Recent videos suggesting that Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates are harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted unborn children have led to renewed calls for Congress to end taxpayer funding of the nation’s largest abortion provider. During the 2013–2014 reporting year alone, Planned Parenthood affiliates performed over 327,000 abortions, while the national organization reported $127 million in revenue over expenses, and held $1.4 billion in net assets. Yet, the organization’s affiliates receive over half a billion dollars in government funding each year from both federal and state sources.
Congress should end federal taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates and redirect those funds to health centers that provide health care for women without entanglement in abortion or questionable handling of baby body parts. Planned Parenthood affiliates face serious allegations of profiting from the sale of baby organs and other disturbing conduct, adding to arguments that taxpayer funding should not subsidize the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Legal Questions Raised by Recent Videos
Numerous statements made on the recently released videos raise questions as to whether Planned Parenthood is violating federal law that makes it illegal for any person “to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce,” excluding reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage. In fetal tissue research conducted or supported by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services for therapeutic purposes, human fetal tissue may be used only if the woman who supplies the tissue and her attending physician make signed written declarations complying with statutory requirements. The woman must declare that she (1) donates the tissue for such research, (2) does not restrict who may receive transplantation of the tissue, and (3) has not been informed of the identity of recipients. The attending physician must declare (1) the woman donated the tissue in accordance with requirements for her declaration, (2) the woman received full disclosure of any interest the physician had in the research conducted with the tissue, and any known medical risks to the woman or risks to her privacy that might be associated with donation of the tissue, and (3) in the case of tissue obtained by an induced abortion, the woman’s consent to the abortion occurred before she was asked to donate the tissue for such research, no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue, and performance of the abortion complied with applicable state law.
The recently released videos allegedly show Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the price of organs from aborted unborn children and casually discussing performing abortions in ways that would better preserve baby body parts for sale. According to a former employee of a fetal tissue procurement company that works with Planned Parenthood affiliates, some Planned Parenthood clinics allegedly failed to obtain informed consent from some mothers before harvesting their aborted children’s tissue.
Whether Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have violated federal laws is unclear from the videos alone. Congress, the Department of Justice, and state governments owe it to American taxpayers who have funded Planned Parenthood for decades to determine whether the organization has violated any federal laws. Some of those investigations have already begun.
Government Funding of Planned Parenthood
During its 2013–2014 reporting year, the latest available, Planned Parenthood reports its affiliates receiving over $528 million in government funding—41 percent of the organization’s total revenue. The annual report does not provide a breakdown of federal versus state funding or the exact government grants, contracts, and reimbursements Planned Parenthood affiliates receive.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in March 2015, however, shows that the organization’s affiliates receive taxpayer money through family planning grants under Title X of the Public Health Services Act, and also through a few similar programs, but that Planned Parenthood affiliates collect most of their government funding through a combination of state and federal Medicaid payments.
In order to end the flow of federal tax dollars to Planned Parenthood affiliates, Congress must disqualify the national organization and its affiliates both from receiving grants under specific family planning programs, like Title X, and from receiving any federal Medicaid reimbursements. Congress can address both funding sources during the appropriations process. Disqualifying Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving Title X and Medicaid reimbursements would not decrease the amount of overall funding available for women’s health services. Both Title X grants and federal Medicaid funding could still flow to the many other qualified health care providers that offer the same and additional services as Planned Parenthood affiliates without entanglement in abortion.
Planned Parenthood Has Become America’s Leading Abortion Provider, While Receiving Taxpayer Funding
No federal funds under either Title X or Medicaid may be used to cover the direct cost of elective abortion procedures. But the influx of hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers each year has buttressed Planned Parenthood’s climb to the top of the nation’s abortion providers. In particular, Title X family planning grants are provided as upfront funding that can be used for overhead costs of family planning centers. Even the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute admits Title X’s funding “helps supply a cash-flow cushion” for grant recipients.
During its last reporting year, like many before it, Planned Parenthood reported revenues after expenses exceeding $127 million and net assets of more than $1.4 billion. In that same year alone, Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 327,653 abortions—almost one out of every three abortions in the U.S.
Planned Parenthood Has Decreased Preventive Care, While Increasing Abortions
Planned Parenthood and its supporters are quick to point to the other medical services provided by the organization’s affiliates—including sexually transmitted infection testing, cancer screenings, and contraception—to justify continued and expanded government funding of the organization. But a closer look at Planned Parenthood’s own report and actions points to a dwindling provision of other services for women in exchange for an increasing emphasis on abortion procedures.
The number of annual abortion procedures performed by Planned Parenthood affiliates has increased from 255,015 in 2004 to over 320,000 in 2013. While Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 327,653 abortions in the 2013–2014 reporting year, they made only 1,880 adoption referrals and provided just 18,684 prenatal services.
Meanwhile, cancer screening and preventive services at Planned Parenthood affiliates have decreased by more than 50 percent since 2004 and the number of individuals served by Planned Parenthood each year has declined by almost 10 percent over the same time period. Contrary to some reports, Planned Parenthood clinics do not perform mammograms.
Planned Parenthood Has Faced Other Serious Accusations
In addition to current allegations of harvesting and selling tiny livers, lungs, and hearts of aborted unborn children, Planned Parenthood has faced accusations of bad conduct in the past. Planned Parenthood affiliates have also been accused of financial waste, abuse, and possible fraud with taxpayer dollars. While claiming to support the interests of women, some Planned Parenthood clinics have been accused of failing to report sexual abuse of minor girls. Additionally, others have been accused of neglecting the health and safety of patients.
Women Have Other Health Care Options
Women’s health care services are available without entanglement in abortion. There are about 1,200 federally qualified health centers (FQHC) across the country that operate over 9,000 service sites in medically underserved areas, providing family planning services, cancer screenings, and women’s health exams, not to mention a wide range of primary health services for women, children, and men. In 2013 alone, FQHC sites served over 21 million people—seeing about eight times as many patients as the 2.7 million Planned Parenthood’s 665 clinics reported seeing.
In addition to those and many other health care centers, there are about 2,000 pregnancy centers across the country that provide medical testing, prenatal care, ultrasounds, and childbirth classes, among other services, all of which supply women with life-affirming options.
Congress Should End Funding to Planned Parenthood
Congress should not force American taxpayers to fund the largest abortion provider in America, especially after videos suggesting it harvests and sells the body parts of unborn children it aborts. Congress should permanently end federal taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates and put the funds to more efficient and effective use by redirecting them to the thousands of health centers across the country that provide women’s health care that is not entangled with abortion or questionable handling of baby body parts.
—Sarah Torre is a Policy Analyst in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, of the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation.