Late night channel surfing can lead one into all sorts of unfamiliar territory. It has led me to writing this.
Last night I landed on a right-wing Catholic program, Life on the Rock, on a right-wing Catholic cable channel, EWTN. The program is geared toward young people, high school through college age. The guest on the show was Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, a student-run anti-abortion organization. Ms. Rose started her anti-abortion work when she was 15 years old. She’s now a student at UCLA and is 20 years old.
Having the capacity to look much younger, Rose has visited a number of Planned Parenthood locations around the country and presented herself as an underage pregnant teen for the purpose of securing undercover video. She has turned up several examples of Planned Parenthood nurses and counselors not adhering to their legal responsibilities when it comes to underage girls who were impregnated by much older men–an unquestionably abusive relationship whether or not a girl feels she’s been abused.
My heart sank watching her undercover video. Having been a trauma therapist for 20 years working with hundreds of victims of childhood sexual abuse, there’s no way to condone or justify the actions of PP personnel who bend, break, or skate around mandatory reporting laws.
Mandatory reporting laws require people in certain capacities, such as teachers, clergy, and medical people (exact requirements vary by state) to report any child sexual abuse of which they become aware to the state’s child protective services (CPS) system. Rose’s undercover videos clearly show PP personnel engaged in sidestepping those laws. In one case after hearing the “boyfriend” is 31, a PP worker says “I didn’t hear the age. I don’t want to know the age.” In more than one case, PP workers coach the purported underage teen on how and to whom to lie, or not mention at all, the fact that the “boyfriend” is a lot older.
I agree with Rose and the hosts of the program that Planned Parenthood’s failure to be clear with the girl and make known—and then follow through on—their obligation to report to CPS was itself abusive toward the girl, allowing a sexual predator to continue his preying upon her. Beyond that is the fact that PP had a chance to stop a sexual predator who almost certainly has had multiple victims and will have many more besides this girl in the future. To not act on that is to me unconscionable.
However, I do not agree with Rose and her program hosts when they leap from the wrong PP did in those cases to their assertions that, “They don’t care about women at all,” and “they do it for the money.”
No one working in a Planned Parenthood clinic is getting rich off it.
I belong to a category that the anti-choice group tries not to recognize: I am not for abortion, but I am for choice. Reasons why I’m not for abortion include no fewer than five of the most influential people in my life who could have been or nearly were aborted. Two were born of mothers who were told they weren’t pregnant and needed a D&C, but who refused the procedure because they felt sure they were pregnant. Two others were born of mothers who tried to self-abort early in their gestation. And one would likely have been aborted on the basis of the number, and presumed severity, of congenital defects, had they been detected when she was in utero.
I am not for abortion.
I am for choice. I don’t think a twelve year old girl, raped by her father who is also her grandfather, should be forced to bear a child who will be her daughter, her sister, and her aunt. I don’t think anyone has the right, or should have the right, to force a woman who was raped to bear a child resulting from that rape. I don’t think anyone has the right, or should have the right, to force a woman who can barely keep the bodies and souls of her already breathing children together to add one more. I don’t think anyone has the right, or should have the right, to force a woman who has never had any support for her own development as a respected human being to give birth to another, for whom she has no way to imagine anything better.
Nor should any girls or women be forced to terminate any such pregnancies against their will.
At rock bottom, I don’t think anyone has the right, or should have the right, to force any woman, regardless of her reasons, to either bear, or forgo bearing (as in China), children. Force is what rape and tyranny have in common. That is the dimension of trying to outlaw abortion, that it would force women and girls to complete pregnancies against their will, that the anti-choice folks steer sharply away from.
If, as Rose and those who hosted Life on the Rock maintain, the actions of the videotaped Planned Parenthood workers were evil, then so too is their demonizing of those workers as not caring at all about women and doing abortions only for the money. They know nothing about about the motivation of those workers, haven’t tried to find out, and leap to judgment conveniently forgetting about Matthew 7:1.
Example: at about 22:30 into the show one of the show’s hosts mentions the segment in the undercover video in which the PP worker seemed to be struggling within herself to decide what to do, and he asks Rose, “What do you think she’s doing right there?” Her response:
She’s consciously knowing and Planned Parenthood consciously knows the law. They know that this little girl’s in danger, she knew that, you saw that, this is rape, she’s saying. This is statutory rape, and yet she consciously makes the decision, for the sake of abortion [her verbal emphasis], getting that little girl’s baby aborted, she consciously makes the decision to violate the law…
That is an incredible, judgmental, and untenable stretch to assert that accomplishing an abortion was the primary factor in the PP worker’s decision. During the course of the show, Rose appealed several times to logic. She should try using a little here. If the PP worker had only accomplishing an abortion as her goal, why would she have hesitated at all? Why would she have appeared to have struggled with herself before taking the course she took? There would have been no logical reason for her doing so. There would have been no hesitation on her part, no struggle.
As a practicing psychologist I was a mandatory reporter. I reported every case of child abuse and suspected child abuse that I encountered, and would have done so even had I not been required to do so by law. That said, I also know (as anyone who’s read my posts about CPS is aware) that CPS agencies can sometimes make things far worse for a child.
FAR WORSE THAN SENDING HER BACK TO A PEDOPHILE WHO WILL CONTINUE TO RAPE HER?!?!” some people will scream at this point.
Sometimes—not always, likely not most of the time, and perhaps not even a lot of the time—but sometimes CPS will place that child in a foster home where she is raped nightly, and when she complains to her social worker (i.e. quite possibly someone who hasn’t had a minute of formal social work training but has the job title of “social worker”), the CPS worker doesn’t believe her and says “she’s just trying to get attention.” And the child is forced by the state to stay in a home where she is abused more often and with greater severity and with less chance of receiving help than before CPS entered the picture. So yes, sometimes reporting a case to CPS can result in making an abusive situation worse for a child. CPS in some states—and in some locales within a state—is a lot worse than CPS in other places, and I will not presume to know what experiences with CPS any of those workers may have had that might have influenced them to try to sidestep mandatory reporting.
Yet still they should report, and then work to improve CPS.
But for anyone to assert that any of the videoed PP workers acted without caring about the girl-woman in front of them, and were motivated by the money—that is absurd beyond all reason. It is also calumny.
I get why President Obama is trying to get pro-choice and anti-abortion people to talk and listen to each other. Between them they could pretty well eradicate the need (or, if you will, the felt need) for abortion in this country. There’s a terrific lot of room available for all sides to learn from each other and stop demonizing each other. I would wish for Planned Parenthood workers to have the same or similar training about child sexual abuse that CPS workers should have. And I would wish for the Lila Roses of the world to sit down with the Planned Parenthood workers of the world and not leave the room until they started actually hearing each other.
I would also wish for peace between India and Pakistan.
We can look to Northern Ireland.