By Nancy Flanders
According to at least three studies, Planned Parenthood is one of the most common clinical settings to which sex traffickers bring their victims. Traffickers take the women and girls they abuse to Planned Parenthood because, according to the survivors, Planned Parenthood does not ask questions.
Research published in 2014 by the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy found that survivors of human trafficking have “had significant contact with clinical treatment facilities, most commonly Planned Parenthood clinics.” Another study from 2017, “Identifying Health Experiences of Domestically Sex-Trafficked Women in the USA: A Qualitative Study in Rikers Island Jail,” found that “[e]mergency departments, Planned Parenthoods, and jails were common care sites.” And “Sex Trafficking Victims at Their Junction with the Healthcare Setting—A Mixed-Methods Inquiry,” published in 2019, found that the “most commonly visited community healthcare clinic is Planned Parenthood….”
Planned Parenthood is a favorite of sex traffickers
In “The Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities,” researchers found that almost a third (29.6%) of human sex trafficking survivors had visited a Planned Parenthood affiliate. Former senior advisor for trafficking in persons for the U.S. Department of State, Laura J. Lederer explained, “Since pimps and traffickers generally exercise nearly complete control of their victims, these points of contact with healthcare represent rare opportunities for victim identification and intervention.”
Researchers behind “Sex Trafficking Victims at Their Junction with the Healthcare Setting—A Mixed-Methods Inquiry,” published in the Journal of Human Trafficking said that the majority of women who participated in the study visited two types of traditional healthcare settings while being trafficked — emergency departments (76.2%) and community clinics (71.4%). “Among those who used community clinics, all but one visited a Planned Parenthood clinic,” states the study (emphasis added). Those surveyed said that Planned Parenthood was the facility of choice because it was “familiar and helpful” and primarily because it offered “free-of-charge services.” In other words, sex traffickers take their victims to Planned Parenthood because it is “free” and “helpful.”
These “rare opportunities” to intervene and save women and girls from their abusers and traffickers appear to be largely ignored by Planned Parenthood as trafficking survivors themselves have alluded to.
No questions asked
Laura, who said she was so “young” she needed “a waiver” to be examined, spoke about her time “on the street” saying, “I went to hospitals, urgent care clinics, women’s health clinics, and private doctors. No one ever asked me anything anytime I ever went to a clinic. … I was on birth control during the 10 years I was on the streets — mostly Depo-Provera shots which I got at Planned Parenthood and other neighborhood clinics. I got the morning-after pill from them…” (emphasis added)
Another survivor explained that she got pregnant six times while being trafficked and had six abortions. She said, “At least one of my abortions was from Planned Parenthood because they didn’t ask any questions. … I had so much scar tissue from these abortions because there was no follow-up and in a couple of cases I had bad infections, so bad that I eventually lost my fallopian tubes [and had to have a hysterectomy].” (emphasis added)
Trafficker’s abuse continued while at Planned Parenthood
Ann also shared that her trafficker went with her to Planned Parenthood to have her tested for STIs or to get birth control and while there, he would befriend the staff. And she wasn’t the only one of his victims that he brought to Planned Parenthood. He was a repeat customer. She explained:
I went to Planned Parenthood. I went there a lot for birth control [to the same clinic]. He [trafficker] took all his girls there. They knew him by Benny, but they didn’t know who he was. He just kept saying that they were sisters or friends. He wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is my girlfriend. This is my girlfriend. This is my girlfriend.’ He would just say, ‘This is my sister. This is my friend. This is my cousin.’ That was how he would be able to get a lot of different people in and not get questioned about it.
…Whenever any of us went, he went with us. [The trafficker would refuse to go outside even if asked by healthcare providers] He was like, ‘Naw, I’m good. I want to make sure that you treat her right’ kind of thing. They didn’t make him. They would just say, ‘Are you okay with him being here?’ The answer is always, ‘Yeah.’
Jazzy’s trafficker would go with her to Planned Parenthood as well — while she was trafficked for over six years.
“I’m just filling out the paperwork and I’m waiting until I get called. And he’s going to go in with me [trafficker],” she said. “And I told him, ‘I don’t think they are going to let you go in there’, you know? And he was like, ‘Well, OK. We are going to figure that out. I’m not going to leave you out of my sight.’ Like, you know, ‘what do [traffickers] think you are going to do? Go in there with the doctor and never come out?’ you know. And I was really nervous. I was like, ‘Oh wow’… you know what I mean? No type of privacy or anything. He’s on edge all the time, you know?”
Missed opportunities to save women and girls
Beverly, who was trafficked for eight years, said, “I visited Planned Parenthood very often” (emphasis added), explaining that she went to a Planned Parenthood “every 4-5 months” for STI and STD screening. She said Planned Parenthood was “always pretty expedient about the process” of giving her pregnancy tests and a Depo-Provera birth control shot, which has been shown to increase a woman’s risk of contracting HIV by up to 40%.
Ann said she often went to Planned Parenthood as well, where she “[g]ot birth control. So, I wouldn’t get pregnant. I had my abortions…” She added, “They changed my birth control because one wasn’t working because of my blood or whatever. So, I couldn’t take the pill. I had to take a different kind of pill. Then, I got the shot. So, the stuff that they said would be done, was done. They made sure that they kept checking me for STDs.” (emphasis added)
Despite the frequency of their visits, the survivors didn’t receive actual help from Planned Parenthood to escape their traffickers.
Planned Parenthood is required to report even suspected child abuse. According to its website, it may give information to law enforcement “[i]f you are the victim of a crime and we are unable to obtain your consent; … In emergency circumstances to report a crime; the location of the crime or victims; or the identity, description, or location of the person who committed the crime.”
It also states, “We may disclose health information about you for public health activities. These activities generally include the following: … To report child abuse or neglect; … To notify the appropriate government authority if we believe a patient has been the victim of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. We will only make this disclosure if you agree or when required or authorized by law.”
Planned Parenthood also states, “All medical providers are mandated reporters. If there is an issue [of] abuse or neglect, the law mandates that medical professions notify the Department of Children and Family Services. Moreover, health care providers have ethical and legal obligations when it comes to informed consent and ensuring that a patient is making decisions free from coercion.” (emphasis added)
Yet, survivors are making it clear that Planned Parenthood consistently failed to help them. Former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Treviño has also spoken out about how the organization turns a blind eye to sex trafficking.
Treviño told Live Action president and founder Lila Rose in 2016 that Planned Parenthood lied when it claimed that it was actively retraining staff to identify sex traffickers and sex trafficking victims. The organization instead, she claimed, trained staff on how to not get caught on recordings by undercover investigators.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and reposted with permission.