I cannot tell you how frequently I have heard this phrase in my adult life. Even before I started doing full-time prolife work, I would hear it from family members, pro-life friends, (conservative) political colleagues, and people at church on Sunday.
I hear it when I politely decline to purchase the sweet neighbor girl’s thin mints. I hear it when I do not donate to a dear friend’s pink-hued race to end breast cancer, and I especially heard it when I testified before the state legislature that we should reprioritize federal family planning dollars so that comprehensive health centers receive priority in state funding.
I heard it from the friend who confided “I don’t agree with abortion, but when I was out of work and didn’t have insurance, I went there for my annual exam,” who would then nervously add on “I mean, I wish they didn’t do that other stuff, but if it wasn’t for them would anyone have been there to help me?” I’ve also heard a variation, often uttered when I declined to participate in company charitable giving campaign, “I see, but our campaign does not provide abortion funds” or “These funds go to the local Planned Parenthood office, which doesn’t even do abortions.”
Each time I hear this line of thinking, I stop to calculate how effective it would be to have the conversation. I mentally think about what it means to be an accomplice, or in the language of the Church to “materially cooperate with evil.” Sometimes it is especially hard – a sweet seven-year-old neighbor shouldn’t be a pawn in this fight. I mean, how do you explain to a child that adults routinely fight over if a baby in its mommy’s tummy can be cut or suctioned out if that mommy wants or feels like she needs it, and because her beloved leadership group backs the other side I can’t buy her cookies? How does one turn down a friend who has survived breast cancer and just wants to make a difference? How do we live in an upside down world where sticking to a conviction regarding the value of human life measured against such a utilitarian scale makes us tiresome and pedantic? This doesn’t even begin to address the complexities of relationships that I have: I know people who work at Planned Parenthood or the abortion industry at large, and my general experience is that most of them are kind, thoughtful, and committed people who believe in what they are doing, and while it would make my life so much easier to think of them as faceless minions of an evil empire, I can’t.
With all of this swirling in the background of my mind, it would certainly be easier to just ignore the problem. Buy the cookies, donate to the race, be grateful with the friend who needed an exam, donate to the charitable entity, and stay silent about my beliefs so that I can continue to fit in, be liked, and not rock the boat. Yet, it isn’t. I can’t, and you should not either.
The next time that someone tells me a variation of “Planned Parenthood does more than abortions,” I’m going to agree with that person. Then, while they are silently in shock (or so I imagine), I’m going to elaborate on that a bit. Here is what I will say.
Yes. Planned Parenthood does more than abortions. To be sure, they do a lot of abortions – around 30 - 40% of the 1.2 million abortions in the country, depending on what math you use. Their sophisticated PR and political efforts tout to the public that they are heavily engaged in STD testing and treatment, breast cancer screenings, well-woman care and non-abortion family planning, pregnancy care, sex education, and steering efforts related to the federal affordable health care act. Their political arm is also heavily involved in political activity, lobbying, and campaign spending. I assume that when I’m told that Planned Parenthood does these more than abortion, I am being directed to these efforts, rather than the more salacious headline-grabbing scandals.
Since I am so frequently told that the virtue of these activities should rise above my ideological opposition to the systematic destruction of innocent, unborn human beings (327,653 in 2013 alone), and because I’m a fair-minded person, let’s take a look at some of their other projects. Luckily it is not difficult in this day and age. As an international organization with just under 70 affiliates nationally, hundreds of individual offices, and several related entities, it is a bit much to sort out, and because I am not a full-time researcher, I’m relying on the work of other reputable organizations – some of which are more or less ideologically in favor of Planned Parenthood. I’m taking it as a matter of due course that if someone is able to hold his or her nose over the death and destruction of about a million unborn children in the last three years, that charitable attitude should overlook any unintentional or minor data discrepancies on my part.
The annual budget for Planned Parenthood is just about $1.3 billion dollars. Of that, roughly $528 million (or 41%) is government funds. The $528 million represents grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursement – for the most part. Their top twelve executive staff combined earn just a little over $4 million in salary a year. Their political arm is also incredibly active, spending more than $1.6 million a year lobbying federal issues. They also made just under $1.6 million in direct political expenditures (candidates, PACs, leadership committees, etc) and spent just over $6 million in independent political expenditures (spending to benefit or oppose a candidate or committee that was independent of the candidate). Of those independent expenditures, about $13,000 (yes thousand) benefitted Republican candidates. The rest either was in support of a Democrat or against a Republican. Of course, receiving government funds, paying executive staff well, and participating in the political process is not necessarily a reason to oppose an organization. Many nonprofit organizations do the same, even if the number of nonprofits (and especially prolife nonprofits) whose CEOs earn $600,000 a year is sparse. On the other hand, it is an intriguing point to raise – given the similarity of the abortion-rights population and those who rail against the top 1% of income earners.
Moving on. Looking at the services that Planned Parenthood provides to pregnant women, it is certainly true that abortion is not the only service that they provide. While they provided abortions to 94% of pregnant women they served in 2013, they did provide prenatal care for 18,684 women (5%) and they did refer 1,880 (.5%), of women to adoption services. This represents a decline of about 4% in prenatal care and a 14% reduction in adoption referrals from 2012. Other non-abortion services dropped as well. For example, their cancer screenings went down by about 17% and their contraception services declined by about 4%. In 2013, they provided 378,692 Pap exams and 487,029 breast exams. As a side note: we pesky pro-lifers have not yet identified a Planned Parenthood that has a mammogram machine. A 2012 press release from Planned Parenthood sheds a bit of light on the incongruity, after Komen announced it would not be providing mammogram funds to organizations that do not actually provide mammograms. The backlash from Planned Parenthood was swift and enlightening as they explained, “Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers with program funding have provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams out of the more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide at Planned Parenthood health centers, as well as more than 6,400 mammogram referrals out of 70,000 mammogram referrals.” The “breast exams” that Planned Parenthood actual performs are clinical (aka “manual”) with concerns referred out for a mammogram. Legally, they were not even licensed to perform mammograms anywhere in the country at the time of the Komen announcement. Like other non-abortion services, the number of Pap exams and breast cancer exams performed in 2013 fell significantly from 2012 – by almost a quarter in the case of Pap exams (from 492,365) and by about 12% in the case of breast exams (from 549,804). In 2013, they also did fewer non-HIV tests for sexually transmitted diseases and reported treating fewer people for STDs than in 2012. They did increase the number of HIV tests from 2012, but by a rather insignificant amount. PS: In response to the swift action of Planned Parenthood supporters, Komen reinstated mammogram funds to organizations that do not actually perform mammograms (aka Planned Parenthood).
So while it is true that Planned Parenthood does do more than just abortion, it is hard to argue that they do not do a whole lot of abortion. It is also evident that, at least in recent years, they are increasing their abortion business while most other health services are declining.
Of course, we have not uncovered all of the truly ugly side of Planned Parenthood, yet. So far, I’ve hypothetically held my nose past the intentional destruction of millions of innocent unborn human beings, massive executive compensation expenditures, wildly partisan political activism, and a reduction in most of the non-abortion related services highlighted in their annual reports. Now I come to their legacy of shameful, unethical, macabre, and often illegal actions, most of which have been identified by individuals and organizations who strongly oppose abortion and related activities and a few of which have been brought forth by past employees or employee whistleblowers.
The one that is on the tip of every tongue at the moment is an undercover video showing the head medical director of Planned Parenthood casually drinking wine and eating a salad while she discussed the ins and outs of procuring fetal tissue and organs following abortions. While this is shocking to most, it is not especially surprising. After all, she merely applied the same “waste not, want not” mentality to the remains of aborted children that she applied to finishing off the bottle of wine. While this section did not get included in the edited version of the video so widely circulated, it is in the transcript and unedited tape. After the waitress asks if they would like to have the last bit of wine, the Planned Parenthood medical director says, “We should just pour out what’s in the bottle. And if we drink it we drink it, and if we don’t we don’t…. Not gonna throw it away. It’ll evaporate. I’m very practical.” For those who view the world through a certain form of pragmatic legalism, why not harvest the organs of aborted children? While certainly the practice of tissue donation can be a very noble cause, there are strict rules regarding the ethics of doing so. These ethical and legal considerations are reflected in federal and state laws. As ordinary people responded to the footage, aghast that this could happen, Planned Parenthood explained it away – claiming that they were targeted by anti-abortion extremists who selectively edited to film to make it appear that the doctor was talking about the sale of human tissue, when she was really just talking about providing a service for patients who want to donate. A subsequent statement shows Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, defending the harvesting of tissue from aborted babies, denying that the tissue was sold for profit, and condemning the tone that Dr. Nucatola used in the video. Unfortunately, these claims are a bit undermined by both the transcript of the full video and the subsequent release of flyers promoting embryonic organ tissue donation as a profitable business opportunity that had been posted at Planned Parenthood. The flyer refers to “profit” no fewer than four times, and both the edited versions of the video and the transcript provide ample evidence of the Planned Parenthood medical director elaborating on how she would review the tissue requests the morning before performing abortions so that she could alter her surgical approach, in some instances turning the unborn child breech, so that she could harvest the tissue that had been requested by the companies. It is hard to argue that this is not a violation of the legal and ethical standards. It only takes an ounce of common sense to see that she is placing one foot on each side of the ethical line with respect to consent and profit – you have to be intentionally obtuse not to see the proverbial “wink-wink” of questionable ethics and legality throughout the discussion when taken as a whole. Furthermore, with regard to Ms. Richards’ lame apology about the “tone” of the discussion, we need to understand something. If abortion were no big deal – just another medical procedure- it would not matter that it was discussed lightly. Dr. Nucatola was thrown under the bus by her boss not because she failed to properly revere some extraneous tissue following a common medical procedure, but because she was caught talking about the process of taking an unborn human life with the same irreverent nonchalance that typifies abortion.
It is also hard to argue that this is a one-time ethical lapse on the part of Planned Parenthood. Organizations such as Live Action have performed in-depth undercover investigations for several years. These investigations have identified failure to report instances of child molestation, statutory rape, or incest; deceptive abortion counseling and false information; ignoring the sexual trafficking of minor girls; false advertising and fraud; refusing to condemn infanticide following a botched abortion resulting in a live birth; and support for sex-selected abortions. There are similar videos showing Planned Parenthood staff advising young girls on BDSM practices and how to procure sex toys as minors. There is also the most recent report to Congress from the Alliance Defending Freedom outlining fraud, deception, and misspending at Planned Parenthood. It is true that both of these organizations are unapologetically pro-life, and have an interest in exposing the seedy underbelly of the abortion world. They do this because somehow the simple argument that Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion conglomerate in the nation is not enough to get even self-identified prolife people to stop saying things like “They do more than abortion, you know.” Nonetheless, without a pause – each time a new scandal comes to light, defenders, spokespersons, lobbyists, and staff of Planned Parenthood respond that this is an ideological attack by right-wing, anti-choice activists who are trying to misrepresent the work that Planned Parenthood is doing to protect women’s health, and that this constitutes another arm of the sexist “War Against Women." After a media cycle or two, the information is all but forgotten, except by those of us who cannot fathom why so many people repeat the mantra “Planned Parenthood does more than abortions.” Even when the US Attorney filed a claim against a Texas Planned Parenthood for Medicaid fraud that was settled in 2013 for a little more than $4 million, people believed that this was just anti-abortion ideologues. It is difficult to argue that the US Attorney’s office under President Obama is another effort of right-wing religious ideologues. How much smoke do we need to see before we accept that perhaps something is on fire?
Meanwhile, anti-Confederate flag sentiment (or alternatively - defense) is burning fire-hot across the United States in the name of erasing the ugly legacy of racism and slavery in our country, so much that cities are exhuming the remains of Confederate soldiers from their graves. I am the very first person to argue that racism (and slavery) ia wrong – and for the exact same reason that abortion is wrong: they deny the dignity of a human individual and subject his or her rights to the will of another. If, however, the natural extension of removing the Confederate Flag from flying over government buildings as a symbol of racism is to cancel television shows and dig up the remains of men who in their youth were Confederate soldiers or to ban the sale or display of the Confederate Flag at the Ohio State Fair, why is it that we do not bat an eye when confronted with the ugly history of Planned Parenthood and its founder? Margaret Sanger was an unapologetic eugenicist and likely a racist. Nonetheless, her legacy continues to be celebrated today by Planned Parenthood – where their highest honor “The Margaret Sanger Award” is bestowed upon elected officials like Hillary Clinton every year. The modern Planned Parenthood explains this away, suggesting that her work was predominantly to pave the path of equality for women and that either her seemingly racist-views were either a means to an end of empowering women to obtain freedom and birth control or reflected the historic era that she was in and had shifted by her older years. Those may be true – people’s views shift over their lifetimes. At a minimum, however, it exposes a double standard that is especially concerning given the disproportionate abortion rate among minorities and poor women. African American women make up less than 20% of the population of Franklin County, and yet they represent more than 42% of all abortions happening here. I firmly believe that all women deserve better than abortion, and I’m outraged by a society where an unexpected pregnancy is a de-facto diagnosis of abortion for those who are living in poverty or are among a minority population.
So the next time that someone tells you to just let it go, buy the cookies, race for a cure, and be thankful that a friend had a place to go for a Pap test when she was uninsured, because “Planned Parenthood is more than just abortions,” agree with them. Then, while they are stunned into silence share with them the realities of what else Planned Parenthood is doing. I suppose that some may think of me as a radical, religious, right-wing ideologue because I have the audacity to believe that the worth of a human being is not dependent upon size, intellect, race, strength, ability to feel pain or ability to live outside his or her intended environment. But really, is this really the best we can do to provide support and healthcare to the underserved in our community at a price tag of $528 million a year? Are we propping up the institution of Planned Parenthood because it is truly good for our health and our country, or is it just a modern Leviathan? I suggest the latter.
PS: If you are ready to help us fight the Leviathan, we always welcome new faces. If you'd like to support the work of GCRTL, your donations are tax-deductible.
* Note: I use an informal reference style that is not quite MLA, not quite APA, and not really Turabian. I call it MLAPAbian. On a side note, we are always looking for volunteers with good writing and reference styles! :)
 According to the Planned Parenthood Annual Report, and an increase from the 2012 statistic of 327,166.
 According to their 2013-2014 annual report, 2014 Form 990, and a fact sheet by the Susan B Anthony List.
 According to the Center for Responsive Politics. Note – this includes affiliate information. It appears to include state-level election related spending, but does not seem to include state-level lobbying.
 As an aside, the top 1% of income earners in the US would have an adjusted gross income of just a little under $370,000 per year. The Planned Parenthood 990 reports net salary.
 SBA Factsheet
 SBA Factsheet
 2013-2014 Annual Report
 January 1, 2012, Press Release
 As of June of 2012.
 2012-2013 Annual Report
 Comparison, 2012-2013 Annual Report to 2013-2014 Annual Report.
 Center for Medical Progress
 Center for Medical Progress, Transcript, page 25
 Planned Parenthood, Press Release. July 14, 2015.
 Cecile Richards, July 16, 2015
 Center for Medical Progress, Flyer
 42 USC 289g-1
 Live Action, Investigative Report
 Live Action, SexEd Exposed
 Alliance Defending Freedom, Profit No Matter What
 US Department of Justice Release, August 16, 2013
 Local Memphis, July 7, 2015
 Cleveland.com article July 17, 2015. Note: this is not a commentary in support of or against said flag. If this is the bone you need to pick with me while reading this article, you have missed the point.
 NYU Margaret Sanger Project, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda”
 (and frequently in election years)