This summer, a group called the “Center for Medical Progress” released a series of videos with one goal: to discredit Planned Parenthood and add fuel to the fire of anti-choice legislation. The videos were shot in multiple states, one of which was Texas.
These videos were released in two formats – both in admittedly-edited short form, and a second, longer version of the footage purported to be “unedited” by the organization. These videos, along with the resulting media frenzy, prompted legislative action at the state and federal level, including a committee hearing in the Texas Senate.
Amid calls to further reduce funding for the organization, Planned Parenthood found contracted an independent agency to do an in-depth analysis of the videos. Not only did the organization confirm that the shorter videos were highly edited and misleading, but they also found evidence of editing in the “untouched” long form videos that formed the basis of this modern-day witch-hunt against Planned Parenthood.
The shorter videos, which have been shared widely, were found to have undergone the most extensive level of editing. A certain level of editing for brevity would be expected, as they were trying to represent the content of hours of footage in ten or fifteen minute clips. But the analysts found that these revisions went so far as to “substantively and significantly alter the meaning of the dialogue contained in the long videos.” This footage – represented as investigative undercover reporting – was instead a revisionist account of what actually occurred between Planned Parenthood staff and those posing as researchers for the purpose of collecting damning footage.
Planned Parenthood staff have been especially targeted for their language and attitude regarding the subject matter, but the researchers found that CMP had “…heavily edited the short videos so as to misrepresent statements made by Planned Parenthood representatives.” In the videos, they found “edited conversations where some spoken words are eliminated and some spoken words are added out of context.” Not only did they edit out questions or statements, CMP actively manipulated the words within statements to create a more effective tool in their effort to discredit the important work Planned Parenthood does for reproductive health.
With such heavy manipulation, the report concludes, these videos should not serve as evidence for the basis of any kind of legislative effort. “The videos…have no evidentiary value in a legal context,” the report found, “and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries.”
The results were especially telling for the videos filmed in Texas.
“The Texas video is likely the most substantially manipulated of the four full footage videos reviewed in this report.”
Not only is the video the most highly edited of the four, the report also found that the Texas transcript “contains the most significant discrepancies,” to the tune of 4,000 words of missing dialogue.
It was so highly edited, it completely changes the character of the interaction between the “undercover” representated from CMP and the staffer from Planned Parenthod. The report explains:
- “Whereas the content that CMP inserts into its transcript serves to portray Farrell as flexible regarding Planned Parenthood policies and regulations, the content it omits portrays her as committed to following ethical and legal guidelines.”
This report shines a light on what Planned Parenthood, and abortion providers across the country, have been saying all along. These videos are edited beyond the admission of the organization that created them, and they were revised and shared to serve a specific purpose: to bring down Planned Parenthood and reduce support for abortion access in the United States. Despite the findings of this report, and the overwhelming evidence that Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, state and federal officials are jumping on this opportunity to attack access to reproductive health.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott just laid out a new agency that clearly stems directly from the claims made in these manipulated videos and transcripts – and that agenda has the capacity to create even more severe restrictions on the already limited access to women’s health in the state.
These fraudulent videos and their misleading claims are dangerous. In the hands of anti-choice legislators, they become the means to further erode reproductive healthcare in our country.
“This may be a game for those who’ve produced these videos, said Yvonne Gutierrez, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, “but for the women and men in Texas, it’s an attack on their access to health care.”