Dismiss, wait, pretend: Uncovering Planned Parenthood’s real response to sex trafficking

On January 25, 2011, the Associated Press and CBS News revealed that Planned Parenthood claimed it had reported “a potential multistate sex trafficking ring” of minor girls to the FBI. Stuart Schear, PP’s Vice President of Communications, told the news organizations that an FBI probe had been requested by Planned Parenthood. He referenced a letter, written by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to Attorney General Eric Holder, in which she informed the Justice Department of this possible interstate sex trafficking ring.

In the letter, Richards claimed the suspected sex traffickers visited clinics in Virginia, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Arizona, between the dates of January 11 and January 15, 2011. Richards also mentioned in her letter that she believed the “ring” might instead be undercover investigators from Live Action.

Far from being a valid response to suspected sex trafficking, Richards’ letter indicates real problems with Planned Parenthood’s treatment of trafficking victims.

Dismiss: Planned Parenthood Ignores Real Sex Traffickers

Based on the responses to Live Action’s FOIA requests, Planned Parenthood overwhelmingly failed to take quick or local action to report real sex traffickers. And, while Planned Parenthood told the public it would “retrain” its staff, in reality, the training was focused on how to spot undercover investigators, not on how to rescue girls and women out of sex trafficking. Former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino, who worked at Planned Parenthood in 2011 during the Live Action investigation, shares what the “retraining” was really like:

It appears that Planned Parenthood chose to make a public spectacle by announcing a letter to the FBI and claiming new “retraining” instead of actually teaching its staff how to spot and rescue trafficked, minor girls who are in real and immediate danger. For the sake of Planned Parenthood’s public image, these vulnerable girls are dismissed.

Wait: Planned Parenthood Waited to Report Instead of Taking Immediate Action

According to Schear’s statements to the reporter, Richards did not report the incidents until January 17, at the earliest (the Monday of the week Schear claims Richards wrote to Holder.) This was nearly an entire week after PP was first visited by suspected traffickers.

Apparently, it took a number of visits and the appearance of a trafficking ring before PP felt compelled to act. A single instance of actual sex trafficking was not good enough to report, indicating that individual, vulnerable minor girls do not matter to Planned Parenthood.

Additionally, Richards did not write or send the letter to Holder until she decided the potential sex trafficking might be undercover investigators who could expose Planned Parenthood’s real actions. The dragging of feet in this manner does not indicate a responsible organization that takes immediate action to protect women and young girls, but instead, an organization that prefers to cover its own tail.

Pretend: Planned Parenthood’s Marketing is Different from Its Reality

In a Planned Parenthood press statement, Schear claimed PP was behaving “vigilantly” and that it was “working with FBI investigators and local authorities:”

When Planned Parenthood learns of an operation that exploits young women, we vigilantly work with law enforcement authorities to uncover and stop this abhorrent activity. … Planned Parenthood’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients and the health and well-being of women and teens across the country, and we have been in contact with federal and local authorities to identify the persons involved in these visits.

Planned Parenthood — a master of marketing and messaging — knows that claiming to notify the FBI and stating that its president made contact with Attorney General Holder will sound good and careful to the public. Marketing aside, reality demonstrates that Planned Parenthood overwhelmingly failed to report to local police departments. After Live Action sent out multiple FOIA requests in five states and D.C., only one state — Arizona — had responsive records showing Planned Parenthood reported anything to authorities.

A claim of vigilance does not equal actual vigilance, in the same way that claiming to contact local authorities does not equal the actual contacting of those local authorities.


The FBI letter and the FOIA responses make it evident that Planned Parenthood will lie in the faces of the American people. The goal: To look like a responsible organization, while the reality is an apparent cover-up of child sex abuse and human trafficking. Planned Parenthood prefers to sweep such events under the rug of silence or to classify them as hassles that will only be dealt with when they rise to great numbers or when its staff members are exposed.

Planned Parenthood’s method of dealing with sex trafficking can be summed up in three words: Dismiss, wait, pretend.

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