An undercover investigation reveals that abortion clinic workers know what statutory rape is and the laws requiring them to report it. Yet most of the time, they say nothing.
Life was looking pretty good to JoAnne Bennett in 1999.
Her job at a Pennsylvania law firm was going well. She had two daughters, ten and thirteen, she was very proud of. And best of all, she was engaged to a man she was sure would make a great stepdad.
That September, though, Bennett got the news that would bring her tranquil world crashing down: Her fiancé had been sexually abusing her older daughter for more than a year.
It didn't seem like things could get any worse — but a few months later, they did. Her daughter told her that as a result of the abuse, she had gotten pregnant twice within five months. Both times, her mother's fiancé had taken her to an abortion clinic in Maryland, where they checked in with their real names, ages, and addresses. Despite their two last names and an obvious twenty-year age gap, the man didn't claim to be her stepfather or any other relative — he merely reminded the girl to stick to the story he'd coached her on all week, answered all the questions for her during the counseling session, and paid for the abortion in cash.
Five months later, when he took the thirteen-year-old back for the second abortion, clinic workers recognized the pair and told them they didn't have to fill out all those forms again. But the staff didn't call the police or the state Department of Social Services to report a suspected sexual abuse case, as the law requires them to do.
In late June, Bennett filed a civil lawsuit. It wasn't against her former fiancé, though — he already was serving a seventeen — to thirty-five-year sentence in a Pennsylvania state penitentiary.
This lawsuit was filed in Maryland, against the National Abortion Federation, for helping cover up the crimes of the man who raped her daughter.
A Veil of Silence
JoAnne Bennett isn't alone. The results of a ten-month sting operation conducted by Life Dynamics, Inc. (LDI) — a pro-life organization based in Denton, Texas — show that abortion clinics have their own interests at heart when dealing with pregnant girls under the age of consent.
Though laws defining it vary widely, all fifty states list statutory rape as a prosecutable offense — one health care workers are nearly always required to report. To find out if abortion clinics uphold those laws, Life Dynamics hired a twenty-three-year-old woman to call 800 Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and National Abortion Federation (NAF) facilities around the country, posing as a thirteen-year-old girl seeking an abortion who didn't want her parents to find out she was having sex with a twenty-two-year-old man.
According to Life Dynamics President Mark Crutcher, the results were shocking: 91 percent of the clinic workers said they were required by law to report the statutory rape, but then assured her they wouldn't. Most advised the caller not to mention her boy-friend's age when she checked in for the abortion, so no one would ask her any questions. Several warned she'd already given them too much information and if she came to them, they'd have to report it — but then gave her the number of another clinic and instructed her to either keep quiet or lie about the age difference. A few even said that if she showed up with the right amount of cash, she and her boyfriend could be any age they wanted.
"This is going on all over the country, and Planned Parenthood is providing the protection for these pedophiles," Crutcher told Citizen, published by Focus on the Family. "We're going through this national tragedy right now with the Catholic church, and my view is that anybody who protects pedophiles goes to jail. I don't care who they are — but right now the only people we seem to be interested in are Catholic priests. Planned Parenthood workers seem to be immune."
Ironically, Crutcher said, it was the abortion industry that first noticed the trend of adult men impregnating underage girls in increasing numbers, starting about ten years ago. A study published in 1995 by the Alan Guttmacher Institute — the research arm of Planned Parenthood — documented what abortion clinic workers were seeing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several peer-reviewed medical journals, and Planned Parenthood's internal data have corroborated the evidence over the years. In 1998, former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that "over half of all infants born to women younger than eighteen years are fathered by adult men, with 40 percent of fifteen-year-old girls having infants with partners aged twenty years or older.... Research suggests that the younger the mother, the greater the partner age gap."
But instead of helping to solve that problem by upholding laws requiring health care workers to report sexual abuse, the abortion lobby has chosen to spend its energy finding ways to get around them — and keep teenage girls coming through clinic doors, no matter who their partners were. In some states, they are aided by laws that narrowly define sexual abuse as an act committed by a parent or immediate family member — meaning clinic workers don't always have to report older boyfriends. But for workers in states where that is illegal, there is K. Kaufmann's 1997 publication, The Abortion Resource Handbook, which offers not only detailed advice on how to get around parental-notification and informed-consent laws, but also includes interviews with abortion clinic workers on how they circumvent reporting laws in their states. And in 1999, Planned Parenthood published a tutorial for girls wanting "healthier" sexual relationships with older men called Unequal Partners: Teaching about Power and Consent in Adult-Teen Relationships.
Crutcher pointed out that the tactics outlined in Kaufmann's book are virtually identical to those his pseudo-thirteen-year-old caller encountered on the phone five years later. And that, he believes, is no coincidence.
"Their [legal] exposure in this thing is monumental," he said of the abortion industry. "They can't afford to change. They realize if it becomes public knowledge that they adhere to the state-mandated reporting laws, these girls will quit coming to them. So they can abide by the law and lose one of their big profit centers or protect the profit center and violate the law.
"The question is, will our culture allow them to protect the profit and violate the law?"
A Financial Incentive
Planned Parenthood and the NAF had little to say to the media in the wake of the Life Dynamics report. PPFA President Gloria Feldt, while denying not one detail of Crutcher's charges, told the Associated Press that Life Dynamics is "trying to damage Planned Parenthood and also eliminate reproductive health services in this country. They'll use any tactics they can... . [PPFA workers are trying to] provide callers with what I'd call a comfort level."
Interestingly, Feldt's implication — that LDI gathered its information dishonestly — echoes the complaints of pro-life activists after the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) published a field guide on how to use undercover means to smear pregnancy resource centers (see "Prime Target," January 2002 Citizen, page 22). Is there an ethical difference between what NARAL encouraged activists to do and Life Dynamics' sting operation?
"I can see how from some people's perspective, it wouldn't be any different," said Julie Parton, director of Focus on the Family's Pregnancy Resource Ministry. "One difference, though, is that abortion clinics are making money off their deception, while we in the crisis pregnancy center world are not making any money from trying to reveal the truth. The reason they were sending undercover agents into CPCs is because we were hurting their bottom line. We don't have one, so it's not a financial interest that prompts us."
While there is always a possibility that a pregnancy resource center is as guilty of not reporting statutory rape as Planned Parenthood seems to be, Kurt Entsminger, vice president and general counsel for the pregnancy resource center chain CareNet, doesn't think it's likely.
"One thing that distinguishes our centers from the other side is that we want to emphasize the importance of parental involvement and encourage minors to take the appropriate steps to end the relationship, and, when appropriate, that authorities be notified," Entsminger told Citizen. "From a philosophical standpoint, we come at this issue from opposite directions. Even though pregnancy centers promise confidentiality, they make that promise subsequent to any laws or moral responsibilities that apply."
To date, the ripple effects of Life Dynamics' survey haven't spread too far from the center. A few national media outlets — most notably the Fox News Channel and WorldNetDaily — reported it when the results were released in May. A Connecticut television station, still reeling from the shock of seeing a seventy-five-year-old man arrested after impregnating a ten-year-old Bridgeport girl a month earlier, picked up the study and ran with it — calling the same clinics and finding workers with the same names of the people on the incriminating LDI tapes.
As a result, Jack Bailey, Connecticut's chief state's attorney, met with local Planned Parenthood administrators June 12 to give them a refresher course on what they can and can't tell underage callers. At about the same time, Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg asked his state's Department of Health and Human Services to conduct its own investigation of Planned Parenthood clinics.
But so far, no criminal suits have been filed, and left-leaning news organizations haven't touched the story — a fact that has stuck in the craw of Gregory Hession, a Massachusetts lawyer who specializes in defending families against false allegations of child abuse.
"Where are the feminists? Where is NOW?" Hession asked. "Why have there not been articles in The New York Times and Washington Post about all these girls who are being abused? The priest pedophilia is just a fraction of what Planned Parenthood has enabled."
What Crutcher would ultimately like to see happen is a tidal wave of civil suits like JoAnne Bennett's come crashing down on Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers that circumvent the law for profit. If the Catholic church can pay millions in damages to sexual abuse victims for covering up the crimes of a few priests, Crutcher figures Planned Parenthood — which attracts at least 450,000 teenage girls each year — is exposed to even greater liability.
"We're going to take their failure and use it to compensate the victims," said LDI attorney Ed Zielinski. "They're trying to hide behind this special status they believe they have that puts them above the law. But all the law we need is on the books right now."
As Citizen went to press, Crutcher planned to send information to each of the nation's 16,000 school districts, alerting them that if they allow Planned Parenthood to provide sex-education seminars to students, they could be named as parties in future lawsuits.
With that tsunami still miles out at sea, though, Crutcher and his team are trying to compile their decade's worth of data into a format useful to prosecutors. The covert calls to abortion clinics — made in Texas, which does not require callers to get permission before taping phone conversations — are legal to use as evidence in thirty-one of the fifty states.
But since there is no uniform law regarding the age of consent and mandatory reporting, it will take some grassroots effort to get the ball rolling.
Ed Szymkowiak, national director of STOPP International, an organization aimed at opposing Planned Parenthood, urged parents to get a copy of LDI's report "into the hands of their local law enforcement officials, child protective services officials, political leaders, and school officials. Ask that they prosecute, defund, and remove an organization which is not fulfilling its legal obligation to report child abuse and statutory rape."
But Entsminger points out the process won't be that simple, thanks to vagaries in the reporting laws.
"In terms of legal responsibility, the first part of the equation is: Is Planned Parenthood a mandatory reporter? The answer is probably yes," he explained. "In some states, child abuse is defined broadly enough to include any kind of sexual contact with a minor, so if you're in one of those states and a medical facility doesn't report it, you have a clear-cut case. But in other states, that's much more of a gray area, whether they did something wrong."
Parents interested in finding ways to make use of LDI's study locally can start with research at the community Child Protective Services Department: Find out what the age of consent is in your state, how the law defines reportable "abuse," who is required to report that abuse and to whom. Many states define it as "physical, mental, or sexual abuse" period, but others stratify who potential abusers might be — for example, parents, guardians, or immediate family members. Some states are more inclined to prosecute "older boyfriends" than others.
Once violations have been clearly identified, district attorneys most likely will take an interest in investigating, Hession said.
"Most of them are pretty intent on prosecuting statutory rape," he said. "I really think that justice for its own sake — to honor God and validate His justice — is important as a signal to people that the state is going to, in essence, be an arbiter of God's justice. It was set up to do that. It doesn't do it very well anymore. But for attorneys who want to see their work be part of that bigger work, this is a requirement.
"Not everybody has the privilege or opportunity to bring that about. It's up to those who've been entrusted with a law license to see this done."
TAKE ACTION: For a free copy of the Life Dynamics report, log on to www.ldi.org or the group's new Web site, www.ChildPredators.com; or call 940-380-8800. You may also want to contact STOPP International, another group committed to fighting Planned Parenthood, at P.O. Box 1350, Stafford, VA 22555; or call 540-659-4171.
Citizen, September 2002, published by Focus on the Family.
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is January 19. For helpful resources go to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's Web site — www.erlc.com — or call 800/475-9127.