For four years, twenty-two-year-old Lila Rose has waged war against Planned Parenthood.
One cold, wet day in San Jose, California, I was stuck inside my childhood home, looking for a book to read. Because I was homeschooled, the daughter of passionate book lovers, and one of eight children, our home was full of books of all kinds. It was my goal, at the age of nine, to read all of them. On the bottom shelf of a bookcase, I found something called the Handbook on Abortion by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke. Curious, I opened it. And there they were: pictures. In shock, I quickly shut the book and pushed it away. And then I opened it slowly and looked again. I was looking directly at the picture of a tiny child, maybe ten weeks old, with tiny arms and legs, who had been the victim of an abortion.
Right then I knew it was ugly and wrong. But over the next decade I grew in my understanding of the gravity and urgency of this holocaust of unborn children, of our duty to protect them, and of my desire to help.
When I was thirteen I wrote in my journal, "God, it's time I actually do something about abortion." I began to research online and think about what I could do to tell other people about this terrible crime being committed even in our own neighborhoods. A friend and I wrote a letter to the community of Almaden, where we lived, exhorting people to vote only for pro-life candidates. We put up copies of the letter around the local shopping center. When I was fourteen I began planning a "Pro-Life Club." Within months it became Live Action. It began in my parents' living room, with a meeting of about a dozen of my closest friends, all whom I had convinced to come.
I had little idea then that within a few years I would be leading undercover investigations of the abortion industry, founding a pro-life nonprofit, editing a national pro-life magazine, and serving as a spokesperson for the pro-life cause.
I launched my first investigation four years ago, as a college freshman at UCLA, with my friend James O'Keefe. I had met James months earlier at a training session for student publications, and our shared interest in bold activism made us instant colleagues. We soon were working together on projects to "wake up" the UCLA campus to the reality of abortion and the lack of pregnancy services for students. James helped me start a pro-life student magazine that January. That magazine – the Advocate – is now published nationally and has a distribution of over 100,000 copies per issue.
"UCLA doesn't support women who are pregnant," I was told by the head nurse at my campus student health center in the fall of 2006, when I posed as a pregnant student seeking pregnancy counseling. She instead gave me information about two local abortionists to contact.
Evidently, on my own campus, vulnerable, pregnant girls my age were being hustled off to the abortion mills, with no other choice offered. After such startling discoveries at the campus health center, James and I were eager to expose the abortion giant – Planned Parenthood.
When I was thirteen I wrote in my journal, "God, it's time I actually do something about abortion."
Our idea – to investigate the abortion industry at the ground level – wasn't new. In 2002 Mark Crutcher, of the pro-life group Life Dynamics, ran a study that surveyed over eight hundred Planned Parenthood clinics and National Abortion Federation affiliates. An actor posing as a thirteen-year-old girl impregnated by a much older man – a rapist – called the facilities. As Life Dynamics recorded these conversations, the group found that over 90 percent of the clinics promised to cover up the rape the girl had suffered and to provide her with an illegal abortion – a plan and procedure unreported to either police or parents. For reasons difficult for most people to fathom, the abortionists took it on themselves to perpetuate the vicious cycle of sexual abuse.
James and I wanted to find our own way to expose this corruption and bloodshed. Months after our first investigation of the UCLA health center, we went undercover to two Los Angeles Planned Parenthood clinics.
I posed as a young, scared, pregnant girl, fifteen years old, the victim of a twenty-three-year-old statutory rapist. The Planned Parenthood staff told me, into our hidden cameras: "Figure out a birth date that works." Lie about your age on the paperwork. Say you are older than you really are. We will give you a secret abortion, and no one will ever know.
The YouTube videos we made of our tapes went viral. Planned Parenthood threatened to sue me – an eighteen-year-old college freshman. I remember returning to my dorm room to find a personal email from the California director of Planned Parenthood, informing me that if I did not "relinquish the tapes" of my investigation to the organization, it would sue me for privacy violations of its employees. With less than $200 in my bank account, threats to sue me for "$5,000 for each offense" might have seemed daunting if I had not had a deep sense that God, as he always does, would use this only for good.
And, of course, he did. Because of the threat of the lawsuit and the added media attention, I had my first O'Reilly Factor interview – and, after the bad press, Planned Parenthood did not pursue the threat of the lawsuit. This inspired me to think even more carefully and work even harder to come up with more projects to expose the dark heart of the abortion industry.
My summer vacations turned into summer research projects – undercover investigations into abortion clinics across the country. In the summer of 2007, we investigated six different Planned Parenthood development departments, talking with directors of development and other staff to see whether rumors of Planned Parenthood's racism were true.
Planned Parenthood has historic ties to the now-discredited eugenics movement in the United States. More recently, abortionists have worked hard to reach out to minorities. This is reflected in skyrocketing abortion rates among minority women. African-American women account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population but submit to nearly 37 percent of all abortions. Approximately 80 percent of abortion clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. Although most people in our country do not know it, such a heavy abortion rate among minorities was planned and desired by the founders of Planned Parenthood, particularly by founder Margaret Sanger, an open racist and eugenicist.
Sanger is still revered by pro-abortionists. Are her policies still in circulation? We decided to investigate.
By phone, James posed as a racist asking whether he could donate to Planned Parenthood for the abortion of a black baby. Like the racism that James acted out, the response to these proposed race-based donations was horrific. No Planned Parenthood employee hung up the phone. All agreed to accept the donation or find a way to do so, and some made understanding remarks about the racism or showed excitement about the race-based donation. In one conversation with a Planned Parenthood office in Idaho, when James said there were "way too many blacks," the development director laughed and said, "Understandable, understand-able."
We were about to begin my most ambitious investigation – a probe deep inside the closed doors of Planned Parenthood called the Mona Lisa Project.
It was clear that Planned Parenthood had much to hide. The investigation by Life Dynamics was inspiring, but no videos to corroborated Mark Crutcher's version of events. Moreover, that investigation was six years old.
I began to dream: A multistate inquiry to investigate child sexual abuse cover-up. Once the investigation was completed, a series of video releases, on the local level, to stir up controversy in each city or community as the overall national story built. With help from two close friends and my always-supportive parents, I prepared a budget and a project plan.
Miraculously, all the needs for the project were met. We scheduled it for the summer of 2008, one week after my school got out, and began to assemble the team. As I took my final exams, I juggled last-minute meetings with donors and interviews with potential investigative team members. A dear childhood friend named Jackie agreed to be my fellow investigator. We were joined by a videographer and a trip planner. Less than a handful of people knew about any of our plans, and even fewer knew details – all to preserve our ability to operate covertly. A lawyer filed pro bono for our tax-exempt status. A generous donor team transferred $30,000 to our bank account. Our research team – three friends who had been involved in past Live Action projects – worked to chart out the investigation and develop briefs on every clinic and state. I researched and purchased police-quality undercover equipment and began training.
We were about to begin my most ambitious investigation – a probe deep inside the closed doors of Planned Parenthood called the Mona Lisa Project.
For this investigation I had to disguise myself by bleaching my hair platinum blonde because Planned Parenthood had put up warning posters – showing me as a natural brunette – in many of its clinics nationwide. There seemed to be one reason Planned Parenthood might give the police a call: Apparently, to Planned Parenthood, I was a more dangerous criminal than the group's pedophile clientele.
I was nineteen years old, leading a team of other young people to travel nationwide in twenty-one days and go undercover into clinics posing as sex-abuse victims. I began each morning and ended each night in a hotel room, on my knees in prayer. There were so many unknowns and variables on this project. And my weaknesses were always before me as I tried to be the best investigator I could, inspire the others, lead them, and know what to do myself – all with little outside help. A prayer team of close friends and donors was formed. They didn't know what we were doing or where, but they signed on to intercede for this "special project." And my parents were always on call to encourage and give advice. With such a support network and the Holy Spirit leading us, we had great confidence. We also witnessed literal miracles on the trip, including one where our team prayed in a car outside a clinic that our metal-strapped investigators would get through the clinic's metal detectors without any cause for suspicion – and, miraculously, we did.
Soon afterward I was sitting in the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood clinic, posing as a thirteen-year-old girl named Brianna. Even though I was in character, I wanted to talk to a woman sitting a few chairs away from me. The woman was with her sister, who had two little daughters, maybe five and seven. The little girls were playing on the floor with the brightly colored toys that this Planned Parenthood surgical abortion mill had placed in its waiting room for women who arrived with born children.
"I don't want to go work in the OR room," one of them said to our undercover actors; "I don't like getting too close."
The woman looked sad and stared at the floor. She was just beginning to show that she was pregnant.
"What are you here for? Abortion?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, and looked away. She didn't want to talk about it. I felt helpless. Suddenly, her sister's little daughter, the five-year-old, started jumping up and down, demanding attention and asking for a cup of water. Then, just as suddenly, she went over to her aunt. Pulling on her aunt's pants leg, she climbed into her lap and cuddled close to her abdomen.
I remember seeing that and not being able to look away. I knew I was looking at the meeting of two cousins separated by just inches of flesh – and one of them, a little boy or a little girl, would be violently killed by abortion that very day. It reminded me of another meeting, one between two unborn cousins, when Mary, the Madonna, visited her cousin Elizabeth. And how could it not? We had named the Mona Lisa Project after these two women.
A year after the Mona Lisa Project finished, I began another multistate traveling investigation called the Rosa Acuna Project. From 2009 to 2010 our team has been inside dozens of clinics in many states. I have sat through counseling sessions, seen women with blood on their clothes, and heard the harsh words of abortion workers who cannot help but taste the evil of their work. "I don't want to go work in the OR room," one of them said to our undercover actors; "I don't like getting too close."
I've become an expert on what everyday abortion workers say to women because I've heard it firsthand and have trained and briefed investigators who go in and collect the evidence firsthand. In clinics nationwide, Planned Parenthood employees have said the heartbeat starts at eleven weeks, at twenty weeks, or when the baby is born. They have said that hands and feet don't form until right before the baby is born. They call the unborn child's heart just an electrical flicker, and they call the unborn child fetal matter, an alien, a tadpole, a cup of coleslaw – any number of dehumanizing names. The Rosa Acuna Project has documented these lies in a series of public video releases.
We named the Rosa Acuna Project for a young New Jersey woman who sought an abortion. She was deeply troubled about her decision and spoke to the doctor.
"Is it a baby?" She asked him. "Am I killing a baby?"
"Don't be stupid," the abortionist told Rosa. "It's a blood clot. It's a bunch of cells."
He performed the abortion. Back at home, bleeding profusely, Rosa went to the emergency room. The nurse told her she had the remains of her baby inside her and would need an operation to extract it from her uterus. That's when Rosa realized her first trimester "pregnancy matter" was not a blood clot or a bunch of cells. It was a human baby.
We who know better must proclaim that the value of our unborn brothers and sisters is not based on what they give to society. It is based solely on the mysterious worth of their humanity, that mysterious imprint of the divine.
In fewer than four decades, America has permitted the slaughter of more than 50 million tiny children. There has never been another slaughter as unjust and widespread as abortion because never has a human society destroyed so many of its young.
It is the dehumanization of the unborn child that allows the slaughter to continue. The once pro-life Rev. Jesse Jackson said: "Those advocates of taking life prior to birth do not call it killing or murder, they call it abortion. [They say] 'fetus' [because fetus] sounds less than human and therefore abortion can be justified."
People do not see the unborn as human beings equal in worth to ourselves or others – to a two-year-old toddler, for example. After all, fetuses and embryos cannot demand protection from us. They do not cry in front of us, or wail as a two-year-old might if he or she senses danger in a clinic waiting room. Their tiny vocal cords are hardly developed. We do not have to watch them hold out their tiny, newly developed hands. They are hidden in the bodies of their mothers. Because the unborn cannot beg us for mercy, many Americans may think that abortion is a tragedy, but a necessary one at times. Or many may think that abortion is a tragedy, but not their main concern.
We who know better must proclaim that the value of our unborn brothers and sisters is not based on what they give to society. It is based solely on the mysterious worth of their humanity, that mysterious imprint of the divine. To be human is enough. To be human should grant you a place of love and dignity in any family, any society, any nation.
America's public schools are either neutral or favorable toward abortion. The entertainment media are the same. Traditional news media fail to grasp the reality of abortion and often take positions leaning toward it. Young people live with a stifling din of pro-abortion instruction; we are urged to be morally transgressive and politically conformed to the culture of death. A word of truth, an image, a video comes like a fresh breeze.
Live Action's mission is to educate the public with the truth about abortion and the dignity of the human person by using the power of creative new media. All of Live Action's projects are designed to work within traditional systems to reach young people with the truth and inspire them to join us in leading the pro-life culture.
Most people do not see clearly the evils of their own century, their own age. It is the history makers, the revolutionaries, and the visionaries who identify the failings, injustices, and opportunities of their century and work tirelessly to address them. Thanks to the revolution in media through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, webcams, and cell phones, everyone can create and distribute media. Like many other organizations, Live Action is seizing this opportunity to talk past the pro-abortion gatekeepers of previous decades and show the world the truth about abortion. Today, I aspire to do my part. I pray that many more, young and old, will join.
Now that I have graduated from college, I am grateful for the experiences I have been blessed with so far. I am moving forward with a wonderful team of talented and committed young people to continue our projects and undertake new and more ambitious ones. The investigative and educational work is far from over. Thousands more people must realize the gravity and urgency of abortion's injustice, must reject the murder of our unborn brothers and sisters, must repent of the indifference and hopelessness that allows this, and must recommit to a beautiful and life-giving vision of our life together in America. These thousands must be awakened to the truth so they can inspire and lead more thousands to reject abortion, stop the killing, and restore peace. I believe with my whole heart we will be victorious, just as I pray and believe in the Kingdom of God and that we can do God's will on earth. We have a perfect loving God who inspires and authors our work. If we lay down our lives, we cannot fail.
Lila Rose. "Fighting for Life." First Things 206 (October, 2010): 14-17.
This article is reprinted with permission from First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life.
First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.
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Lila Rose, who graduated from UCLA in June, is president and founder of Live Action, a nonprofit educational group.Copyright © 2010 First Things
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