The footage released by Live Action Films showing Planned Parenthood employees counseling self-identified sex-traffickers on how to obtain STD testing, birth control, and abortions for underage girls has generated a firestorm of controversy. Not surprisingly, this has put the mainstream-media spin machine into overdrive. Wisely, most pro-choice commentators are not defending underage prostitution. Instead they are trying to make the case that Planned Parenthood provides a unique and valuable service by providing contraception to low-income earners. A New York Times Sunday op-ed by Gail Collins makes this point, as did a recent blog post at the Center for American Progress.
However, low-income earners seeking contraceptives have alternatives to Planned Parenthood. In fact, the Live Action videos provide evidence of this. In his blog, Coming Home, Gerard Nadal Ph.D. raises this exact point. The Virginia video shows a Planned Parenthood employee offering the pimp advice about payment. The employee runs through the price list for services and then counsels the pimp to go to the county health department for free services if he can’t afford Planned Parenthood. As such, by Planned Parenthood’s own admission, low-income earners have alternatives that are even more affordable. In light of this, one wonders why Planned Parenthood is receiving $300 million a year from the federal government for services to low-income earners — when they encourage low-income earners to seek services from government agencies
Pro-choice activists always argue that more funding needs to be spent on contraceptive services for low-income earners. In reality though, relatively few sexually active women forgo contraceptives due to cost or lack of availability. Nine years ago the Alan Guttmacher Institute surveyed 10,000 women who had had abortions. Among those not using contraception at the time they conceived, only 12 percent said that they lacked access to contraceptives due to financial or other reasons. Similarly, in their book Unmarried Couples with Children, sociologists Kathryn Edin of Harvard and Paula England of Stanford conducted an intense study of 76 low-income couples who had just given birth. Edin and England found that only a very small percentage of these women wanted contraception but were unable to afford it
Defending Planned Parenthood by emphasizing their role in providing contraception may be politically shrewd. Many Americans think of Planned Parenthood as a contraceptive provider rather than an abortion provider. Furthermore, most Americans approve of the sale and the use of contraceptives. However, evidence shows that contraceptives are readily available and that low-income earners can obtain contraceptives elsewhere. Overall, it is disappointing that so many media outlets are interested in creating distractions and covering for Planned Parenthood. In reality, the mainstream media should give Planned Parenthood the scrutiny they deserve and hold them accountable for their criminal behavior.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J.
Editor’s Note: This post has been corrected.