Analysis Abortion

Media Matters Takes Apart Live Action’s Latest ‘Sting’ Video

Simon Maloy

"Live Action Films," the project of anti-choice activist Lila Rose, puts out another video found to be edited purposefully to misrepresent, mislead, and misinform the public on abortion care.

This article is cross-posted with permission from Media Matters for America.

The anti-abortion rights group Live Action released today an undercover video claiming to reveal “illegal and inhuman practices” at an abortion clinic in New York City, and accused a doctor at the clinic of committing murder. The video reveals nothing of the sort, and actually undermines Live Action’s baseless allegations that the clinic is performing illegal procedures and endangering the lives of patients.

Live Action and its founder, Lila Rose, have a long, disreputable history of perpetrating hoaxes and concocting false allegations against abortion rights supporters, Planned Parenthood in particular. This latest “undercover video” project is timed to coincide with the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider facing multiple murder charges resulting from the monstrous and horrific procedures he is alleged to have carried out under the guise of women’s reproductive health.

The Live Action video depicts a woman at Dr. Emily Woman’s Health Center in the Bronx inquiring after an abortion in the 23rd week of her pregnancy — a procedure that is legal in New York State. The woman speaks to both a clinician and a counselor at the facility, and the video is edited down to make it appear as though the clinician describes a procedure in which a baby that survives an abortion is killed using a toxic solution.

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Based solely on this exchange, Live Action claimed that the doctor who performs abortions at the clinic “has violated” the state’s law against murder in the first degree and called on the state’s attorney general to launch a homicide investigation. But Live Action edited out from the video the portion in which the clinician makes clear that the situation they’re talking about has never happened in her experience and the discussion is hypothetical, and the video shows the counselor explaining to the woman that the doctor would have to resuscitate the baby if that situation did occur.

Despite these flaws, the Live Action video has already been written up by the the New York Post, the Daily Caller, and Michelle Malkin’s Hot Air. The story has spread to Fox News and will likely offer grist for other conservative outlets that have been using the Gosnell trial to attack legal abortion.

This is how Live Action’s video depicts the conversation between the woman and the clinician:

WOMAN: Okay. So how do they like remove it then?

CLINICIAN: It’s done by suction, it’s a sucking tool that they just hold and it sucks it in. And then they put it in a, in a solution, and they send it out to the lab, so they can measure everything to make sure that everything came out of you.

WOMAN: Oh okay. So it doesn’t like come out–’cause you said it’s like kind of developed, it doesn’t come out in like one piece?


WOMAN: Okay. So I’m just trying to think how does it–


CLINICIAN: They start–

WOMAN: Oh okay.

CLINICIAN: Falling apart.

WOMAN: Oh okay. Yeah.

CLINICIAN: I mean I don’t know why you want to know all this! Just do it!

WOMAN: Yeah. Yeah.


CLINICIAN: …if it did come out in one piece, it’s very small. So they would still have to put it in like a jar, a container, with solution, and send it to the lab.

WOMAN: Oh, oh okay so they would just be able to just pretty much–

CLINICIAN: Yeah all our specimen have to go out to the lab.

Live Action bases its call for a criminal investigation into the clinic and the revocation of its license on this exchange. But according to the full transcript of the exchange posted by Live Action, a key portion was edited out in which the clinician makes clear that the situation the woman describes has not occurred in her experience at the clinic, at which point the woman poses the scenario as a hypothetical:

WOMAN: Yeah. Yeah. Well I’m just thinking, like, ’cause I’ve heard that, if it comes out, like, it could come out in one piece–


WOMAN: And then like, you know, if, if it didn’t work, you know, what would they do? Like, do you know what I’m saying? Like if it was there in one piece, if you’re this far along?

CLINICIAN: No, we never had that for ages, of being it would survive this, no.

WOMAN: You never have that? Really? Ok.


WOMAN: So what would they do if that did happen, like?

CLINICIAN: They, well, it’s, if it did come out in one piece, it’s very small. So they would still have to put it in like a jar, a container, with solution, and send it to the lab.

The woman goes on to ask what would happen if the aborted fetus were “twitching” or “breathing,” and the clinician responds: “It will automatically stop. It won’t be able to breathe anymore. Not in the, not with the solution.” The clinician’s treatment of the hypothetical notwithstanding, Live Action’s video depicts a separate exchange with a counselor at the same clinic who tells the woman outright that the doctor “cannot do a termination once it’s outside of the body, OK? He has to resuscitate it; he has to send it to the hospital. That’s the law.” In portions of the conversation included in the transcript but not the video, the counselor also tells the woman that the situation she is describing does not occur, but that if it did, “once that pregnancy comes out alive [the doctor] will do everything he can to save it.”

While Live Action claims that clinic workers seek to “separate [the woman] from the humanity of her child” in order to “ensure the mother has an expensive abortion,” the full transcript reveals that the counselor urged the woman to be sure that she is comfortable having the abortion and told her to talk it over with a friend before making a final decision.

So despite the inflammatory claims in Live Action’s press release, what the video depicts is two employees at the same clinic reacting to a situation they both say doesn’t actually happen, and one of them accurately describing what would have to happen according to the law. What the video does not depict is any evidence whatsoever that the doctor at the clinic stands in violation of the New York murder statute or the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act, as Live Action claims.

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