Planned Parenthood Loses Bid to Censor Expose’ Videos on YouTube

National   |   Tom Brejcha   |   Jun 20, 2011   |   11:10AM   |   Washington, DC

A key part of Planned Parenthood’s counterattack against Lila Rose’s youth-led group, Live Action, and its staggered release early this year of damning videos depicting Planned Parenthood managers, “health professionals,” and other employees willing to welcome, advise and aid & abet purported “sex traffickers” and “pimps” was to get YouTube to suppress the videos on the basis that they violated YouTube’s published “privacy guidelines.”  This post recalls our long and ultimately successful effort to help Live Action defeat Planned Parenthood’s counterattack.

On their release last January, the Live Action videos “went viral,” winning hundreds of thousands of viewers online, and both sparking and helping to sustain a nationwide firestorm of outrage against Planned Parenthood’s willingness to use federal funds to support criminal exploitation of young people and sex slavery.  The epidemic of outrage prompted Congressional efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, by ending its federal subsidies.  Those efforts nearly culminated in a shutdown of the federal government, as House Republicans pushed the issue as far as they could in last minute White House negotiations over the federal budget.

But Planned Parenthood’s vast empire struck back when anonymous complaints about “privacy violations” led YouTube to write Live Action to warn that their video,, would be removed from the website early last February unless Live Action could refute the privacy claim. Working with Live Action’s California counsel, Thomas More Society lawyers wrote a letter to YouTube opposing the privacy claim and taking it to task for purporting to wield “the censor’s scissors.”  As a result, Planned Parenthood’s tactic failed, and the videos – depicting the New Jersey clinic manager whose recorded exchanges with the purported pimp and prostitute caused Planned Parenthood promptly to fire her–remained posted.

Months later, however, after the furor over the videos had subsided a bit, Planned Parenthood tried again to suppress the videos.  On May 5, 2011, Thomas More Society attorneys had to issue a second letter in response to another charged privacy violation aimed at Live Action’s video depiction of sex traffickers visiting a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bronx, New York, viewable online at (edited version) and (unedited version).  This time Live Action videos were taken off-line despite our objections that their contents already had been “trumpeted” nationwide and even beyond, by every major news source.

Flush with success, later last month Planned Parenthood sought to suppress still other videos.  Targeting (unedited video) at 1:28-8:57, 1:50-8:58, which depicts other staff personnel at the Bronx, New York clinic, Planned Parenthood managed to persuade YouTube to take the video down for nearly 24 hours.  But Thomas More Society sent a third letter to YouTube, dated May 20, 2011, arguing even more strenuously that the Live Action videos fit squarely within the two exceptions carved out by YouTube’s own published “privacy guidelines,” that is, “newsworthiness” and “public interest.”  The Society’s letter, signed by both TMS attorneys Tom Brejcha and Peter Breen, argued that the targeted “video … has been thrust into the storm center of America’s public policy debate over Planned Parenthood’s willingness to do business with, and thereby aid and abet, sex traffickers and pimps of underage girls, many of whom … recently arrived in this country, imported here for lewd and immoral purposes in what could only be described as a form of sex slavery – an obscenely cruel bondage.”

Further, the letter argued:

  • That all the videos’ contents had been publicized far and wide by every major media outlet in the country;
  • That the videos have altered America’s policy debates over defunding Planned Parenthood;
  • That that defunding debate proved one of the last issues defying resolution in the recent budget debate that nearly culminated in a shutdown of the government;
  • That the videos figured importantly in Indiana’s enacting a new defunding law;
  • That the videos “are at or very near to the pinnacle of newsworthiness” and they “bear a commanding public interest of surpassing importance”;
  • That YouTube, if it suppresses these videos, “will have to answer to those who believe it crucial that public policy – especially the investigation and prosecution of sex criminals who prey on minors – be forged through political processes that are free, open, transparent, and fully informed with all relevant, crucial, unedited data fully accessible for all of those concerned;  and that, “Tolerance” of such gross wrongdoing masks nothing less than callous indifference to the predatory sexual exploitation of children.

Thomas More Society’s third letter soon bore fruit, if only by what seemed a “delayed reaction.”  The next day, Live Action was notified that the YouTube Team retracted their initial decision to censor the videos, as follows:

“We have reviewed the complaint and have determined that the content is excepted from removal based on our privacy guidelines….The content does not violate our policies and will remain on the site.”

Not only did YouTube restore the video referenced in the Thomas More Society’s third letter, but on Live Action’s further request, YouTube also reinstated the previously removed videos disputed in the second letter. The final verdict:  Planned Parenthood’s effort to suppress the truth has been finally repulsed, once and for all. YouTube has ceased censorship of all Live Action videos. Note: Tom Brejcha is an attorney for the Thomas More Society, a pro-life legal group.