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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Abortion opponents must stop underhanded tactics

Kathy Dittrich

Abortion opponents must stop underhanded tactics

The release last week of undercover video footage taken at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin, which supposedly reveals a Planned Parenthood employee breaking a state law, has drawn attention again to the contemptible and derisory tactics of conservatives.

This latest attack is one reminiscent of another on the antipoverty group ACORN last fall. ACORN is a grassroots organizing community that helps disadvantaged and low-income people fight foreclosures, fix tax problems and register voters. The organization came under fire from Congressional leaders after right-wing activists disguised as pimps and prostitutes obtained footage of ACORN employees advising a ""pimp"" and ""prostitute"" to classify their work as ""performing arts"" for tax purposes and make sure underage girls from El Salvador working in brothels attend school so as not to raise suspicion.

The undercover footage was a boon for Republican leaders not interested in or benefited by ACORN's voter registration activities and resulted in the passage of an amendment that blocked federal funding for ACORN.

In response to the footage, the CEO of ACORN, Bertha Lewis, terminated all employees implicated in the tapes saying, ""It was unfortunate that they got duped into this trumped-up scenario, but none of them met our professional standards."" In ACORN's defense, Lewis also emphasized that of ACORN's approximately 700 employees nationwide, only five behaved inappropriately and that in dozens of ACORN offices the ""pimps"" and ""prostitutes"" were thrown out. Additionally Lewis clarified that although ACORN employees gave illegal verbal advice, no tax documents were ever filed.

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ACORN offers valuable services in this country, especially to low-income individuals and communities disenfranchised by a political system in which politicians offer lip service in exchange for votes but rarely follow through to enact policy that benefits working class constituents. Unfortunately, as a result of the inappropriate and illegal behavior of a few individuals, ACORN lost important federal funding. Meanwhile, banking practices on Wall Street led to the loss of life savings and homes, but the guilty individuals there were rewarded with federal taxpayer dollars to ensure that they continue providing their invaluable services to this country.

In Wisconsin, the release of the Planned Parenthood footage obtained by the anti-abortion group Live Action, based out of California, has resulted in the right's attempt to call into question the validity of Planned Parenthood. Based on the supposed misconduct of one Planned Parenthood employee, Live Action is claiming systematic illegal activity by the organization as a whole.

It needs to be acknowledged that Live Action's footage is not conclusive. Live Action claims that Planned Parenthood failed to report the underage pregnancy of a 14-year-old girl (who in reality was an undercover 21-year-old woman) who came into the clinic seeking medical advice. But Planned Parenthood spokesperson Amanda Harrington has countered that the video is ""heavily edited, at times inaudible, and incomplete.""

It's not clear that Planned Parenthood acted illegally; it's entirely possible that the employee did not have enough information (proof of age, identity and pregnancy) to report the suspected or supposed underage pregnancy.

It's troubling that Planned Parenthood is being challenged, and their existence called into question, based on a fallible claim that an individual employee broke the law, one time. Obviously, it is important that Planned Parenthood deal with underage pregnancies within the law. But Live Action's undercover work fails to provide evidence that the organization is systematically failing to follow the law or that Planned Parenthood's work is harmful for individuals and the community.

Just as the actions of a few bad apples in ACORN led to the demonization of an entire organization, an organization that works to improve the lives of low-income individuals, so too is Planned Parenthood under fire for the supposed mishandling of a single case of underage pregnancy. Little attention is being paid to the invaluable services offered by Planned Parenthood, such as medical care, birth control and pregnancy counseling to low-income individuals, or to the countless times employees have followed state and federal laws. But, after all, these services are of no interest to Live Action, whose goal is to put an end to clinics offering medical services such as birth control and abortion. Live Action does not value the services offered by Planned Parenthood and doesn't care that others do.

Live Action's disregard for women's health and women's choice in matters concerning reproduction is evident; but it remains to be seen how Live Action's undercover work contributes to improving women's access to medical care or to improving women's health. How does misleading Planned Parenthood improve the situation of underage pregnant girls? How does Live Action's video contribute in a meaningful and constructive way to the abortion debate? Deceptive intentions beget misleading results, and more damage is done than good when groups such as Live Action attempt to promote their agenda via trickery and unwarranted dishonesty.

Kathy Dittrich is a senior majoring in English and French. Please send all responses to

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