NEW YORK – Health care provider Planned Parenthood will retrain employees who deal with patients in how to report potential risks to minors, following the release of secretly recorded videotapes by an anti-abortion group that alleges they show clinic staff counseling a man posing as a pimp for underage prostitutes.
Planned Parenthood, which has more than 800 health clinics and 11,000 employees, announced the retraining effort Monday. It also said it was changing its disciplinary policy to termination in all proved cases in which there has been a failure to report. The policy previously included punishments such as leave without pay and retraining.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., which has national offices in New York and Washington, D.C., says it delivers vital reproductive health care and sex education to millions of people. It said Monday the goal of retraining was to show a "firm commitment" to reporting any potential harm to minors.
Federation spokesman Stuart Schear emphasized that the training was not new but was meant as a refresher. He said training will follow state laws where affiliates have clinics.
"We want to be crystal clear for those millions of people who come to us and trust us that we will never put a minor at risk," he said.
The training must be completed by April 1. The new disciplinary policy will go into effect afterward.
Anti-abortion group Live Action last week released videotapes it said showed footage of staff at Planned Parenthood clinics in New Jersey and Virginia talking about services with a man who claimed to be a sex trafficker of minors.
The New Jersey attorney general's office said it was looking into the allegations. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he found a clip from a video of a Richmond clinic to be "very disturbing."
Live Action, based in San Jose, Calif., claims the videos are proof that Planned Parenthood employees break laws to abet sexual trafficking and the exploitation of underage prostitutes.
Live Action's president, Lila Rose, did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment about Planned Parenthood's decision to retrain staff. She previously called on Congress to cut off federal family planning grants to the organization.
Planned Parenthood has defended the actions of its employees and has said the encounters with the fake pimp were reported to managers, who in turn discussed the cases with law enforcement.
The organization also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking an investigation of a man who has visited clinics purportedly seeking services for underage prostitutes. The letter said the visits could be aimed at casting the organization "in a negative light."