Last month, pro-lifers received good news when Rep. Cliff Stearns (R., Fla), the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced that he would be holding congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood. Outside the community of pro-life activists, Planned Parenthood has always enjoyed a positive public image. Relatively few Americans even know that Planned Parenthood is America’s largest abortion provider.
However, in recent years Planned Parenthood’s image has been tarnished. There are several reasons for this. First, Lila Rose’s LiveAction videos have shown Planned Parenthood employees unwilling to enforce parental-involvement laws, unwilling to report statutory rape, but willing to assist a pimp whose prostitutes are minors. These films have gone viral on the Internet and have received widespread media attention. Furthermore, audits of Planned Parenthood affiliates in several states demonstrate a consistent pattern of overbilling and abuse involving Medicaid funds.
Americans United for Life deserves credit as well for combining all these allegations into a report entitled “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood.” Individually some of these episodes can be seen as lapses in judgment (albeit very serious ones). Collectively they paint a very compelling picture of both mismanagement and misconduct.
There is a good chance that the upcoming congressional hearings will focus on misuse of funds and allegations of criminal behavior. These are sexy topics which might be successful at generating additional negative media coverage for Planned Parenthood. However, I think that pro-lifers would do well to take a broader view and ask Planned Parenthood to present evidence that federal funding of contraception actually reduces unplanned pregnancies or abortions. After all, there is no substantial body of peer reviewed research which suggests that government funding for contraception either lowers either unintended pregnancy rates or abortion rates.
At the end of the day, pro-lifers do not want the government funding a Planned Parenthood that obeys the law, engages in better conduct, and manages its finances well. We want the government to stop funding Planned Parenthood altogether.
— Michael New is an assistant professor of political science at The University of Michigan–Dearborn and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.