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For Lila Rose, Planned Parenthood video 'sting' is about revolution

Lila Rose, the young founder of the organization that released 'sting' videos targeting Planned Parenthood this week, is one of a new generation of right-wing media insurgents taking on touchstone topics like abortion through the lens of civil-rights activists.

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But Rose, too, has engineered her own stings before now. In the past, she posed as a 14-year-old who claimed to be impregnated by a much older man in order to see how Planned Parenthood reacted. A staffer told her: "Just say you have a boyfriend, 17 years old, whatever."

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That case prompted Tennessee to pass a law in 2009 that compels the state health department to award contracts to public clinics before looking at private clinics like Planned Parenthood.

Campaign against Planned Parenthood

The videos released this week are an attempt to persuade Congress to take similar action. They are part of "Expose Planned Parenthood," an initiative joined by several antiabortion groups to push the "No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act" in the House. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York this week called the bill "the deepest attack on a woman's right to choose in my lifetime."

"The goal [of the Live Action effort] is to take public support or public funding from clinics to limit the number of service providers" and, thus, the number of abortions, says Nancy Maveety, an abortion-policy expert at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Planned Parenthood, which fired a worker shown in the New Jersey video, has called Rose's tactics "an astoundingly cynical form of political activity." The organization notified the FBI in January, correctly surmising that the visits by Live Action's purported pimp to 12 of its clinics might be a sting.

"If a multistate sex-trafficking operation is in place, those responsible must be pursued to stop the exploitation of girls and young women," said Planned Parenthood spokesman Stuart Schear in a statement. "If these visits are part of a 'dirty tricks' campaign, they must be condemned."

Rose defended Live Action's videos on Fox News this week: "Institutionally, Planned Parenthood is covering up the sexual abuse of minors, and now it goes as far as aiding and abetting a prostitution ring."

By taking on Planned Parenthood, which provides not just abortions but also a full range of reproductive health services, especially to young, impoverished women, Rose has evoked the ire of many on the left.

Rose "is the face of divisiveness. She is the face of all-out war," writes Lilly Copeland on Slate's Double X blog.

Reframing the media narrative

To Rose and her compatriots, however, she is merely giving the media a taste of its own medicine.

The videos are "possibly unfair coverage," but no more unfair than the preponderance of news coverage directed at, for example, the Natonal Rifle Association in the past, says Mr. Patrick, who has studied how media organizations present conservative viewpoints.

"The classic NRA story from The New York Times or The Washington Post was a reporter would go to an NRA convention of 80,000 people and find some dummy in the parking lot with a coonskin hat and interview him," he says.

In the case of the Live Action videos, Patrick adds, "they might have found the dummy with the coon skin hat" at Planned Parenthood.

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