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Planned Parenthood on Trial: Case Stalled on Appeal

By Lee Duigon
January 21, 2004

Has Planned Parenthood in California arranged abortions for victims of child sexual abuse without reporting the abuse to the appropriate authorities?

Two pro-life Christian attorneys in the San Diego area, Gary Kreep of the U. S. Justice Foundation (www.usjf.net) and his former associate, Richard Ackerman now of the Pro-Family Law Center, have accused Planned Parenthood in San Diego and Los Angeles of doing just that and putting hundreds of children at risk of being sexually abused and made pregnant again.

Planned Parenthood denies the charge, two judges ruled it frivolous and then recused themselves, sanctions have been levied and appeals filed, and the case is still waiting to be tried. Meanwhile, Ackerman and Kreep face a possible suspension of their law licenses, or even disbarment, for their role in the proceedings.

The $15,000 “frivolous lawsuit” sanction against the USJF is being appealed and hopefully will be recovered if the appeal is successful, Ackerman said.

James McElroy, attorney for Planned Parenthood San Diego-Riverside, said, “Their conduct has been unprofessional and a waste of the court's time; they have no evidence for their claims, and that's why they've been fined.”

“We have boxes of evidence, including 815 tapes of Planned Parenthood employees saying they don't report, period,” Ackerman said. “So far, no judge has listened to the tapes. We don't go off half-cocked. Let a judge hear our evidence.”

Attorneys for neither side offered an explanation of why the prior judges in the case recused themselves, after finding the suit to be without merits. Judge Wayne Petersen, only after issuing a bad ruling, indicated that he was too professionally close to James McElroy. The second judge to hear the matter, Kevin Enright, mentioned that he had a similar problem, but did not initially recuse himself. Enright had presided over earlier proceedings involving pro-life causes and issued strong injunction against protesters. Neither of the recused judges listened to the tapes, Ackerman said. The latest judge, Richard Haden, indicated that he is friends with McElroy, but has refused to recuse himself like the others.

Who Didn't Report What?

Problems between pro-life activists and Planned Parenthood in San Diego go back for many years. The current lawsuit began with a complaint by a former Planned Parenthood employee.

“The USJF took this case on behalf of a former employee who was involved in the middle of all of this and on behalf of all the women who need protection from the practices of Planned Parenthood,” Gary Kreep said.

“The employee was upset because Planned Parenthood didn't report cases of child abuse that led to pregnancy and abortion. When she complained, she was fired,” Ackerman said. “This person came to us. We didn't go looking for this case. We don't make any money on any of these public interest cases.

“On this case we've lost $15,000, and I've had to turn myself in to the state bar association. I've been practicing law in California for nearly ten years without a single blot on my record, and now this. But I'd do it all over again.”

“It's a lot of nonsense,” McElroy said. “Only a doctor can violate that law [requiring child abuse to be reported]. The responsibility, under the law, is on the doctor, not Planned Parenthood. Here, it's who didn't report what sexual abuse.”

“Planned Parenthood wants to destroy us,” Kreep said. “They believe they're above the law. They'll trample on anyone who threatens their dominion.”

“The fines were the judge's doing,” McElroy said. “I didn't sue them.” McElroy did not mention the fact that he filed specific motions with the court to force the sanctions issue, and these are what the court ruled on.

With the case stalled in court, McElroy dismissed the plaintiffs' evidence as “ranting and raving,” while Kreep and Ackerman insist they'll be vindicated, once they're allowed to present their evidence.

McElroy accused the plaintiffs' supporters of harassing Planned Parenthood with “demonstrations,” such as deploying a “Truth Truck” in front of the clinic. The Truth Truck displays large color pictures of abortions.

He also criticized Kreep and Ackerman for taking their case to the media, including an appearance on Fox TV's “The O'Reilly Factor.”

“That was totally unprofessional,” he said.

“California is a liberal state,” Kreep said, “and Planned Parenthood has most of the Democrats in the legislature in its pocket, blocking legislative action. They put up political billboards in other states. I don't see how a tax-exempt organization can get away with that.

“Even the Bush administration is afraid to take them on; I've been told that by someone fairly high up in the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Stopping Planned Parenthood?

How is a tax-exempt foundation like Planned Parenthood able to engage in overt political activity (actively campaigning for pro-abortion candidates, lobbying to try to block John Ashcroft's appointment of a U. S. Attorney General) without violating its tax status?

Ed Szymkowiak, national director of the American Life League's Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP) International, has spent 25 years opposing Planned Parenthood.

“People do have this irrational fear that Planned Parenthood is going to get them, somehow,” he said. “But I've been opposing them for a long time, and they've never threatened me or sued me.”

Unlike many large, not-for-profit organizations, he said, Planned Parenthood splits itself into two different wings: the well-known Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which is tax-exempt and federally subsidized with public funds; and the non-tax-exempt Planned Parenthood Political Action Committee (PAC), which contributes money to political campaigns, lobbies the U. S. Senate, erects political billboards, etc.

“I know it confuses people that Gloria Feldt is president of both organizations,” Szymkowiak said. “But when she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify against a Bush appointment, she's careful to identify herself as speaking for the PAC only, and not as president of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

“It's confusing, but it's legal. Any not-for-profit organization could do the same. We could, if we wanted to.”

In recent years, nationally, Planned Parenthood did try to have RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) sanctions applied against abortion protesters. Although that effort failed, “It's the kind of thing that instills fear,” Szymkowiak said.

“In fiscal year 2003,” he said, “Planned Parenthood got $254 million from government grants and contracts, 33% of their total revenue. What we should be asking is, why do we, the taxpayers, want to fund a baby-killing organization that is fully involved in the political process?

“We are not obliged to give our money to Planned Parenthood. That's something our elected representatives have chosen to do. If we would put enough pressure on our representatives, they'd stop doing it.”

Szymkowiak recommended his organization's website, stoppinternational.org, as a source of information for pro-family citizens seeking ways to get Planned Parenthood out of their schools and their communities.

What's Next?

As they wait for a court to decide whether to grant an appeal to continue the case, the attorneys on each side insist the other's argument is without merit. The plaintiffs say Planned Parenthood doesn't report sexual abuse, as required by law. The defense says the law requires individual doctors to report abuse if they suspect it, not corporate entities like Planned Parenthood.

“We have to stay with it because children are at risk,” Kreep said. “If abuse goes unreported, abused children will simply be returned to the molesters who got them pregnant or gave them a sexually transmitted disease.”

The plaintiffs argue that the judges' liberal bias kept their evidence from being considered in open court and that California 's liberal politics preclude an investigation by the state legislature. The defense contends there is no evidence and that the plaintiffs are trying to win their case in the media because it has no chance in court.

Until the boxes are opened and the tapes are played in a courtroom, the public will not be able to draw a well-informed conclusion.


Topics: Culture , Medicine / Healthcare

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine.Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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