Politics & Policy

A Welcome Dent in Planned Parenthood

An pro-life marcher during the 46th annual March for Life at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The Trump administration has finalized a new rule that likely will result in the largest drop in federal funding for Planned Parenthood since the group first began receiving government subsidies nearly five decades ago.

The rule forbids the use of Title X family-planning funds “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” The statute governing the program has always declared that “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning,” but for much of the program’s history that language was effectively ignored. The Trump administration is insisting that it will no longer be.

Planned Parenthood and its defenders have made the defense of the subsidy into a high principle, insisting that the administration is imposing a “gag rule.” They claim that the new policy will result in the denial of necessary health care to millions of American women. In fact, Title X funding won’t be reduced at all, merely redirected from groups that commit abortions. Fewer than 500 of the approximately 4,000 Title X service sites in the country are Planned Parenthood facilities.

The rule will cause only a small hit to the corporation’s bottom line. Most of its government funding — it gets half a billion a year — comes from Medicaid reimbursements. The loss of Title X grants will cost it about $60 million. What outrages Planned Parenthood is that the federal government is distinguishing between family planning and abortion, which is to say between what it says it’s about and its actual core mission.

Planned Parenthood wants to be considered a benevolent health-care provider rather than the nation’s largest abortion business, and it wants the cachet of the federal government’s treating it as a valued and non-controversial partner. Hence the frequent, though long-debunked, claim that abortion makes up a mere 3 percent of the organization’s activities. Planned Parenthood’s own annual report tells the real tale: Last fiscal year alone, its facilities performed upwards of 332,000 abortion procedures, well over one-third the estimated abortions in the entire country. Its new president, Leana Wen, was more candid last month when she said that “protecting and expanding access to abortion” is the group’s “core mission.”

So Planned Parenthood and its allies are fighting the new rule for both philosophical and practical reasons. It disagrees with the administration — and with longstanding American law — about whether abortion should be considered a legitimate method of family planning deserving federal funding. And the organization is unwilling to keep its Title X funding by financially and physically separating its abortion business from its other operations. Abortion is its bottom line, not a rounding error.

The new rule not only denies funding to groups that profit from killing innocent human beings, but in the process exposes Planned Parenthood’s real agenda.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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