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

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.

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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  • LisaC

    The Washington Post has picked up the story too, with the following “analysis:”

    You’d think that a patient with so many apparent qualms about a late-stage abortion would at some point get her questions answered with a question: Are you sure you want to go through with this? But if the tape is as undoctored as this clinic seems to be, you’d be wrong.

    It’s an almost staggeringly stupid thing to say. I’m not sure that my request for a correction went through, unfortunately.

    Incidentally, it’s pretty clear that LiveAction doesn’t believe its own claims that abortion is legal because the women who have abortions are too dumb and victimized to understand what an abortion is. If a federal “personhood” law were ever passed, LiveAction’s people are going to be at the head of the line demanding that women who have abortions be prosecuted.

    • HeilMary1

      Then LIAR Rose will have to arrest herself for her own caffeine and holy wine-induced “abortions” after her flings with various priests and married Randall Terry thugs.

  • Julia

    whoa. I have a legitimate reaction to this piece, but I don’t feel like I can address it until I get this out of the way:

    Multiple news sources have referred to the woman in the white coat as a “CLINICIAN” – this set off red flags for me because (1) she doesn’t communicate facts like someone who has more than a cursory knowledge of fetal development or the medical/surgical procedures. I.e. she could outline the basic steps of an abortion, but seemed to struggle to articulate the “hows, whys and what-ifs” that a practitioner would need to be intimately familiar with. (2) she says she’s been working at the clinic for ten years almost eleven years, or since she was sixteen, she clarifies. (3) the NYT claims she was a “staff member has been assigned to record the woman’s medical history”

    So instead of picking at the semantics of the transcript, like the fact that the poor woman was made to speculate about unlikely, hypothetical outcomes, can we write the whole thing off as being unreliable due to the source of the information? I feel like this whole “sting” operation would’ve been a lot less sensational if the clinic worker had said “I only know the basics, let me put you in touch with a doctor who can answer your more complex questions”.

    I actually feel a little annoyed at the Dr. Emily’s for not not emphasizing to their staff what a dangerous liability it can be for someone who lacks medical training to dispense medical advice. The way that you get quotations such as “just flush it” is when you solicit information from an under-qualified lay person.

    Please, let’s cut the legs out from under Live Action’s argument and stop perpetuating the idea that this person has any medical authority! Change the transcript – it’s wrong!

    • Carla Clark

      Perhaps the clinician is merely trying to put in laymen’s terms?

      • Julia


        Here’s an except from the transcript of a longer, less edited version of the video:

        woman: OK. so am I, are you who I’m talking to, are you the counselor?

        clinic-1: No.

        woman: Or whatever? OK.

        clinic-1: But, um, do you have questions?

        woman: Um, actually yeah, when I was reading over this, I just had some questions with this. I don’t know if um, I should talk to them first. It says here, “meet with a counselor (inaudible)”.

        clinic-1: Well you meet with me first to go over medical history, but if you have any questions, I do counsel the spanish patients, so—

        Also, I don’t think RHC linked to the original video, so I’m not sure if you saw it or not – but I think, watching it, it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t have a background in medicine, especially given her answer to the “patient’s” question: If I go in to labor, should I call the hospital?. The staff member incorrectly tells her (and I’m paraphrasing) “no, don’t call a hospital, or another doctor, they wont help you”. When it comes to medical advice, you have to account for the possibility of an emergency, doctors choose their words carefully because of liability, malpractice, reputation, etc. The standard qualifier is: if you feel like you’re in danger, call 911 immediately. Period. That she didn’t say that, was a huge warning to me that she wasn’t trained to answer medical questions. In my opinion, the facts that emerged from the New York Times, and the extended transcript, only clarifies what is already obvious.

        I hope that if any good comes out of this, it’s stern warnings to clinic staff members that all questions on procedures, side effects, emergencies, or health outcomes need to be referred to a doctor, RN or PA.

  • LisaC

    Amusingly, a contributor at Live Action is now throwing a hissy fit, complete with an explanation of “The Straw Man Fallacy,” claiming that Live Action did not “directly accuse the doctor of murder.” What does this tell us? That Live Action’s own contributors cannot be bothered to read its so-called “investigative reports.”

    (As a point of clarification, Media Matters links both to Live Action’s press release about the video and its full “report.” The contributor appears only to have read the press release.)

  • WolfWytch

    Lying never stopped Lila Rose and her group of propaganda artists before, so we can’t hope “thou shalt not bear false witness” would stop them now. They’re all Liars for Jesus…

    Real question is: how much will this harm women who need health care? Any harm is too much.