By Randall K. O’Bannon Ph.D.
It may surprise some people, but there was a time
when Planned Parenthood actually took an official position opposing
abortion. A 1963 pamphlet said that “An abortion kills the life of
the baby after it has begun.”
There are legitimate questions as to the
sincerity of this declaration, coming as it did at a time when
abortion was not officially allowed in America. But there is little
doubt that Planned Parenthood soon changed its tune, fiercely
fighting to legalize abortion and going on to become the nation’s
largest abortion chain and most powerful abortion lobby. In 2009,
PPFA clinics aborted over 329,000 babies.
From what we can tell, Planned Parenthood first
officially began performing abortions in 1970 in Syracuse, New York,
on the first day the state legalized them. And shortly thereafter,
George Langmyhr, chair of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Committee,
published an article in the December 1971 issue of Clinical
Obstetrics & Gynecology stating, “We support the view that when
an unwanted pregnancy has occurred, abortion services should be
available, with the decision essentially being made by the patient
and her doctor ... . In summary, Planned Parenthood hopes that
abortion will become even more available and supports the efforts of
others in seeking reform and repeal of outdated laws.”
Planned Parenthood has never looked back. It
launched a defense of New York’s permissive abortion law and filed
an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing for abortion to be
legalized nationwide without restrictions. It began offering
abortions in New York City while waiting for the court to make its
decision on abortion on Roe.
While there are estimates that it performed less
than 2,000 abortions in those first couple of years, Planned
Parenthood’s numbers began to climb steadily once the Supreme Court
legalized abortion on demand nationwide in Roe v. Wade in
The 5,000 abortions Planned Parenthood is
estimated to have performed in 1973 then represented only about 0.6%
of the abortions performed in the U.S. Performing 58,660 abortions
in 1977, the percentage grew to 4.5%. It increased to 6.7% with the
104,411 abortions Planned Parenthood performed in 1987. By 2001, the
percentage had climbed to 16.5% when Planned Parenthood topped the
200,000 mark with 213,026 abortions. Today, the 329,445 abortions
performed at Planned Parenthood clinics in 2009 represent about
27.1%, or more than one out of every four abortions occurring in the
That Planned Parenthood’s numbers would grow as
more abortions began to be performed in the U.S. is not surprising.
But it tells you something very significant about the organization
that Planned Parenthood’s numbers grew even as abortions leveled off
in the United States—and even after the number of abortions began to
decline. Planned Parenthood was grabbing a bigger and bigger market
A look back at several of the landmark cases
argued before the Supreme Court in the years since Roe find
the organization at the center of the abortion struggle in the
United States, committed to abortion at any stage, for any reason,
to any person, and believing that this was a “right” that
governments should not only support, but fund with taxpayer dollars.
In one of the first cases to challenge the
court’s Roe ruling, Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri
v. Danforth (1976), PPFA defended saline abortions and
challenged parental and spousal consent laws. Soon after, the
organization opposed reporting requirements and limits on
post-viability abortions in Planned Parenthood Association of
Kansas City v. Ashcroft (1983).
Informed consent, waiting periods, parental
consent, spousal notification, and even the collection of abortion
statistics were challenged in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern
Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992). Showing how far it was willing to
go, Planned Parenthood defended the practice of partial-birth
abortion before the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Planned
Some of these cases Planned Parenthood won,
others it lost. With the Supreme Court, there were often mixed
results, and sometimes the High Court later adopted a limit it had
Planned Parenthood was one of the most vigorous
opponents of the Hyde Amendment, the amendment crafted by the
legendary Illinois congressman in the 1970s limiting government
funding of abortion, a policy Planned Parenthood continues to
challenge to this day, even as it maneuvers to get its hands on a
bigger share of the nation’s health care funding under ObamaCare.
Owing to the complexity of federal and state
budgets and somewhat confusing financial data from Planned
Parenthood, it is difficult to tell precisely how much money the
organization has gotten from the government over the years. But
Planned Parenthood has been drinking from that spigot since at least
1970, when Congress passed Title X, the national “family planning”
program, and it has grown increasingly reliant on government funding
to cover substantial portions of its budget.
For example, while Planned Parenthood reported
$171.9 million in “Government Grants and Contracts” for 1996 (fiscal
year), 34% of its income, it listed $487.4 million in “Government
Health Services Grants and Reimbursements” in fiscal 2010, 46% of
the revenues the billion-dollar corporation took in that year.
Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, which Planned
Parenthood despises, the federal Medicaid program does not currently
fund abortions (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases
of rape or incest). But at least 17 states, and several local
governments, do use public funds to fund elective abortions. All
told, there were 177,404 publicly funded abortions in U.S. in 2006,
certainly many of those at Planned Parenthood clinics.
This is one of the reasons why, in recent years,
there have been moves afoot to defund Planned Parenthood at both the
state and federal level. An attempt to cut funds at the federal
level in 2011 were unsuccessful, owing to strong support for Planned
Parenthood in the Senate and backing from the Obama White House.
Efforts at the state level were more favorable, with Indiana,
Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin all passing
legislation to limit funding in some way. Planned Parenthood has
ardently fought these in the courts, with mixed success, but it has
raised public awareness of the group’s activities and its heavy
reliance on public funding.
In many of those public discussions, spokespeople
for Planned Parenthood have tried to argue that abortion is a
minimal part of its business, representing just 3% of its services.
National Right to Life News has challenged this misleading
characterization on numerous occasions (e.g.,
but the gist of this accounting gimmick is to count every packet of
birth control pills, every pregnancy test, every box of condoms,
etc., as a separate service, regardless of their relative cost, or
whether their sale was part of a larger package of services included
with service the client came in for.
When looked at in terms of clients, Planned
Parenthood factsheets show between 11-12% of its customers receiving
abortions. Even this fails to count the number of women who come
into Planned Parenthood for abortions but leave after a pregnancy
test shows them not to be pregnant–but not before being sold birth
control, an STD test, etc.
Revenue tells the real story, however. At going
rates ($451 for a surgical abortion at 10 weeks in 2009, according
to Guttmacher), the 329,445 abortions performed at Planned
Parenthood in 2009 would represent at least $148.6 million in
revenues, easily more than it would have taken in for pregnancy
tests, birth control pills, STD tests, etc. And this is without even
considering the higher cost of chemical abortions or later surgical
abortions that many Planned Parenthood clinics advertise and
All told, it explains why Planned Parenthood is
so adamant in defending this supposedly inconsequential part of its
Planned Parenthood, a marketing genius, has
always devoted a great deal of money, time, and energy to defending
its message. Over the years, it has tried different strategies,
sometimes trying to capitalize on the tenor of the times, other
times appealing to different audiences.
Early on, it tried to shoehorn its defense of
abortion into its whole “better world through birth control” agenda,
arguing that abortion was essential to help protect poor women from
“excessive childbearing.” Some of that same theme can be found in
today’s arguments, made by Planned Parenthood and its allies, that
every dollar spent on “family planning” saves the taxpayers nearly
four dollars in spending on medical care, welfare benefits, and
social services that would go to women getting pregnant and giving
Appeals to “choice” and “the right to choose”
dropped mention of abortion entirely and tried to make the issue one
of personal freedom. What abortion was about or what happened during
an abortion was, conveniently, never brought up. In one
advertisement from 1985, Planned Parenthood tried to argue that “At
the most basic level, the abortion issue is not really about
abortion. It is about the value of women in society.”
Sometimes several of these themes are blended
together, as they were in the last election, equating challenges on
Planned Parenthood’s funding and its abortion agenda with attacks on
Its latest theme, “Care. No matter what,” serves
to push its identity as a health care provider and its concern for
women while at the same time signaling its resolution against its
critics. None of this self promotion changes the fact that Planned
Parenthood offers a limited range of “services” (for example, it
offers prenatal care or referrals to adoption services to a relative
handful of patients, and the “breast exams” it touts are
manual–Planned Parenthood clinics don’t offer mammography), but
keeps trying to expand its profitable abortion business.
Some have made much of the closing of clinics and
the dissolution of Planned Parenthood affiliates in recent years.
While it is a good thing when Planned Parenthood closes a killing
center in any community, a more careful examination shows that
something more nefarious may be going on.
In the last decade or so, Planned Parenthood has
undergone a massive restructuring, closing unprofitable clinics,
cutting expensive middle management, merging underperforming
affiliates with larger, more aggressive ones. But in the place of
older, smaller clinics with limited services (that is, ones that do
not perform abortions), it has been building giant mega-clinics with
large waiting rooms and multiple exam rooms, the sort of facilities
required for processing large numbers of abortion patients.
Smaller clinics are staying in business by adding
chemical abortions with RU486 to their offerings, often via web-cam
hookup with an abortionist at one of the larger mega-clinics. None
of this makes abortion safer–in fact, it increases the danger to the
mother–but it does make more centers profitable.
Though presented as an effort to “standardize
services,” a mandate from the national office that all Planned
Parenthood affiliates have at least one abortion-performing center
by the end of 2012 makes abortion’s critical contribution to the
organization’s bottom line and its centrality to Planned
Parenthood’s mission all the more apparent.
That this is more than a health crusade is made
apparent by Planned Parenthood’s official endorsement of
pro-abortion Barack Obama in the two previous elections and its
spending more than $12 million in this last election cycle to elect
the president and other supporters of abortion.
Planned Parenthood started small, the vision of
one woman, Margaret Sanger. PPFA has finessed its founder’s many
unattractive comments, including her fondness for eugenics, acting
as if (should its own publicity be believed) it only backed into
abortion to address an unmet “health” need.
But now, 40 years later, Planned Parenthood has
become an abortion behemoth, the nation’s largest abortion chain,
seeking to further expand its reach and revenues, and the lead
player in a campaign to normalize the killing of children, to make
it an accepted medical service and a standard offering of
government-supported heath care.
When you think “Planned Parenthood,” think
“abortion.” It’s clear that it does.