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Secret Hoax Campaign Is Another Abortion Wars Tactic
This piece originally appeared on RH Reality Check.
By Leslie Kantor, MPH, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, senior medical advisor for Planned Parenthood Federations of America (PPFA)
In recent weeks people who oppose Planned Parenthood, and our mission to provide high-quality reproductive health care, have been conducting a secret, nationwide hoax campaign in an attempt to undermine women’s access to services.
For years opponents of reproductive health and rights have used secret videotaping tactics with fictitious patient scenarios and selective editing to promote falsehoods about Planned Parenthood’s mission, services, and policies. Recently, one group has escalated these hoax visits in many states, apparently using secret recorders while inquiring about sex selection abortions. We anticipate that this group, likely in coordination with a broad range of anti-abortion leaders, will soon launch a propaganda campaign with the goal of discrediting Planned Parenthood, and, ultimately, furthering legislation that blocks access to basic reproductive health care, including birth control.
We can expect this propaganda campaign to further escalate the political battles over access to health care, rather than focus on the best ways to help women and their families get the care they need.
As a nonprofit health care provider with nearly 800 health centers, PlannedParenthood provides access to professional, nonjudgmental, affordable reproductive health care, ensuring nearly three million patients receive preventive and lifesaving care every year. Without Planned Parenthood, many women would have nowhere else to turn for breast and cervical cancer screening, well woman exams, birth control, STD testing and treatment, sex education, and pregnancy options.
As a women’s rights advocate for nearly 100 years, Planned Parenthood finds the concept of sex selection deeply unsettling. Planned Parenthood does not offer sex determination services; our ultrasound services are limited to medical purposes.
Gender bias is contrary to everything our organization works for daily in communities across the country. Planned Parenthood opposes racism and sexism in all forms, and we work to advance equity and human rights in the delivery of healthcare. Planned Parenthood condemns sex selection motivated by gender bias, and urges leaders to challenge the underlying conditions that lead to thesebeliefs and practices, including addressing the social, legal, economic, and political conditions that promote gender bias and lead some to value one gender over the other.
Recent attempts to restrict or deny access to safe abortion under the guise of preventing gender bias is harmful to women’s health, counter to a human rights agenda, and primarily a political tactic of groups who work to make abortion illegal. Planned Parenthood opposes legislation that intrudes on the doctor/patient relationship by requiring doctors to become investigators and patients their suspects, and that strips nonjudgmental, high-quality care from women in need.
The world’s leading women’s health and rights organizations, including the World Health Organization, do not believe that curtailing access to abortion services is a legitimate means of addressing sex selection, and are clear that gender bias can only be resolved by addressing the underlying conditions that lead to it. And we agree. We support efforts that ensure girls and women have access to economic opportunity, including fair wages, basic healthcare, political participation, education, and a life free of violence and discrimination. Planned Parenthood works to ensure women and their familieshave access to high-quality nonjudgmental health services free of coercion,supported by information and counseling.
From the questions that were repeatedly asked in these recent hoax visits, we expect that the materials eventually released will focus on Planned Parenthood's non-judgmental discussions with the various women who posed aspossible patients. So, we would like to address that subject directly.
Planned Parenthood insists on the highest professional standards, which among other things means we offer nonjudgmental, confidential care in accordance with relevant laws. That doesn’t mean we always agree with the decisions made by people who seek our help, but it does mean that we realize that we can’t know all of the circumstances faced by any patient and that requiring women to justify the care they seek is a dangerous healthcare model for an organization. Four decades ago women in the United States were forced to justify their decision to seek abortion to a panel of doctors, and thankfully we’ve come a long way since then. We provide information that women seek, but ultimately the decision to seek legal abortion is a private one.
Planned Parenthood has extensive guidelines and training requirements for all staff who may encounter difficult or unusual questions, such as those posed by the hoax patients. If a health center learns of an instance where a staff member has not fully followed policies or procedures, swift action is taken to remedy the situation. Our rigorous and ongoing training and quality assurance help identify potential issues, and all health centers respond to any training or personnel needs with professionalism and respect. Planned Parenthood cares about staff, and conducts retraining or other personnel action responsibly.
People rely on Planned Parenthood for accessible and affordable quality care; that’s why one in five women have turned to us at some time in their lives for professional, nonjudgmental, and confidential care, and we value the trust they put in us.