By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
A recent call about a possible pregnancy to the number listed on the HCA website elicited an immediate referral to Planned Parenthood. “They can talk to you about all of your options,” the woman said on the phone. When asked if the county’s two remaining public health clinics do prenatal care, the answer was a simple no and another referral to Planned Parenthood, which offers full prenatal-care services. The only “family planning” services the county’s two clinics provide is “birth control,” she said.
* * *
When Rose returned with her videos at the end of the summer of 2008, Bucher says, he was alarmed by what she’d recorded, and he began looking into whether the local Planned Parenthood received county funding. “I have never before gotten involved in the [abortion] issue,” Bucher says. “It was her video that motivated me to do what I did.”
Rose’s footage—and the way she edited it—created a brief, national sensation. She caught two staffers in Indiana and one in Tennessee on tape suggesting to Rose, whose hair was bleached blond and who was posing as a pregnant 13-year-old with a much-older boyfriend, that she lie about her boyfriend’s age. Planned Parenthood, like any other health provider, is required by law to report any incidents of statutory rape to the police or Child Protective Services, so the women in the video, in essence, broke the law. Although the incidents caught on tape were isolated cases (Planned Parenthood has thousands of employees), they were enough to re-ignite the pro-life movement around its new media-savvy darling. Rose will not say how many clinics she actually visited, but, she says, she plans to release more videos.
“These are isolated incidents, and appropriate disciplinary action has been taken,” says Kight. “How many other clinics did she go to where nothing went wrong? Why won’t she disclose those numbers? We are mandated by state law to report these incidents, and we take this very, very seriously. We always report. We must, by law. If someone at one of our clinics is not complying with the law, then we deal with it immediately. You have to understand that young girls between 13 and 15 years old are less than 1 percent of the patients we see. Four out of five times, they come with their mother or an adult female relative. Remember, they can’t drive. We always pay attention for possible signs of abuse in these situations because they’re so rare.”
Rose sent out press releases, appeared on FOX News, and chatted with Rush Limbaugh and a string of other conservative radio talk-show hosts. Her sound bites, repeated again and again in slight variations, were down pat: Planned Parenthood receives $300 million in federal funding and, according to Rose, the organization is endangering young girls.
Within Planned Parenthood, the videos created enough upheaval to launch internal investigations and bring about firings and resignations. They prompted the Tennessee state legislature to pass laws dedicated to stripping Planned Parenthood of its state funds.
Bucher began bugging Moorlach about the county’s ties to Planned Parenthood after he saw that the organization was listed on HCA’s website. “I had no recollection that anything was going to sex education, or that kind of component, in this whole deal,” says Moorlach of the TSR funds. (Moorlach once said he didn’t believe teens should be given contraception.) “Mark approached me and said, ‘Hey, you guys are funding Planned Parenthood.’ I said, ‘No way. I have never seen their name on any agenda item.’”
After some digging, Moorlach discovered that the organization had, in fact, been receiving a TSR grant for the past eight years. He was beside himself. A straight-talking, amiable supervisor who laughs easily and is known for his razor-sharp analyses of perceived government waste and excessive spending, Moorlach rose to stardom during his 12-year tenure as the county’s treasurer-tax collector and was easily elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1996. Despite his deep involvement in county politics and conservative issues, he seemed unaware of Planned Parenthood’s long history in the county.
“For me, it was one of those shock moments,” he says. “I wanted to know, ‘How did this happen?’” He felt deceived by the HCA, he says, and at a February board meeting, he asked HCA to report back with information on all the community nonprofit clinics in the county receiving funds from the TSR.
The agency says it never had any obligation to disclose subcontractors to the board, only the contractor, which was the Coalition of Community Clinics, an organization that oversees the distribution of state funds to 19 clinics in the county. “Nothing was deliberately obfuscated,” says Bob Gates, deputy director of indigent medical services for HCA. At any time, he says, the board could have asked and been told which clinics were receiving funds. The agency’s county website, as well as the Coalition’s website, openly lists Planned Parenthood as an affiliate nonprofit clinic.
Once the information was submitted, Moorlach was unequivocal: He didn’t believe funding should go to Planned Parenthood because he was morally opposed to abortion. The board agreed with him. “I think abortion is a moral issue,” Supervisor Chris Norby said at the March 10 meeting. “I don’t believe the county should be funding abortion.”