Defunding Planned Parenthood ~ consider

5 things to consider in the  “Defunding” Planned Parenthood debate

The government debate about defunding Planned Parenthood is really about “derailing” Planned Parenthood.  Nevertheless even if there was a vote to defund, it would not stop abortions, nor the sale of embryonic or fetal material. Neither, however,  would defunding Planned Parenthood mean the end of women’s healthcare.   Opportunistic arguments on both sides have arisen following the misleading statements of Carly Fiorina during the Sept 2015 debate.  Let’s stop the hyperbole, think clearly and consider the issues:  

(1) Planned Parenthood is NOT a government entity.

The term “defunding” is very grand and probably quite misleading.  Planned Parenthood is an independent non-profit organization, not a government entity.  We don’t get to “defund” it!  Its revenues in 2014 topped  US$1.3 billion.  While a significant portion of that revenue (about 40%) comes from government grants and contracts (approximately $528 million in 2014), 60% is derived elsewhere. Moreover, Planned Parenthood’s has assets well in excess of $1 billion[1]. It is presumptuous to think we could “defund” such an organization.  Of course (the US government/American taxpayers) could certainly stop or limit the grants and contracts it offers Planned Parenthood for an array of non-abortion healthcare services they provide.   Like any business, losing a large client, particularly one the size of the US government, can undermine the stability of that organization. Is that really what we want? Why is there so much opposition to Planned Parenthood and what does the opposition really center upon? 


(2) The facts are still the facts, regardless of misrepresentations about the details.
We waste so much time over things that should be acknowledged as a matter of fact. There are without doubt debate-worthy issues to consider.  However, whether or not “the video”, depicted by Fiorina during the September 2015 debate, actually exists should not be at issue one way or the other (although certainly it speaks to Fiorina’s suitability for the Presidency).  But it has become an issue and so we are distracted by the slight of hand that suggests if the video doesn’t exist there is no impropriety.

There are honest answers to simple questions that result in a few non-debated conclusions:

  • Planned Parenthood is the number one provider of abortions in the US
  • Planned Parenthood sells embryonic and fetal tissue 
  • Planned Parenthood executives have been inappropriate (self-acknowledged by Planned Parenthood), showing a lack of moral sensitivity regarding services provided and items they sell.

Fiorina is a clever woman and managed to convince many people that she SAW the horrific video she described, without actually stating so.  No doubt her impassioned yet apparently inaccurate version of “the video” contributed to her being declared the “winner” of the September 2015 Republican Debate.  Unfortunately, this controversy turns our attention to distractingl concerns — does the video really exist?, was it altered?, etc.   For the sake of argument we could acknowledge that what was described on that elusive video did not happen precisely as depicted by Fiorina; but we should also acknowledge that such events do happen,  even if they happen in a more clinically appropriate backdrop.  There is no debate that Planned Parenthood is selling embryonic tissue and fetal organs.  We as a society are either OK with this or not.  That is not a simple question but it IS the question. Too many individuals and organizations are searching for emotively charged situations to use in the pitch of their own moral perspective.

(3)  There has never been a better time for receiving healthcare services in our country:
The Affordable Care Act is helping millions received needed healthcare services — men and women.

It is often argued that without Planned Parenthood there would be insufficient healthcare services for women in the US. There has never been a better time for women to receive healthcare, regardless of their socio economic status.   There is little debate that women’s healthcare should be funded.  It is funded — the Affordable Care Act has made that a reality.  Nevertheless, the formation of a Women’s Healthcare Initiative seems a long-time coming.  Let’s fund that to the hilt!  

(4)  Planned Parenthood may not use government funds specifically for abortions — but it would be foolish or dishonest to argue that the funds they receive for other services do not help facilitate abortion services.

By law, federal funding cannot be allocated for abortions. [64]    But it is easy to see why some opponents of abortion have argued that allocating money to Planned Parenthood for grants or the provision of other medical services “frees up” funds to be re-allocated for abortion.[50][65   It would be hard to argue that the enormous revenue generated by fees from our government to Planned Parenthood, pertaining to non-abortion related services, have zero bearing on Planned Parenthood’s capicity to provide cost-effective abortions.  We need to be reminded that abortion is legal!  We as a society simply have to decide whether we are OK with providing taxpayer funds (even for non-abortion related services) to an organization that is associated with abortions.  

The reality is that Planned Parenthood could divest themselves of all abortion-related services and sales, leaving such operations to a secondary and independent hypothetical organization, say American Abortions and Sales, Inc.  Our government could then continue to fund the newly divested Planned Parenthood, free of the abortion stigma with lucrative grants and service contracts. Of course it is not that simple as Planned Parenthood would still be free to support secondary entity, Abortions and Sales, Inc. with donations.

(5) It may difficult, but we need to come to terms with consensus morality ~ Abortion is legal!

Planned Parenthood is the undisputed face of abortion in the minds of most Americans.  As such it is the would-be victim of a nation divided over issues of morality: abortion, the sale of fetal organs, stem cell research, even birth control.  These are complex and challenging moral questions, but for the most part, questions which have been asked and answered.  Abortion is legal.  And it is in the light of that one declarative statement that we should consider what is reasonable regarding morally sensitive topics such as embryonic tissue and fetal organ acquisition and “sale”.


These are challenging moral issues:

Abortion is legal…

Do we dispose of the embryonic/fetal material or use it for a purpose deemed to be for an individual or greater medical good?

Under what circumstances should best practices abortion procedures be modified in order to protect the viability of fetal organs?

Should we stop grants and contracts to an organization with executives who have shown an offensive lack of sensitivity for the moral challenges surrounding abortion and abortion-product sales?

Abortion is legal ~ if the majority of Americans want that changed, they should take steps to organize and try to change it. Otherwise… accept that the laws of this nation support a woman’s right to choose.   Once we take the  “Abortion is right / Abortion is wrong” argument off the table, the remaining issues still requiring debate and decision emerge more clearly.


Next >> The value and challenges of research and utilization of stem cells.




(1) “PPFA Annual Report 2013-2014” (PDF). Retrieved 15 October 2015.

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2 Responses

  1. Della Zobrist says:

    Not sure you understand all the issues — this is a WOMAN’s right to choose. Planned Parenthood is vital to protecting that right

    • CIAbjb says:

      The law is very clear – IT IS a woman’s right to choose. However, there are any number of service providers and options for the full scope of women’s healthcare.

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