Last week, The Advocate, a University of California-Los Angles-based student magazine (not to be confused with the gay-lifestyle magazine of the same name), released tapes of calls to both Idaho and Ohio, holding them as examples of Planned Parenthood targeting minority groups.
Student publisher Lila Rose said her group specifically looked for states in which it is legal to tape a telephone conversation without the approval of the other party.
Rose declined to reveal the other criteria that led the group to target Idaho among six other states, since the group plans an unpleasant surprise for the remaining five states at some point in the future.
The quarterly publication had actor James O'Keefe, who works as an adviser for the group, call Planned Parenthood offices in seven states and offered donations to help fund abortions for racial minorities. The calls quickly go from offers to help those in need, to racist diatribes.
Planned Parenthood of Idaho said the calls are not only misleading, but are a deceptive, race-based tactic.
"It's an extremist, anti-choice group that has manipulated a 25-minute conversation," said Rebecca Poedy, Planned Parenthood of Idaho executive director. "It's not an accurate representation of the transcript."
Autumn Kersey, the group's vice president of marketing and development, took the call, and can be heard nervously agreeing with O'Keefe as the call quickly goes from donor seeking to help minorities in need, to bigot trying to cut down on the number of minority students competing with his son for scholarships.
Poedy admits her staff mishandled the call but said no one was ready for a group with this kind of tactic.
"They're all designed with an intent to bait someone into a conversation they can then manipulate," she said.
"The statements in the recording do not represent how we or the employee feel," Poedy said. "My staff member's recollection of how that conversation went differs greatly from the transcript you see."
Kersey has been suspended while the organization investigates the incident, but other anti-abortion groups have latched on to the controversy, calling for Kersey to be fired.
It's the second time in The Advocate's one-year existence that it has targeted the national group, which provides family planning and medical services for low-income patients and—most controversially—abortion services.
"We know their founder [Margaret Sanger] was a self-pronounced racist," said Rose, who said the calls were her staff's way of proving Planned Parenthood is continuing Sanger's vision of using abortion to eliminate minority populations.
Rose said the fact that the majority of Planned Parenthood offices are located in minority neighborhoods are further examples of the nonprofit's campaign against these groups.
"We have nothing to hide," Poedy said. "We do great work.
"We provide health care for millions of women in this country that would otherwise have no other option," she said. "This tactic is designed to redirect our focus and take our attention off our main goal: to help our patients."
Last year, Planned Parenthood treated 8,000 patients in Idaho and provided $300,000 in free services to low-income patients.
Rose admitted that her group is strongly anti-abortion but said racism is the larger issue.
"Every person that stands against racism should have hung up the phone," she said.
Poedy said this kind of targeted call is new to her organization, but she realizes her staff will have to be ready to handle more in the future.
"Clearly we need to do a better job to arm our staff with the tools to deal with offensive callers," she said.
Poedy has hired a specialist to do some updated phone training with her staff but admits that her organization was caught off guard.
"We have to be aware that these are new times," she said.