The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published a proposed rule change to the federal Title X family planning program in the Federal Register, which reiterates the requirement that recipients and subrecipients of those tax dollars must, by law, report sexual abuse, including child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. The move comes on the heels of an investigative report and docuseries published by Live Action, which reveals a systemic decades-long sexual abuse cover-up by Planned Parenthood, one of the largest recipients to Title X funds.
As Live Action News has previously documented, Title X requires recipients of the government dollars to comply with all federal and state laws involving the reporting of sexual abuse. In 2015 alone, 474 of the organization’s facilities received funding from the federal program.
Live Action’s alarming investigative report opens with this statement from a sexual abuse victim taken to Planned Parenthood for an abortion to cover the predator’s crime:
She’s out there. Somewhere. A girl just like me. Somewhere there’s a young innocent girl – barely a teenager. And right now, she’s suffering from the horrors of sexual abuse at the hands of an adult as I did. Somewhere ‘that girl’ is getting raped. Like I was. Impregnated. Like I was. And she may be taken to a Planned Parenthood abortion center. Like I was. ‘That girl’ may actually be telling Planned Parenthood that she’s being abused. Probably by her boyfriend. In my case, I was abused by my own father. …For six years, Planned Parenthood did everything possible to try to defeat my [legal] claims and drown out my message that, when Planned Parenthood knows or suspects that a young girl is being sexually abused, it must meet its duties under the law and immediately report that abuse to the proper authorities. …We can all get behind cases like mine. Because they’re out there. I know they’re out there. You know they’re out there. Planned Parenthood knows they’re out there.
Live Action’s report, “Aiding Abusers, Planned Parenthood’s cover-up of child sexual abuse,” also includes a few horrific cases documenting Planned Parenthood’s complicity in covering child sexual abuse:
• Denise Fairbanks had been sexually abused by her father since she was 13. When she became pregnant at age 16, he forced her to have an abortion at Planned Parenthood. Although she told the staff that he was raping her, they refused to report the incident. Instead, they sent her home with him, where he continued to abuse her for another year-and-a-half.
• George Savanah had repeatedly raped his daughter and impregnated her when she was 14, 16, and 17 years old, each time taking her to Planned Parenthood and forcing her to get an abortion. Planned Parenthood neglected to report any of the three suspicious incidents to authorities.
• Timothy David Smith had sexually abused his stepdaughter for seven years and took her to Planned Parenthood when she became pregnant at age 13. Planned Parenthood committed an abortion without notifying her parents and without reporting the suspected abuse to authorities as required by Colorado law.
• Planned Parenthood committed an abortion on a 12-year-old girl at the request of her 23-year-old foster brother, who was also her abuser. Shawn Michael Stevens took her home afterwards and continued to rape her. Planned Parenthood not only neglected to notify authorities, but also failed to notify the victim’s foster parents about the abortion.
Though Live Action has exclusively documented many of Planned Parenthood’s failures and cover-ups, Live Action’s investigative report includes information gleaned from other groups who have participated in legal actions or contributions to the public record, including “reams of documents from lawsuits, court filings, and regulatory agency reports.” Those groups include Alliance Defending Freedom, Life Legal Defense Foundation, Life Dynamics, Americans United for Life, and others.
The proposed Title X rule change indicates that Planned Parenthood and other recipients of Title X funds cannot hide behind “confidentiality” to skirt state and federal laws. It states in part:
As discussed above, Title X grantees and subrecipients are required to comply with all State and local laws requiring notification or reporting of child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, incest, and the like. Section 59.11 currently provides that personal information may not be disclosed absent consent by the individual, except to provide treatment, or as required by law, “with appropriate safeguards for confidentiality.” To ensure that Title X grantees and subrecipients comply with applicable reporting requirements, the proposed rule would clarify that concerns about confidentiality of information may not be used as a rationale for noncompliance with such reporting laws.
Under Section 59.17: Compliance With Reporting Requirements, the proposal adds:
New provision § 59.17 would address explicitly the requirement for Title X projects to comply with all State and local laws regarding the notification or reporting of crimes involving sexual exploitation, child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, incest, intimate partner violence, and human trafficking. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 included the following provision: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no provider of services under Title X of the Public Health Service Act shall be exempt from any State law requiring notification or the reporting of child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, or incest.” …This provision is consistent with language that has been included in appropriations acts for HHS since fiscal year 1999...
The rule also includes, “those State or local laws respecting intimate partner violence and human trafficking because such criminal activities would be encompassed within the categories of crime enumerated in the Appropriations Act (“child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, or incest”)… Title X grantees and subrecipients have an affirmative obligation to comply with notification or reporting requirements; merely being aware of such requirements is insufficient to comply with the law.”
One might assume that reporting abuse, specifically child sexual abuse, is not an unreasonable requirement for agencies receiving tax dollars. But in a time of intolerance toward the enabling of sexual abuse brought on in part by the MeToo and TimesUp movements, Planned Parenthood continues to receive these taxpayer funds, despite mounting evidence that they protect abusers by failing to report abuse, often in violation of the law.
Planned Parenthood has little interest in identifying the age of partners of minor children who seek their services. And in a 2008 Live Action investigation, when directly told that an adult is having sex with an underaged minor, Planned Parenthood employees have been shown coach potential sexual abuse victims to lie about the age of their abusers:
In addition, undercover footage captured by the Center for Medical Progress reveals that other abortion providers find mandatory reporting laws unreasonable. In footage now removed from YouTube, a National Abortion Federation abortion provider bemoaned the law as forcing abortion businesses to be a “state actor.” A transcript of the comments were captured by the blog Clinic Quotes, as follows:
[…]these regulations that we all are so familiar in working with fighting with now, challenge the moral agency of physicians. Because they turn physicians into agents of the state. We’re familiar with this with very vulnerable populations, such as making physicians mandatory reporters for child abuse, but it puts them in that same role as a state actor, saying what the state wants them to say or doing what the state wants them to do. It’s a conscription of physicians to perform state actions. In my opinion, if the state wants these things, they should print state flyers and appoint state employees to do these things, rather than force the physicians to do it on the state’s behalf.
Under HHS’ proposed rules, deliberate skirting of mandatory reporting laws would no longer be acceptable. The rule states:
Some practitioners have proposed that providers avoid soliciting or determining the age of the adolescent or the age of their sexual partner as a means of assuring the adolescent of confidential services and, thus, avoiding the potential responsibility of reporting. But Title X exempts neither Title X clinics nor Title X healthcare providers from their responsibility to comply with State and local reporting laws. Sexual exploitation, abuse, or assault (including statutory rape) are crimes that affect individuals, families, and communities. Title X projects should lead the Nation in protecting those who are vulnerable to sexual abuse, rape, and assault; in developing protocols to identify clients who may be at risk for sexual abuse; in counseling teens on, and in producing programs and materials that assist teens in, resisting sexual exploitation, abuse, and coercion; and in assuring appropriate support and management of teens (and women) who have been exploited, abused or coerced into unequal sexual partnerships.
According to former staffers, Planned Parenthood has looked the other way for years when abuse victims entered their doors. Live Action’s investigative report quotes some of these whistleblowers, including Monica Cline, former health educator who worked with Planned Parenthood in Texas and New Mexico:
“[Planned Parenthood workers] adopted George Bush’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ [policy]… If we don’t ask how old her partner is, we don’t have to tell. And so Planned Parenthood actually allows victims of human trafficking to continue to be victims of human trafficking. And they’re okay with that. I went back to my office and I told my supervisor, listen, I’m trying to teach them about key concepts on Title X; they’re admitting that they’re not going to report cases of statutory rape.”
Statements like this are a reason HHS has added in the proposed rule:
Through the proposed rule, the Department would require, as a condition of receiving Title X funding, that a project provide assurance that it has a plan in place to comply with State and local laws requiring notification or reporting and maintains appropriate documentation of compliance with these reporting requirements… It would require that Title X grantees and subrecipients have in place a plan that demonstrates that the grantee and any subrecipients are aware of what specific reporting requirements apply to them in their State (or jurisdiction), and provide adequate training for all personnel with respect to these requirements and how such reports are to be made.
In addition, Title X projects would be required to conduct a preliminary screening of any teen who presents with an STD, pregnancy, or suspicion of abuse in order to rule out victimization of a minor. Such screening would be required with respect to any individual who is under the age of consent in the jurisdiction in which the individual receives Title X services. If positively diagnosed, projects are permitted to also treat STDs.
“Even in the rare situation where Planned Parenthood may attempt to argue that it has no legal obligation to report a specific instance of suspected sexual abuse, most people would agree that adults in a position of authority have a moral obligation to do so, especially when the abuse involves minors,” Live Action’s report states, noting, “Despite the evidence that this reporting problem seems to be part of Planned Parenthood’s culture and a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy regarding underage pregnancies seems to be prevalent throughout the organization, Planned Parenthood affiliates continue to receive Title X funding and children continue to remain trapped in abusive situations.”
Because of this, the HHS proposed rule § 59.17 would “require grantees and subrecipients to maintain records that would identify, among other things, the age of any minor clients served, the age of their sexual partner(s) where required by law, and what reports or notifications were made to appropriate State agencies. The Department would use this documentation to ensure appropriate compliance with State and local reporting requirements.”