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Lila Rose: A New, Young Face of the Anti-Abortion Movement

In another life, Lila Rose and I could have been best friends.

Smart, outspoken, and poised, the 22-year old UCLA graduate is exactly the kind of eloquent, unabashedly political woman I love to know. Except for one thing: Her radical anti-choice cause. Rose is the president and founder of Live Action, an anti-choice group singularly dedicated to stripping sexual health giant Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.

Over the past several years, the organization, with the tagline, “a new media movement for life,” has launched a series of “undercover stings” at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, filming Rose and other actors posing as underage women seeking abortion services in states with parental consent laws. Then they edit the video into choppy, sound-tracked clips to circulate on the web and conservative talk-show circuit, a project they call “investigative journalism to expose threats against the vulnerable and defenseless.”

This week, Rose and Live Action struck again—this time with a video supposedly exposing Planned Parenthood’s “cover up of child sex trafficking.”

“This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws and covers up the abuse of the young girls it claims to serve,” Rose promises on her website. “They don’t deserve a dime of the hundreds of millions they receive in federal funding from taxpayers.”

Alright, I’ll admit it—in theory, that all seems pretty reasonable. If there is one cause we can agree we’re all against—liberal, conservative, anti-choice, pro-choice—it’s probably child sex trafficking. But unfortunately for Rose and her cohort, their video, and the campaign they have launched from it, expose nothing of the sort. Instead, they reveal an organization dedicated to making the facts—and the video footage—fit their mission of shutting down Planned Parenthood nationwide.

Take, for instance, the basic premise of the Live Action uproar, that their video proves Planned Parenthood is aiding and abetting sex traffickers. Curiously, a week before Rose’s video went live, Planned Parenthood posted a press releaseannouncing that they had recently received suspicious visits at several clinics that were linked to a “potential multistate sex trafficking ring,” and that they had contacted Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a formal investigation. However, the announcement went on to add, the organization had suspicions that everything was not as it seemed.

"One of the men involved in these visits has now been identified, and he appears to be associated with or influenced by Live Action, an anti-Planned Parenthood organization that uses surreptitious videotaping and manipulative editing for media and political campaigns.  The pattern of these visits and the highly unusual nature of the information being shared with staff lends credibility to the possibility that these multistate visits are part of this organization’s ongoing effort to ‘bring down’ Planned Parenthood…” the statement read.

So if Planned Parenthood red-flagged the incident and reported it to the authorities, how exactly are they aiding child sex trafficking again? According to Rose, the group “sought an FBI probe of Live Action in order to deter the release of the exposé.” She doesn’t bother to clue the reader in to how she knows that, so I’ll leave you to puzzle that logic out for yourself.

But Rose is probably right about one thing: Their campaign has spooked Planned Parenthood, which has already fired the employee implicated in the Live Action video. And the organization has good reason to be afraid. Rose and her cohort are on a blistering campaign of misinformation, pelting their viewers with the terms “Planned Parenthood,” “abortion,” and “hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars” until it’s not hard to walk away under the impression that Planned Parenthood spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to fund abortions.

In fact, Planned Parenthood receives about a third [PDF] of its approximately $1 billion dollar annual budget from government grants and contracts; however, 97 percent of its services are not abortions. Although the organization doesn’t provide a specific cost-break down of their services, it is hard to imagine that the 3 percent of their work dedicated to abortions compares to the cost of the contraception (35 percent), STI testing and treatment (34 percent), cancer screening and prevention (17 percent) and pregnancy and prenatal services (10 percent) that make up the vast majority of their services.

But Lila Rose doesn’t need facts. As Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest declared on a Family Research Council (side note: a recognized hate group) webcastlast Thursday night, Rose is a visionary in the mold of liberal muckrakers who exposed the meatpacking and oil industries in the early 20th century. “Lila Rose is the Upton Sinclair of this generation,” she said. 

Ryan Brown is a staff writer with Campus Progress. You can e-mail her at ryan.brown@duke.edu.

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