Planned Parenthood: Abortion. Money. Politics. Scandal.
Planned Parenthood portrays itself as an indispensable provider of women's health care. But what do the facts tell us?
Year after year, Planned Parenthood makes hundreds of millions of dollars by performing hundreds of thousands of abortions while providing fewer and fewer non-abortion services. It vigorously seeks to defeat public policies that would limit abortion in any way. And it is heavily subsidized by American taxpayers.
Here's what everyone needs to know about Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood and abortion
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) performed 321,384 abortions in 2016,* according to the group's 2016-2017 annual report. That makes Planned Parenthood, by far, the leading practitioner of abortion in the United States.
In recent years, the annual abortion total at Planned Parenthood has remained fairly stable (ranging from about 320,000 to 334,000) even as overall abortions in the country have dropped significantly. Most of Planned Parenthood's other services, by contrast, have consistently declined. Contraceptive services have dropped 30 percent since 2009. Cancer screenings (mostly manual breast exams and pap tests) have dropped 64 percent. "Prenatal services" (which were always very rare) have plummeted 81 percent. "Total services" provided by Planned Parenthood are down 15 percent.
Among the three pregnancy-related services Planned Parenthood provides women who are already pregnant (abortion, adoption referral, prenatal services), abortion accounts for 97 percent. For every one adoption referral, Planned Parenthood performs 83 abortions. The group is 41 times more likely to perform an abortion than to provide any prenatal care.
Planned Parenthood claims that abortion makes up only 3 percent of what it does, but this figure is highly deceptive. Planned Parenthood calculates the number by unbundling its activities and counting each element separately. A woman's abortion visit, for example, may include a pregnancy test, an STI test, birth control pills, and more—and Planned Parenthood counts them all as separate services (even though abortion is the only reason for the visit and the primary expense). The Washington Post gives Planned Parenthood's "misleading" claim a fact-check score of "three Pinocchios."
"The evidence suggests," concludes a 2018 study published in the Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, "that [Planned Parenthood] has had a long-term inflationary effect on the incidence and prevalence of abortion in the U.S."
Planned Parenthood and money
Planned Parenthood took in a record $1.46 billion in revenue during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. That's an increase of more than $100 million over the previous year and a 39 percent rise since 2009**—even as the organization has provided fewer services to fewer clients. During just the last five years, Planned Parenthood's revenue has exceeded its expenses by $420 million.
In the year ending June 2017, Planned Parenthood received $544 million in government reimbursements and grants. Although federal dollars are not supposed to directly fund abortion (except in rare cases), the money Planned Parenthood receives is fungible and serves to support its abortion activities. Moreover, many states, including Minnesota, directly reimburse Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers for elective abortions through their Medicaid programs.
Planned Parenthood and politics
Planned Parenthood's political arms oppose any restrictions on abortion considered by Congress, state legislatures, and the courts. Planned Parenthood opposes limits on late abortions, partial-birth and dismemberment abortions, and taxpayer funding of abortions. It opposes parental involvement (for minors) and informed consent requirements before women undergo abortion. It opposes licensing and inspection of abortion facilities. And—perhaps most of all—it opposes any reduction of its own taxpayer funding.
Planned Parenthood also spends heavily to elect candidates to office who favor unlimited abortion and support funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has become, as the Washington Post reports, "a powerful political juggernaut."
Planned Parenthood and scandal
Abortion isn't the only reason that Planned Parenthood is controversial. Some former employees, for example, have filed whistleblower lawsuits alleging fraud, and many audits have found Planned Parenthood facilities overbilling the government. A 2018 investigation found numerous cases of Planned Parenthood failing to report child sexual abuse. And recent sting videos show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the harvesting of fetal body parts (such as liver and brain) in exchange for compensation from outside companies.***
Planned Parenthood and Minnesota
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS), the regional PPFA affiliate, operates Minnesota’s largest abortion facility in St. Paul. (PPMNS recently joined with another affiliate to become Planned Parenthood North Central States.) The center performed a record-high 6,234 abortions in 2017, according to the Minnesota Department of Health—more than three times that of the state's next highest practitioner.
Contrary to state and national abortion trends, abortions at PPMNS have consistently gone up. As the overall state abortion total decreased 26 percent from 2007 to 2017, Planned Parenthood increased its abortions by 59 percent. In 2007, Planned Parenthood performed 28 percent of Minnesota abortions; 10 years later, it performed 61 percent.
But while Planned Parenthood's abortion numbers continue to rise, it provides fewer non-abortion services. PPMNS's contraceptive services have dropped 28 percent since 2013, according to the organization's annual reports. PPMNS's number of HPV vaccines has fallen 51 percent. And its cancer screenings have plummeted 55 percent.****
In the year ending June 30, 2017, PPMNS generated revenue of more than $47 million, including more than $5 million from the government. The group benefits from Minnesota's policy of Medicaid-funded abortion, which allows Planned Parenthood to offer "free" (state-funded) abortions to low-income women. PPMNS billed Minnesota taxpayers a record-high $521,596 for a record-high 2,322 abortions in 2016, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Planned Parenthood has increased its tax-funded abortions by 168 percent since 2011.
Planned Parenthood and women's health
Planned Parenthood claims that it is essential to women's health. But it provides a very limited range of actual health services. Far better alternatives are available for women who need care.
Federally qualified health centers, unlike Planned Parenthood, provide comprehensive health care to low-income women and men. They also outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 16-to-1. If women's health care (rather than abortion) is a priority of government, then public funding should be redirected from Planned Parenthood to these full-service health centers. That's what federal proposals to defund Planned Parenthood have sought to do.
For women facing unexpected and challenging pregnancies, pregnancy care centers provide practical support and assistance. Unlike Planned Parenthood, they offer women positive alternatives to abortion. And they greatly outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics both in Minnesota and nationwide.
Planned Parenthood doesn't deserve our support
Planned Parenthood is in the business of ending the lives of human beings before they are born. And it is a profitable business. But it does not deserve our support or our tax dollars.
* The 2016 data span October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016.
** The fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.
*** Planned Parenthood tried to dismiss the videos by claiming they are deceptively edited. Forensic analysis by an independent firm determined that the raw footage is authentic, however, and that the full-length videos only exclude "non-pertinent" footage.
**** Based on PPMNS's latest (2016-2017) annual report.