A Call To Responsibly Reduce Planned Parenthood Funding

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The funding of planned parenthood is a touchy subject and a point of much contention. Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides family planning education and sexual healthcare services. It has a total annual revenue of $1.3 billion according to its most resent Annual Report.

Where do the funds come from?

Planned Parenthood charges for some of its services, and by doing so, it generates 60% of its annual revenue. The remaining 40%, $528.4 million (that’s roughly 5 billion treats!), is funded using tax dollars. That funding is provided through Medicaid and Title X, a family planning program.

This is where government spending gets a confusing and I groan in dismay. While Title X funding for Planned Parenthood is simple and comes directly from the federal government, Medicaid funding is quite different. In the case of Medicaid funding, we must play a game of follow the treats. States decide what funds go to Planned Parenthood and the federal government reimburses the state 90% of that amount. Can you follow the bouncing tennis ball?

Who benefits from Planned Parenthood?

In general, both Medicaid and Title X are meant to provide services to lower-income Americans, which is who Planned Parenthood primarily serves. In the United States, 2.7 million people visit Planned Parenthood each year. One in five women in the U.S. will visit Planned Parenthood at some point in their life. It is important to point out that Planned Parenthood also provides services to men (but not dogs, dang it!).

What does Planned Parenthood do exactly?

In 2013, Planned Parenthood provided roughly 10.6 million individual services to 2.6 patients over the course of 4.6 million clinical visits. These services primarily consist of providing information on family planning and pregnancy prevention as well as tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cancer screenings. In fact, Planned Parenthood’s two largest activities are STI/STD testing and treatment (4.47 million people helped in 2013) and contraception (3.58 million). While Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, it’s focus is on preventing pregnancies.

You can learn more about Planned Parenthood on their website: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-at-a-glance

Wait, we are funding abortions with tax dollars?

Yeah, you focused on that point didn’t you? Yes. We are. Title X funding that comes directly from the Federal Government prohibits those funds being used on abortions, but the Medicaid funding received by Planned Parenthood does not have the same restriction. These fund are used, in part, to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Approximately 12% of all patients that visit Planned Parenthood will receive an abortion (number of patients / 327,653 abortions), a fact that Planned Parenthood tries to minimize. According to Planned Parenthood’s website, only 3% of the services they provide are abortions. This is a true figure, but is meant to confuse the issue. The 3% figure is calculated by looking at the total number of services provided, divided by the number of abortions. So if a person comes into the clinic and receives a pregnancy test, an HIV test, an abortion, and¬†contraceptives, that is four services provided. Even a dog can see, statistics can be misleading.

So, should we fund Planned Parenthood?

Yes. Defunding Planned Parenthood will lead to the reduction or elimination of services for low-income individuals, making it more difficult for them to access STI/STD tests and treatments, contraception care, and even cancer screenings. My bark alarm is going off! Defunding sounds like a terrible idea! There are three major canine STIs/STDs I have to worry about, and I hope there will be testing available to me should I need it. If you deny these services to humans, what about me?! We need to fund Planned Parenthood, but we should consider reducing the funding where possible.

Wait, what? Reducing their funding will lead to less healthcare!

No it won’t. For 2013, Planned Parenthood reported an $80 million surplus in funding. That is like buying 800 million treats and not eating them. We could scale back tax funding of Planned Parenthood by as much as 15% without impacting their ability to provide services. A smaller decrease of 10% would be advisable as it would provide stability for the organization. This plan would save our country $52 million this year. Based on their 2013 funding, at the end of the year, Planned Parenthood would still have a surplus of $28 million, or 280 million treats. We could then reassess funding against next year and hopefully reduce it further until there are no leftover treats. Leaving federally purchased treats uneaten makes no sense!

What about those abortions?!

The issue of abortion is yet another touchy subject, one I will pounce upon in the coming days. Simply put, it is illogical to deny critical pregnancy prevention and sexual health services to millions of Americans simply because of abortions. I understand that you do not want your tax dollars spent on abortions. Neither do I, but defunding Planned Parenthood doesn’t fix the issue. Remember that Title X funding already has a restriction preventing it being used for abortions, maybe a similar restriction on Medicaid funding is appropriate.

One other note, I recognize that a series of rather disturbing videos have been released purportedly showing Planned Parenthood employees profiting from abortions. If these videos are real, they do not reflect the policies and practices of Planned Parenthood as a whole, and the individuals involved should be dealt with in our criminal justice system.

Another reason for decreasing funding

It is illegal for organizations to use federal grant dollars to lobby, but they are permitted to raise independent funds for lobbying purposes, and that is exactly what Planned Parenthood does. According to the Lobbying Spending Summary at opensecrets.org, Planned Parenthood spent $1.6 million last year lobbying. Why are we allowing a publicly funded company to lobby? Even-though the lobbying is paid for from separate funds, if Planned Parenthood wasn’t lobbying, they would have $1.6 million more in funding to use for services, and they would require $1.6 million less in government funding.

We should consider legislation that prevents federally funded organizations from lobbying. Preventing lobbying by these companies ensures that our public funds actually go to the services we intend and it helps to reduce corruption in our political system.

Lastly, in what I consider to be a bizarre tactic, Planned Parenthood spends all of its lobbying dollars promoting abortion rights. While I understand this is a key women’s health issue, it strongly associates Planned Parenthood with abortions in the minds of our politicians and the public. Should not they be lobbying for increased contraceptive and STI/STD education and treatment which is their main focus? Pushing the issue of abortion so strongly is like poking a rabid dog with a stick when you consider that many people are against funding Planned Parenthood specifically because they provide that service.

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