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'More trouble than it's worth'

Child Sexual Abuse | Districts that allow Planned Parenthood in their schools may get swept up in that organization's legal troubles stemming from its failure to report abuse

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

Undercover tapes of conversations with Planned Parenthood workers have energized pro-life activists who see the tapes as solid proof that the nation's most dominant player in the abortion industry should be denied access to minor schoolchildren. WORLD reported the story on the cover of the July 27 issue that the abortion group may be aiding and abetting statutory rapists.

The Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life said the evidence shows Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer dollars not only to kill unborn babies, but also to cover up the sexual abuse of minor children: "We now have a new way to stop this atrocity."

The new way: The Child Protection Project, a joint legal and educational effort of Priests for Life and Life Dynamics, the pro-life investigative group that compiled the evidence against Planned Parenthood. The initiative seeks to warn school districts of their potential legal liability should they refer minor children to Planned Parenthood, when a wealth of taped evidence shows that the group fails to protect children from sexual abuse.

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Life Dynamics gathered that evidence between February and April 2002 via undercover telephone calls to all 875 Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation. The group's caller, a 23-year-old woman with a little-girl voice, connected with 614 clinics. She told clinic workers that she was only 13, and possibly pregnant by a 22-year-old man. That age difference between sexual partners constitutes statutory rape, and laws in every state require medical workers to report such abuse to law-enforcement or child-welfare agencies. But 516, or about 8 in 10 Planned Parenthood workers, agreed on tape to conceal the abuse.

Officials in Connecticut, Nebraska, and Alaska are already reviewing tapes of calls to clinics in their states. Now Life Dynamics attorney Edmund Zielinski, in conjunction with the Child Protection Project, has notified every school district in the country of the tapes via certified letter.

"Our review of applicable state laws indicates that by allowing family planning service providers into the school district to give presentations, conduct sex education classes, leave materials, or accept referrals from district agents, servants, employees, or contractors, liability may be attenuated to the district for the conduct of the provider," the letter says. "If a girl is injured, killed, or sexually assaulted while under the care of a family planning service provider to which she was referred by the school, she, her parents, or both may charge the district with negligently referring the girl to that provider."

Mr. Zielinski said that some school districts have already contacted Life Dynamics to discuss their potential liability. Meanwhile, Priests for Life is calling on parents and taxpayers to attend local school-board meetings and ask how districts are protecting minor girls. "We are not asking people to make a moral or religious argument against Planned Parenthood or its activities," Rev. Pavone said. "We are simply requesting that they ask the school board how it is protecting itself against the liability that can result from negligent referral.... Our goal is to persuade them that associating with Planned Parenthood is more trouble than it is worth."

Planned Parenthood of Alaska may soon find its trouble doubled. That affiliate filed suit in superior court against the state of Alaska, claiming that a 1997 law requiring minors get parental consent for abortions was unconstitutional. The court agreed, but the state Supreme Court sent back the case for further evidentiary hearings. Attorney Kevin Clarkson is representing the state of Alaska in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit. He obtained Life Dynamics' tapes of Alaska clinics to use in defense of the state's parental consent law. Two Alaska clinics, both parties to the lawsuit, can be heard on tape agreeing to conceal or ignore statutory rape. For example, a nurse practitioner at the Soldotna, Alaska, clinic counseled an apparent 13-year-old to lie to a doctor about her 22-year-old boyfriendÕs age.

Meanwhile, Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher said he believes Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics across the country "have a real problem. If they start reporting now, authorities may see that as an admission that they knew they were always supposed to report," he said. "If they don't start reporting, they'll be continuing in their illegal activity."

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