A clinic manager was shown – in an edited video – advising a pimp on how to obtain sexual health care and abortions for underage girls who he “managed”, without attracting the attention of the authorities to his activities.
Planned Parenthood as an organisation say that this clinic manager was not working to PP policies, and she has since been dismissed.
In fact PP have a policy of reporting sexual exploitation of young people, and following (what transpired to be) hoax visits to several of their clinics, reported their concerns about a possible trafficking ring.
"When Planned Parenthood learns of an operation that exploits young women, we vigilantly work with law enforcement authorities to uncover and stop this abhorrent activity," said Stuart Schear, PPFA vice president for communications. "Planned Parenthood’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients and the health and well-being of women and teens across the country, and we have been in contact with federal and local authorities to identify the persons involved in these visits." (Planned Parenthood press release 24.01.2011)
However, the incident raises several questions.
How ethical is it for anyone to enter a clinical situation, in which the professional person they are consulting is bound (in most cases, subject to legal reporting requirements etc) by confidentiality rules, and to deliberately trick them into potentially controversial responses by asking for help using false and manipulative stories?
Apparently 12 clinics were infiltrated in this way, but it is only selected sections of one of the consultations which have been made public. The selected video footage was obviously intended to show the clinic manager in the worst possible light in order to discredit the organisation for which she worked, and to push an extreme agenda.
Clinics such as these exist in order to help those who need their services.
Many clients may be under age and in difficult circumstances, and while clinic staff are obliged to work within the law, and would wish to protect their clients from abuse as well as unwanted pregnancies and infections, immediate reporting to the Police on a routine basis might not always be in the best interests of the group of clients they serve.
Establishing trust with vulnerable young people is a vital first step in helping them, and also in encouraging others to come for help. Staff therefore have to tread a very fine line, and risk either not being able to help those in need, or finding themselves in trouble with the law.
Right wing groups are exploiting this vulnerability of staff working with some of the most disadvantaged groups in society in order to advance their own cause. They are pushing for government funding to be withdrawn from PP, an organisation which provides abortion and other sexual health care.
Campaigns to discredit sexual health care services are widespread, and not just in the United States. They represent attempts to stigmatise all contraceptive and sexual health professionals by association, and can be highly damaging to the important health services provided by organisations such as Planned Parenthood. It is to the credit of staff of such organisations that they continue to work to improve the lives of often disadvantaged and vulnerable people despite the constant threats of adverse media attention and violence with which they are faced.