March 18, 2011

March 18, 2011 | Commentary on Family and Marriage

Cutting Planned Parenthood a Boon for Women and Children

Sometime soon—either in the continuing resolution now pending in Congress or the next—the Planned Parenthood Federation of America will have to accept a cut in federal funding. The cut is overdue, and it will benefit American women and their children.

The spring of 2011 has brought a perfect storm to an organization that has known, and occasionally even courted, its share of controversy. Planned Parenthood is sailing against an energized Republican House of Representatives, just four months after a resounding electoral triumph. Moreover, it is fighting a tidal wave of public opinion insistent that record federal deficit-spending--in the month of February alone--be addressed now. Planned Parenthood’s $363 million in government receipts, most of it from the U.S. Treasury, is a tiny fraction of this year’s $1.5 trillion deficit. But it’s a start.

To make matters even more precarious for the houses Margaret Sanger built, Planned Parenthood has been running surpluses of its own. The non-profit organization has averaged more than $64 million in net income per year from 2002 to 2007. Its annual budget today exceeds $1 billion. Yet, for all that wealth, the organization has been unable to avoid public relations nightmares. In several consecutive video stings conducted by Live Action, Planned Parenthood personnel have been filmed blithely accepting offers of donations from racially bigoted donors and agreeing to facilitate birth control and abortions for underage girls controlled by self-described sex traffickers.

As embarrassing as these episodes have been, the most enduring controversy for the organization has been its role as the flagship abortion provider in the United States and perhaps globally. Planned Parenthood’s increasing involvement in abortion is no historical accident. In the 1970s, it produced its first “Five Year Plan for Family Planning Services in the United States” and projected an annual increase of 10,000 in the number of abortions performed in its affiliated clinics.

The Five-Year plan reads like a commercial document, and the growth pattern it set has been businesslike ever since. From 1981 to 2009, the last year for which published figures are available, the abortion tally at Planned Parenthood grew by a yearly average of 7,500. This trajectory renders talk about making abortion “rare” little more than a rhetorical device. Today Planned Parenthood centers perform nearly 1,000 abortions per day, with a market share constituting over one quarter of the annual U.S. total. Planned Parenthood derives roughly 15 percent of its total income from abortion, a percentage that would be much higher if one counts only clinic income and excludes general fund donations. Its cumulative abortion count exceeds 5,000,000 in the United States alone.

In truth, Planned Parenthood’s federal funding is at significant risk not just because of its abortion practice but because of its philosophy, which is embodied in its historical embrace of eugenicsand its increasingly mechanized approach to sex and reproduction. This philosophy misses key truths about the human person and the longings for personal connection that animate decisions about sexual relationships. In advocating a “comprehensive” approach to sexuality, the group focuses on devices, scorns abstinence and plays down the emotional and psychological dimensions of sexuality. Thus Planned Parenthood elevates the pursuit of pleasure in its advice to teens and prefers the quick-fix solution of abortion for the inevitable contraceptive “failures” that result.

Will women’s health suffer because of the funding limits Rep. Mike Pence and 239 of his House colleagues have adopted? Highly unlikely. In addition to being over-funded and therefore much more capable of belt-tightening than most charities, Planned Parenthood is not the sole provider of any of the legitimate services it offers. It provides little prenatal care and next to no adoption assistance, and does not, despite impressions to the contrary, offer mammograms. Public health departments and free clinics (and even a growing number of pro-life pregnancy care centers) perform low- or no-cost STD testing, and they routinely refer women for other screenings and services they do not provide directly.

Over the long term, real health care reform will move toward honoring the dignity of poor women by giving them options to own their health care policies and by continuing the popular and well-established policy against tax-subsidized abortions. And that will be something to celebrate at least 1,000 times a day.

Chuck Donovan is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Chuck Donovan Senior Research Fellow
DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society

Related Issues: Family and Marriage

First appeared in CNN.com