In the spring of 2019, Planned Parenthood abruptly announced that its president, Dr. Leana Wen, would leave the helm of America’s abortion giant. The first doctor at the head of the organization in five decades, she was on the job for less than one year after taking over following the departure of Cecile Richards in 2018.
In the ensuing fallout, dueling messages from Wen and Planned Parenthood insiders offered very different reasons for her unceremonious ouster. Rank-and-file staffers told various media outlets that the problem largely boiled down to management style and political naivete. Wen, on the other hand, claims the issue lay in “philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood”; specifically, abortion—and whether Planned Parenthood should primarily cast it as a health care issue rather than a political issue. Wen, an emergency room physician herself, preferred the former, and the Board of Directors preferred the latter, ultimately voting unanimously to relieve her of her duties.
Planned Parenthood then named Alexis McGill Johnson as the acting head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as well as the organization’s political arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In the announcement, Planned Parenthood celebrated McGill Johnson as a “renowned social justice leader, lifelong political organizer, and a tireless advocate for reproductive rights.”
While the general public is not privy to the organization’s internal deliberations, the dueling messaging battle during Wen’s departure, combined with the background of the interim president, appears to be signaling that Planned Parenthood will search for a Richards-esque politico to lead the organization.
Internal conversations about leadership and strategy aside, the public is privy to medical and financial information that Planned Parenthood provides each year in its annual reports, as well as data from government and other private sources. This publicly available data—specifically data from Cecile Richards’ 12-year tenure—provide insight about the organization’s priorities as the search for a new leader commences in 2020.
Planned Parenthood Medical Services
In each annual report, Planned Parenthood publishes yearly totals for a variety of categories, from contraception clients to cancer screening and prevention services. These data points are revealing as a single-year snapshot—but they are even more revealing when placed in context of previous years.
The number of Planned Parenthood’s contraception clients decreased almost every year of Cecile Richards’ tenure, and dramatically so in the past five years.
Starting in 2008, Planned Parenthood began providing a more specific breakdown of the methods of contraception chosen by clients. At that point, a reported 2.9 percent chose an intra-uterine device (IUD). By the 2017–2018 report, 22.1 percent of contraception clients were choosing long-acting methods, such as IUDs and implants. The years 2008 to 2012 saw a steady increase that then became more dramatic in the following years. It is possible that part of the reason Planned Parenthood is serving fewer contraception clients in recent years is associated with the dramatic uptick in the number of clients choosing long-acting contraception methods (who, presumably, do not need to return to Planned Parenthood as often to renew a prescription or obtain a new device).
STD/STI Testing and Treatment
Unlike contraception clients, Planned Parenthood gradually increased the total number of STD/STI (sexually transmitted diseases/sexually transmitted infections) testing and treatment clients during the Richards tenure by 64 percent.
Cancer Screening/Prevention Services
Planned Parenthood is providing fewer than one-third of the cancer screening and prevention services it reported performing at the beginning of Cecile Richards’ tenure.
Notably, in 2012 (amidst a dramatic drop in Planned Parenthood’s reported services), the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it would no longer provide grants for breast cancer screening and educational programs at Planned Parenthood clinics. In a press release responding to the announcement, Planned Parenthood claimed that it performs roughly 750,000 breast cancer screenings annually, roughly half of 2011’s total reported services.REF
Planned Parenthood reportedly received $700,000 in one year from the Komen foundation.REF The foundation’s decision to sever ties, however, was short-lived in the face of intense media scrutiny and protests from Planned Parenthood and its allies: Funding was restored within days (on top of the $3 million Planned Parenthood announced it had raised in offsetting funds in the meantime).REF Despite the bluster, overall services continued to decline in subsequent years.
As explained in Americans United for Life’s (AUL’s) special report, “The New Leviathan”:
Perhaps in an effort to mask the growing disparity, Planned Parenthood switched, in 2009, from reporting “prenatal clients” to reporting “prenatal services.” While Planned Parenthood no longer provides an exact figure of prenatal clients, conclusions can be drawn using PPFA’s [Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s] reported 2009 figures. Planned Parenthood reported both 7,021 prenatal clients and 40,489 prenatal services in 2009. That would average to 5.77 services for each pregnant woman. Applying that ratio to its 2013 numbers, PPFA’s 18,684 prenatal services included approximately 3,240 prenatal clients—a more than 80% decline from the 17,610 prenatal clients its clinics saw in 2004.REF
Applying the same ratio to 2018 numbers, Planned Parenthood’s 9,798 prenatal services included roughly 1,700 prenatal clients—a nearly 50 percent decline from AUL’s 2013 estimate and a shocking 90 percent decline from their 2004 calculation.
Abortions at Planned Parenthood
After several years of a dramatic increase in the number of abortions performed in the initial years of Richards’ tenure, the numbers remained generally stable and then declined slightly. After 2016, Planned Parenthood began reporting dramatic upticks again. The 345,672 abortions in 2018 was the highest number of abortions reported during Cecile Richard’s tenure.
The decrease in abortions at Planned Parenthood between 2011 and 2016 should be noted in light of additional context.
Analysis by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, which performs periodic nationwide surveys of abortion clinics, indicates that between 2011 and 2014 the number of clinics that provide abortions in the United States declined 6 percent, and then increased by 2 percent between 2014 and 2017.REF
In 2016 during President Barack Obama’s final year in office, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed the approved regimen for the chemical abortion drug mifepristone (also known under the brand name Mifeprex). The drug originally came on the market in the United States after much controversy in 2000, and in 2016 the Obama Administration FDA loosened the standards for the use of the drug by changing its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy.REF Notably, the spike in Planned Parenthood’s reported abortion numbers occurs after this change.
Further analysis by the Guttmacher Institute indicated that between 2014 and 2017, the incidence of chemical abortion increased by 25 percent, comprising nearly 40 percent of all abortions nationwide in 2017—the year abortions performed by Planned Parenthood began increasing once again, immediately following the FDA’s decision to loosen standards governing mifepristone’s regimen.
CDC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues an annual report of abortion surveillance in the United States by collecting data that states submit on a voluntary basis. (States with a high incidence of abortion, such as California and New York, do not submit data to the CDC.)
When released, the surveillance reports discuss reporting numbers from three years prior. (For example, in 2019 the CDC released abortion data from 2016.) Because reporting is not mandatory, and the data is several years out of date, these surveillance reports are a somewhat helpful—but unfortunately incomplete—snapshot of abortion incidence in the United States. That said, the data shows a consistent decline in the number of abortions overall, in contrast to the increasing number of abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics specifically.
Guttmacher Institute. The Guttmacher Institute—formerly the research arm of Planned Parenthood but now a separate entity—periodically conducts nationwide surveys of abortion providers throughout the country, not just Planned Parenthood clinics. Guttmacher data encompass more respondents than CDC data, although these surveys are done every three years, rather than annually. Still, both the Guttmacher Institute and the CDC demonstrate that the number of abortions continues to decline annually.
Planned Parenthood’s Market Share of Abortion
Nationwide, the overall abortion rate—according to both the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute—is declining. However, abortions at Planned Parenthood are increasing—and so is the organization’s market share. In 2005, Planned Parenthood accounted for 32 percent of abortions reported by the CDC and 52 percent of abortions in 2016. In 2005, Planned Parenthood accounted for 22 percent of abortions reported by the Guttmacher Institute and 39 percent in 2017.REF
Planned Parenthood Financial Data
In addition to releasing information about medical data each year, Planned Parenthood releases annual financial data as well. This financial information is for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a 501(c)(3), not to be confused with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which is the organization’s political action committee.
Planned Parenthood’s reported excess revenue over expenses varied over the course of Cecile Richards’ tenure, although it dramatically increased in recent years. During her final year as the head of Planned Parenthood, excess revenue was nearly five times greater than what it was at the start of her tenure.
While excess revenue varied from year to year, Planned Parenthood’s net assets consistently increased throughout the course of Richards’ tenure, and more than doubled between her arrival in 2006 and her departure in 2018.
Planned Parenthood’s government funding nearly doubled over the course of Richards’ tenure. As of 2018, Planned Parenthood received over one-half billion taxpayer dollars annually.
Planned Parenthood received three times the number of private contributions in 2018 than it received in 2006, when Cecile Richards arrived. In recent years, the number of active individual contributors has increased dramatically after remaining relatively stable for most of Richards’ tenure. Although Planned Parenthood receives millions of dollars in bequests each year, those dollars make up a relatively small amount of the overall of private contributions.
During the course of Richards’ tenure, private contributions made a steady increase in the percentage of Planned Parenthood’s overall revenue. In contrast, the percentage of government funding contributing to Planned Parenthood’s overall revenue peaked 10 years ago and has steadily declined since then.
Planned Parenthood leadership has indicated that, in light of Dr. Leana Wen’s departure, the organization will continue to lean into abortion politics.
During Cecile Richards’ tenure, Planned Parenthood commanded an increasing share of the overall U.S. abortion market—nearly doubling both the number of active individual contributors and the amount of government funding it receives, as well as seeing an increase in private donations by nearly 200 percent.
Should Planned Parenthood appoint a Richards-esque leader, Americans can expect more of the same: more abortions; more of their tax dollars funding Planned Parenthood’s activities; and declining numbers of prenatal services, cancer screening and prevention services, and contraception clients served at Planned Parenthood.
Melanie Israel is Research Associate in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, of the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation.
Appendix A: Planned Parenthood Annual Reports, 2006–2019
2005–2006 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2005–2006,” https://liveaction.org/research/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/2005-2006-Planned-Parenthood-Annual-Report.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020)
2006–2007 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2006–2007,” https://liveaction.org/research/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/2006-2007-Planned-Parenthood-Annual-Report.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2007–2008 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2007–2008,” https://www.liveaction.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2007-2008-Planned-Parenthood-Annual-Report.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020)
2008–2009 Reports: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2008–2009,” https://www.scribd.com/document/49124420/Planned-Parenthood-Annual-Report-08-09 (accessed February 20, 2020). See also Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Fact Sheet: Planned Parenthood Services,” September 2010, https://liveaction.org/research/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/2008-2009-Planned-Parenthodo-Factsheet.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2009–2010 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2009–2010,” https://liveaction.org/research/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/2009-2010-Planned-Parenthood-Annual-Report.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2010–2011 Annual Financial Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Financial Report: 2010–2011,” https://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/ppfa_ar_2011_110112_vf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2011–2012 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2011–2012,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/4913/9620/1413/PPFA_AR_2012_121812_vF.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2012–2013 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report: 2012–2013,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/7413/9620/1089/AR-FY13_111213_vF_rev3_ISSUU.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2013–2014 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “2013–2014 Annual Report,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/6714/1996/2641/2013-2014_Annual_Report_FINAL_WEB_VERSION.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2014–2015 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “2014–2015 Annual Report,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/2114/5089/0863/2014-2015_PPFA_Annual_Report_.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2015–2016 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “2015–2016 Annual Report,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/uploads/filer_public/18/40/1840b04b-55d3-4c00-959d-11817023ffc8/20170526_annualreport_p02_singles.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2016–2017 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “2016–2017 Annual Report,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/uploads/filer_public/71/53/7153464c-8f5d-4a26-bead-2a0dfe2b32ec/20171229_ar16-17_p01_lowres.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2017–2018 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “2017–2018 Annual Report,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/uploads/filer_public/80/d7/80d7d7c7-977c-4036-9c61-b3801741b441/190118-annualreport18-p01.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).
2018–2019 Annual Report: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Annual Report:2018–2019,” https://www.plannedparenthood.org/uploads/filer_public/2e/da/2eda3f50-82aa-4ddb-acce-c2854c4ea80b/2018-2019_annual_report.pdf (accessed February 20, 2020).