A pro-life group in Texas has enlisted a woman to pose as a pregnant teen in a campaign designed to catch abortion clinics that might break the law.
Life Dynamics said one of its activists has called more than 800 abortion clinics nationwide in recent months, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl impregnated by her 22-year-old boyfriend. What she learned is that more than 90 percent of the clinic employees handling the calls said they would conceal the information provided by the caller, according to Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher.
Such an action would be a violation of the law in states that require the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor. A 22-year-old having sex with a 13-year-old is considered statutory rape in all 50 states.
Most of the clinics receiving the telephone calls are affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Crutcher, who has released tape recordings of the calls, said some clinic employees told the caller how to avoid detection and circumvent parental notification laws.
In several cases, according to Crutcher, the caller was encouraged to conceal her age or her boyfriend's age or give false names to lessen the chance that the boyfriend could be charged with statutory rape.
Planned Parenthood officials sharply criticized the Life Dynamics campaign.
"Their attacks are trying to damage Planned Parenthood, and also eliminate reproductive health services in this country," said president Gloria Feldt. "They'll use any tactics they can."
Feldt said Planned Parenthood expects its employees to comply with state laws, but also encourages them to "provide callers with what I'd call a comfort level."
"Here's someone who's calling me who's worried, scared," said Feldt, putting herself in the role of a clinic staffer. "How can I help her feel comfortable, get her to the professionals who can help?"
Life Dynamics also targeted clinics operated by the National Abortion Federation.
"As far as we're aware, our clinics are in full compliance with state laws," said its spokeswoman, Stephanie Mueller.
Mueller said laws on reporting statutory rape vary from state to state, often affording some discretion to health care professionals.
"In most instances, the law recognizes that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work on such a sensitive issue," she said.
Clinic operators "have made a conscious decision to conceal the sexual exploitation of children and protect the men who commit these crimes," Crutcher said. He challenged law enforcement authorities to investigate.
"Their response depends on how seriously they take sexual abuse of children," he said. "If they don't follow up, there's only one conclusion to reach."
Crutcher said he hopes the Life Dynamics campaign will prompt a cutoff of state funding of abortion clinics and unleash a barrage of lawsuits by parents.
The poseur routine is not the only campaign by Life Dynamics aimed at drawing attention to the hazards of abortion, not only through the medical procedure, but by the irresponsible and dangerous behavior of abortion providers.
Life Dynamics also runs Clinic Worker, a campaign that encourages abortion clinic employees to become spies or whistleblowers, reporting possible legal or ethical violations.
Anti-abortion organizations have also expanded their use of the Internet. In addition to identifying doctors who perform abortions, several sites carry photographs of clinic employees and of women entering clinics to get abortions.
"In this way, mothers who go to kill their babies will be exposed to the world," anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley wrote on an Internet site seeking volunteers to take photographs outside clinics.
Horsley contends, and some legal experts agree, such use of photographs is protected by the First Amendment.
That argument is being tested in court in Illinois, where a woman is suing three activists who allegedly obtained her medical records detailing complications from an abortion. The woman, whose name is being withheld, claims the three violated her privacy after the records and her photo appeared on an anti-abortion Web site last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.