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Gazette's Wayne Laugesen on why he thinks Planned Parenthood covers up statutory rape

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Update, 5:57 a.m. August 28: Yesterday, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains reacted to a Colorado Springs Gazette editorial declaring that the organization is probably worse than Penn State when it comes to covering up child sexual abuse; see our previous coverage below. Since then, Planned Parenthood has sent more info intended to dispel "myths" attacks like the editorial tend to perpetuate.

The editorial, written by onetime Westword profile subject Wayne Laugesen, argued that Planned Parenthood operators routinely fail to report evidence of sexual abuse against minors who call the outfit for services, using sting operations and anecdotal reports dating back to 2002 to bolster its claims. Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Monica McCafferty told us that local policy calls for the termination of any employee who doesn't inform authorities about possible crimes, adding that no such incidents have taken place to her knowledge. Late yesterday, she reinforced the assertion with this statement:

While federal and state privacy laws prohibit us from discussing information related to any patient, we can state unequivocally that we maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy with respect to any failure to report child abuse and neglect as required by the Colorado Children's Code. We regularly train our employees on their reporting obligations and we actively audit our own practices and procedures to make certain they are followed.

At Planned Parenthood, we are particularly proud of the commitment our health care providers and educators demonstrate every day to protecting the rights of all women, regardless of age. This includes assuring that every woman who is the victim of abuse has access to law enforcement and other supportive services. And it includes reporting sexual assault against minors as required by state law -- every time.

Mr. Laugesen's allegations should be considered in light of the political undertone he readily conveys.

She also included this collection of common Planned Parenthood myths and facts:

Myth: Planned Parenthood is a huge, profitable business with a $1.1 billion budget and many wealthy supporters. Planned Parenthood doesn't need federal funding.

FACT: Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit charitable organization and an integral part of the public health safety net. Planned Parenthood provides affordable health care to women who need it. Six in ten patients who receive care at a women's health center like Planned Parenthood consider it their main source of health care.

The federal funds that come to Planned Parenthood help low-income women receive lifesaving preventive care, including breast exams, Pap tests, annual exams, HIV testing, birth control, and more. While it only receives a quarter of the funding from the national family planning program, it provides care for more than a third of the five million low-income individuals served by the program.

*In Colorado, Planned Parenthood does not receive federal family planning funds (also known as Title X funds described above). Rather, we provide preventive family planning services to those who need our services with support from private donations and community foundations. As a Medicaid provider, we also are able to provide preventive services to Coloradans most in need of affordable health care.

*PPRM health centers see 3,000 new Medicaid patients each year - "taking our funding away" would mean that we would no longer be able to accept Medicaid patients when fewer private offices are accepting such patients.

Myth: Money is fungible. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the United States, performing more than 300,000 abortions every year. Planned Parenthood has a one billion dollar annual budget, and one-third of that budget comes from the government. Any taxpayer money that goes to Planned Parenthood helps subsidize the 300,000 abortions they do.

FACT: First, let's be clear. There is no fungibility. Federal funds are strictly accounted for, and no federal funds are used to pay for abortion. For more than three decades, it has been against the law to use federal funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and when the pregnant woman's life is in danger.

*In addition to the decades-old federal provision, Colorado's Constitution also forbids spending state dollars on abortion. So you have "checks and balances" at both the state and federal levels.

Planned Parenthood's health centers are like hospitals that receive payments from public coverage programs like Medicaid for specific medical visits, treatments, and procedures. These payments do not even fully cover the cost of providing care, so there cannot be any fungibility.

Every dollar from the federal government that Planned Parenthood receives pays for cancer screenings, birth control, family planning visits, annual exams, testing for HIV and other STIs, and other kinds of basic care. No federal funds go towards abortion. Like all health care providers, our finances are routinely audited to ensure that public funds are being used in compliance with the law.

Lastly, the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have upheld the principle that public funds can pay for activities of an organization so long as it is used for permitted purposes and for no other.

Poll regarding PP funding

By a 55-22 percent margin, voters have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood and oppose 60-31 percent cutting federal funding to the group. When respondents who supported cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood are asked if they would support the cut if they knew the money was going only for non-abortion health issues such as breast cancer screening, only 12 percent of all registered voters support cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

Quinnipiac Poll, released February 23, 2012

Quinnipiac Poll, released February 23, 2012

PPRM poll conducted in Colorado

Data from a new poll conducted by Lake Research Partners* showing that 64 percent of likely Colorado voters have a favorable view of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

*May 2012 survey of 801 likely 2012 Colorado voters.

Continue reading for our original coverage of the Gazette comparing Planned Parenthood to Penn State when it comes to covering up sexual abuse of children.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts