Common sense might call into question why an adult male is accompanying a 13-year-old girl who doesn’t share his last name to her appointment to have an abortion. But the plaintiff in a pending Colorado court case alleges that multiple employees at Denver’s Planned Parenthood of the Rockies failed to question and report this and other clear indicators of sexual abuse.
Thirteen-year old R.Z., as she is listed in the case against Planned Parenthood, suffered under her stepfather’s sexual abuse for seven years before he finally impregnated her in 2012. After he discovered her pregnancy, the complaint alleges, he forced her to schedule an abortion at Planned Parenthood, accompanied her to the clinic, filled out most of the paperwork for her, and claimed to be her father.
The employees who interacted with R.Z. and her stepfather at the facility heard R.Z. address her stepfather as “Tim,” not “Dad,” according to an amended complaint and jury demand filed by R.Z. These clinic employees had access to information showing that she and her stepfather go by different last name and that they knew that R.Z. was pregnant at only 13 — less than the legal age of consent in Colorado, the complaint says. They also allegedly witnessed her stepfather pressuring her to consent to a form of birth control that she was not comfortable with. According to the court case, the employees had several opportunities to speak with R.Z. in private to ask her about her relationship with her stepfather and any potential abuse.
Despite all of this, the complaint alleges, none of the clinic’s employees concerned themselves with ensuring R.Z.’s overall well-being. Instead, R.Z. claims, they concerned themselves only with ensuring that she received a no-questions-asked abortion procedure. They then put R.Z. on birth control, allowing her stepfather to continue his abuse for several more months, according to the complaint.
R.Z.’s stepfather pleaded guilty in late 2012 to two felony charges related to sexually abusing her. But thus far, the Planned Parenthood employees who allegedly aided him in covering up his sexual abuse have not been held accountable for failing to report indicators of the assaults.
Neither Planned Parenthood nor Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains responded to National Review Online’s request for comments on this case.
According to Planned Parenthood’s “Who We Are” page on its website, its clinics promote “a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being.” But willful ignorance has seemingly replaced common sense as the go-to approach for their employees. Medical personnel, including the employees who interacted with R.Z. and her stepfather, have a duty under Colorado law to report all cases in which they have “reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect.” Instead of following through on this duty, the employees at Planned Parenthood turned their heads in the other direction and ignored several indicators of sexual abuse, the complaint alleges.
Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action, tells NRO in an interview that her organization has “been involved in publicizing other cases like R.Z.’s because it is so important for people to know how widespread a problem this is.”
“For every case we hear about, there are countless others that we aren’t hearing about,” she says.
Rose says she believes that the employees who dealt with R.Z. may not have been merely ignorant but that they may have knowingly participated in “a direct cover-up.” She explains: “Part of your job as a health professional, especially as an abortionist, is to deal with patients who have been sexually abused. When you’re working with a lot of minors — as Planned Parenthood prides itself on doing — you need to be 100 percent on the ball to detect issues like rape and sexual abuse. That’s part of your job.”
Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, a leading pro-life advocacy group, tells NRO in an interview that she was “not at all surprised to hear about the Denver court case.” According to Sullenger, “Cases like this are all too common in the abortion industry today.” She explains that one civil-court case like R.Z.’s will not be enough to solve the “larger problem” of Planned Parenthood’s enacting a mantra of “free sex, no matter what the consequences.”
This isn’t the first time that a Planned Parenthood clinic has reportedly shown a willingness to aid or abet sex criminals. In 2011, Live Action released undercover footage showing employees at seven Planned Parenthood locations admitting their willingness to assist a sex trafficker maintain his operation while they promised to keep the criminal’s activities under wraps.
And just last month, Live Action released a series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood employees offering disturbing sex advice to minors. In one of the videos, an employee at a Denver-area clinic encourages a 15-year-old girl to read 50 Shades of Grey, do Internet research on bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism, and go to a sex shop with her boyfriend to buy “different outfits . . . whips, ties, everything.” The employee tells the minor to watch pornography online and even offers her advice on how to hide it from her parents by using her smartphone instead of the family computer.
This is in addition to a series of undercover videos released in 2007 that show numerous Planned Parenthood locations spurning mandatory reporting laws in statutory-rape cases. Common sense and genuine care for women’s well-being are obviously lacking at more than one Planned Parenthood location.
In Colorado, Planned Parenthood is dealing right now with a court case that bears some similarities to R.Z.’s. Ayanna Byer is suing Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains for medical malpractice and health-standards violations. Byer says that she changed her mind about having an abortion but that practitioners at a Colorado Springs clinic continued with the abortion nonetheless. The rushed procedure was not completed properly, and Byer was forced to go to the emergency room later that week for an emergency surgery to remove the rest of her unborn baby and to deal with an infection. In an official statement, the emergency-room doctor who dealt with Byer’s case stated that the physicians at Planned Parenthood had essentially “abandoned” her. He continued, “I know of no physician or hospital that would allow the removal of a specimen of this nature.”
Young women like R.Z. and Byer should be able to count on protection from the medical practitioners in their communities. These women need more than quick abortions and easy access to birth control. In R.Z.’s case, those services only aided her stepfather in continuing his sexual abuse.
R.Z.’s horrific experience is just one example of how Planned Parenthood’s poor practices and corrupt activities put women and children at risk. Instead of blindly throwing more government funding their way, legislators should be holding them accountable for flouting federal, state, and local regulations.
— Caroline Craddock is an Agostinelli Fellow and research intern at National Review.