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An ongoing discussion about conservatism in New Jersey.
Perth Amboy Planned Parenthood advises pimp on abortions for 14 year-old prostitutes
Peter C. Hansen  (February 1, 2011, 3:14 pm)

A new undercover video shot by the new Live Action site gives a disturbing peek into the abortion industry in the Garden State. In the video, the office manager of the Perth Amboy Planned Parenthood advises two people she thinks are a pimp and a prostitute seeking treatment for a stable of imported Asian prostitutes (aged 14 years old and up) who can't speak English. The office manager recommends a certain clinic for abortions for the 14 year-olds, advises how to get good prices on contraceptives for the teenagers, and states that after an abortion, the girls (i.e. the middle-schoolers) should act only "waist up," or provide "extra action" as a display to entice business, for a minimum of two weeks.

(For information on Planned Parenthood in NJ, and its recent announcement that it wishes to double the number of its NJ abortion clinics by 2013, this NJ.com article is a useful resource. Planned Parenthood's move comes despite Gov. Christie's cut in funding to Planned Parenthood.)

A couple caveats are in order. First and foremost, the video shows an office manager, not a physician or a director. The office manager clearly talks a game that well outstrips her superiors' policies. (She refers to a fellow office worker as her "partner in crime" while describing a superior as overly strict about rules.) This being said, it is hard to give the benefit of the doubt to her superiors if they have been willing to have such a person out front. The office manager's obvious eagerness to work around rules and the law, and to recommend how a pimp can procure abortions for trafficked teenagers, go beyond a clinical provision of services to constitute active collaboration with a pimp. Any doubt here is dispelled by the office manager's volunteering to arrange her schedule and otherwise work personally with the pimp to facilitate the intake of his young workers. She also does not turn down the pimp's offer of "sliding her" something.

The second caveat is related to the first. The hard fact is that there has always been a nasty, Hogarthian side of society. There have always been prostitutes, venereal diseases and pregnancies that are considered mere work hazards. How are these to be dealt with by society? It isn't an easy question. For several centuries now, one of the great divides in modern society has been between two competing moralities: (i) encouraging correct behavior, and (ii) treating the effects of incorrect behavior. One of the great frustrations of public policy comes from realizing that efforts to help (from either moral angle) creates problems and can be flatly self-defeating. A certain allowance for missteps and failures is perhaps called for here, since no single approach has led to a perfect solution in our world of imperfect and often unwise humans.

In the case of the Perth Amboy incident, certain policy conclusions may be reached in light of these caveats.

First, if a minor is to be permitted by law to have an abortion, and if the parent may be lawfully excluded from even knowing about this procedure, the law must at a bare minimum provide a guardian to act in the parent's place (a.k.a., in loco parentis) to safeguard the minor's interests. It may rightly be asked what interests are to be considered and protected, and why and how the law should impose a standard or guardian without reference to the actual parent. However these questions are answered, it is inarguably immoral to have a Planned Parenthood official treat and assist a pimp as a proper guardian, especially for a 14 year-old trafficked girl.

By offering to work in cahoots with a pimp, the Planned Parenthood office manager ignored the girls' need for someone to watch out for them. She instead agreed to treat them essentially as the pimp's livestock. This is a moral perversion, since it assumes free agency, equal partnership and full competence where it cannot exist legally or (in the Perth Amboy case) practically. It is also a legal perversion, as Planned Parenthood (which receives federal funds) here offered to work with a human trafficker in the face of the Thirteenth Amendment, immigration laws, and a number of criminal statutes.

Second, there are in fact practical reasons to welcome the pimp and his workers. Treatment of diseases can be provided, and guidance on safety and risks can be given. At the same time, however, a full report on possibly illegal activities should be given to law-enforcement authorities, who can then follow up in an appropriate fashion. The prostituted girls should be given opportunities during medical consultations to be removed from their surroundings and to turn in the pimp. There is no reason for the State to respect a pimp's "relationship" with his prostitutes, or to give pimps a safe space or any say in how his prostitutes are treated. By contrast, the State has every reason to close in on the pimp. If the pimp keeps his prostitutes from medical treatment out of fear of being caught, the State should increase the charges and penalties against him. The purpose is to raise the costs of pimping to make the risk-reward ratio unprofitable. As for the prostitutes, their situation is much more complex and requires far gentler and more holistic treatment by the authorities.

It bears observing that the Perth Amboy office manager discussed reporting requirements at length, albeit for the purpose of avoiding them. From the office manager's recommendation of a less-regulated abortion clinic for the 14 year-old trafficked girls, there appears to be a strong need for harmonized (and uniformly stringent) state reporting requirements for all NJ abortion providers. A 14 year-old is a 14 year-old, no matter where an abortion is sought.

There are additional ways to ensure punctilious conformity with the law in this grim and delicate area. These include legislative hearings, tighter regulations, vigorous enforcement measures, punitive state defunding, and, where available, private lawsuits. Such avenues, however, must always keep one critical fact in mind. All the legislative militancy in the world cannot eliminate the Hogarthian demi-monde mentioned above. This society will simply go further underground, and innocents will invariably be the first ones hurt.

There is no reason to subsidize and further criminal activities (as was offered in Perth Amboy). Indeed, there is every reason for society to instead root out and suppress those who profit from and work to maintain the demi-monde. At the same time, if society as a whole cannot eliminate the demi-monde's desirability or necessity for its more innocent inhabitants, it had better stand prepared to treat their ills.