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Latest conservative attack on Planned Parenthood falls flat

December 10, 2012|By Patt Morrison
  • Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, hugs President Obama at campaign event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in October.
Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, hugs President… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)

The diagnosis for what ails the conservative group Concerned Women for America:

Social anemia. Irony-poor blood.

The group is devoted, as its website says, to bringing “biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” Now it and some other conservative outlets have evidently hoisted themselves on their own petard, so eager to complain that Planned Parenthood is encouraging domestic abuse because of a video that, in fact, does precisely the opposite.

The video was produced by the anti-domestic-abuse group Refuge in Britain; Planned Parenthood linked to it on a Facebook page in August with this note across the top:

“A recent study showed that almost 1 in 10 high school students has been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last 12 months. Watch this video and tell us in the comments what you would do if Lauren [the young woman in the video] was your best friend.”

In much smaller type is the darkly sardonic video title, “How to look your best the morning after.”

The CWA and other antiabortion groups have taken this literally. Its press release quotes its president and CEO, Penny Nance, saying of Planned Parenthood: "Why are we giving $1 million dollars per day to an organization that thinks a practical way to end domestic violence is to coach victims on makeup tips to hide their abuse?”

How many people could watch this video and possibly conclude that it’s serious?

A few who watched after conservative groups linked to it didn’t “get” it, but a woman named Clare posted: “I was ready to be outraged as I'm not a huge fan of a lot that Planned Parenthood does, but if you watch this to the end you will realize it's a PSA to not 'cover up' and to speak out about being beaten. I think it's a good piece.”

The video is a harrowingly effective, dead-serious sendup of the how-to makeup videos that are hugely popular among teenage girls. That makes YouTube the ideal medium to send this message.

In the video, a girl who looks to have been badly beaten matter-of-factly talks about camouflaging the bruises and cuts. In the same tone of voice that girls use in real makeup videos, this young woman deploys maquillage tools while she offers tips about concealing “any splits that are caused by rings or watches,” and extols the uses of a scarf or long hair to cover injuries.

It looks, in short, like a hostage video. And everyone knows that in a hostage video, what the prisoner on camera is saying is the opposite of what he or she really means.

The video ends, menacingly, with the sound of someone in the next room, and the young woman looking frightened and closing her laptop.

It is an immensely effective piece of video; as one website commenter pointed out: “The controversial title is to get girls to watch the video. Obviously, it's going to get more views than a video titled, 'Domestic Violence PSA.' "

So I am not sure whether CWA and other conservative organizations that are posting it as “evidence” that Planned Parenthood is helping girls conceal domestic violence are being ignorant or disingenuous.

Perhaps two undercover “sting” videos by the antiabortion group Live Action -- videos that got a couple of Planned Parenthood employees fired -- encouraged these organizations to think this video too could be a PR windfall against Planned Parenthood.

Earlier this year, a Texas Planned Parenthood employee was videotaped advising a pregnant “patient” who wanted to get a second-trimester abortion if the fetus were a girl. The employee told the “patient” about when fetal gender could be determined and wished her luck in getting the boy she wanted.

And in 2011, another undercover video “sting” operation ended up in another firing, this one of a Planned Parenthood clinic manager who counseled people posing as sex traffickers to lie about the ages of their prostitutes.

Planned Parenthood has protested about “doctored” videos but did dismiss the two employees in question. 

One website has tried to salvage the outrage, backpedaling over the point of the abuse/makeup video but still trying to discredit Planned Parenthood.

“The video,” it posted, “is from a legitimate organization in the UK that fights domestic violence. But the way Planned Parenthood headlines it — with 'How to look your best the morning after,'  teens are mislead [sic] by Planned Parenthood into the cover up mentality. On the anti-domestic violence site, the video is introduced with the headline: 'Don’t cover it up.' It makes a world of difference to young teens who run across the video.”

In fact, the “How to look your best …” headline is the one that’s on the YouTube video itself, and “Don’t cover it up” comes on the screen at the end of the video, after the statistic, “65% of women who suffer domestic violence keep it hidden.”

So -- fake bruises on the young video woman’s face, political egg on the CWA’s.

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