to defend its reputation, after the California-based pro-life activist group Live Action began to release a new series of undercover videos on Feb. 1. In the videos, actors posing as a pimp and a prostitute seek and receive information from Planned Parenthood employees, about how to acquire abortions and other services for a group of underage immigrant girls.
In the latest footage, filmed in a New York clinic and released Feb. 8, an employee tells the purported pimp that he should pose as the legal guardian of his prostitutes in order to procure abortions for them.
“We see people as young as 13,” the clinic employee tells him. “Everything is totally confidential.”
On the day of the New York tape's release, Planned Parenthood said it would be administering what has been described as a “refresher” course – reminding employees of their obligations, under the laws of individual U.S. states, to report crimes such as statutory rape and human trafficking.
That same day, however, Planned Parenthood New York President Joan Malin told the New York Times that New York state law does not require them to report all criminal activity, but only cases in which they suspect “child abuse or neglect.” Malin claimed that her clinic employees were already accustomed to reporting such cases.
Planned Parenthood also said it would be changing its internal policies, and automatically firing any employee shown to have assisted in criminal activity.
Prior to the new changes, the organization employed retraining or suspension as a disciplinary measure in such cases – even though U.S. law states that an individual who assists in a federal crime can be punished in the same manner as the person committing it.
Five days before the new policy was announced, the executive director of Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania claimed that the organization already had a “zero-tolerance policy for this kind of behavior.”
That assertion came in response to Live Action's first video release from the undercover project. In the tape released on Feb. 1, a New Jersey employee is seen giving advice on how to avoid mandatory reporting regulations which could endanger a sex-trafficking enterprise. The tape prompted New Jersey's attorney general Paula Dow to begin an investigation into possible illegal activity by Planned Parenthood.
The abortion provider initially attempted to present the New Jersey incident as an isolated and unusual occurrence. Phyllis Kinsler, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Central New Jersey, said she was “profoundly shocked” to see an employee “behaving in a repugnant manner that is inconsistent with our standards of care.” The employee was fired.
Subsequent video releases, however, called into question Kinsler's assertions about Planned Parenthood's “standards of care.” A series of videos filmed in Virginia showed employees again telling the undercover pro-lifers how to secure abortions and other services for the girls, while avoiding mandatory reporting regulations that could endanger the criminal enterprise.
Media Matters for America, which held a joint press conference with Planned Parenthood on Feb. 3 to discuss fallout from the tapes. described one of the undercover videos from a Virginia clinic as “seven minutes of nothing.”
However, the state's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli described the same clip as “very disturbing.” His office has said it is looking into allegations that Planned Parenthood may be routinely violating state law.