On Feb. 18, 2011, with bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed the Pence Amendment, which would end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. In response, Planned Parenthood used its vast resources to launch slick Madison Avenue television ads portraying the group — the nation’s largest abortion provider — as an altruistic organization that provides health-care services to the poor and has only an incidental interest in abortion.
Despite efforts to suggest otherwise, the Pence Amendment does not reduce funding for cancer screenings or eliminate one dime of funding for other important health services to women; the money that does not go to Planned Parenthood as a result of the Pence Amendment will go to other organizations that provide these services. If the Pence Amendment becomes law, thousands of women’s health centers, clinics, and hospitals will still provide assistance to low-income families and women. The Pence Amendment would simply deny any and all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood clinics focus mainly on abortion — and because money is fungible, there is no way to fund the useful services without freeing up money for the organization to spend on abortion. In 2009, the group made only 977 adoption referrals and cared for only 7,021 prenatal clients, but performed a record 332,278 abortions. In other words, a pregnant woman entering a Planned Parenthood clinic was 42 times more likely to have an abortion than to either receive prenatal care or be referred for adoption. Planned Parenthood recently made plain the centrality of abortion to its mission by mandating that every one of its affiliates have at least one clinic that performs abortions within the next two years.
Advocates for the abortion industry have sought to portray efforts to defund Planned Parenthood as a “War on Women,” but the issue is big business, and that business is abortion. This legislative battle is about Big Abortion vs. American taxpayers. As Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director, recently said, “Planned Parenthood’s mission, on paper, is to give women quality and affordable health care and to protect women’s rights. In reality, their mission is to increase their abortion numbers and in turn increase their revenue.”
According to its most recent annual report, the organization raked in $1.1 billion in total revenue. Of that amount, $363.2 million came from taxpayers in the form of government grants and contracts. While current law prohibits Planned Parenthood from directly using tax dollars on abortions, taxpayers subsidize its overall operation, freeing up funds that can be diverted to direct spending on abortion.
And for all the talk about how poor women would be harmed if taxpayers stopped subsidizing Big Abortion, it is telling to see how Planned Parenthood is spending its money. According to a June 2008 story in the Wall Street Journal, Planned Parenthood was flush with cash and using its profits to rebrand itself. The effort was designed to build the business by targeting wealthy consumers to complement their existing customer base of poor and minority populations. While taxpayers underwrite its operations, Planned Parenthood is building luxury health centers in shopping centers and malls, designed by marketing experts with touches such as hardwood floors, muted lighting, and large waiting rooms.
And Big Abortion routinely puts profits over women’s health and safety. When women testify in favor of tightening safety standards at clinics, Planned Parenthood fights them. And despite the fact that 88 percent of Americans favor informed-consent laws that provide information about the risks of, and alternatives to, abortion for women, Planned Parenthood opposes these efforts and works to keep women in the dark. And tragically, in some instances, Planned Parenthood has refused to cooperate when law-enforcement officials have sought information to help girls they believed to be victims of child rape or molestation.
The nation’s largest abortion provider also offers some helpful services, but that should not translate into Americans’ being forced to fund them. Many organizations that provide charitable services, such as the Salvation Army, do not expect to be underwritten by American taxpayers. Why should Big Abortion be the exception?
As Abby Johnson has said, “There are better uses of our money. Planned Parenthood provides shabby, limited health care.” If supporters of Planned Parenthood wish to support the organization, they have every right to do so, but they should not expect everyone else to sign the check.
The time has come to deny any and all federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
— Rep. Mike Pence is a Republican congressman from Indiana.