Ever since Senate Republicans pushed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in August 2015, a video clip of Elizabeth Warren’s passionate defense of the organization, called, “How to Silence Critics of Planned Parenthood,” has popped up in my feed every two or three days. To say the least, she was displeased with the effort to defund the controversial organization.
- She believes Republican efforts to defund women’s healthcare centers is straight out of the 1950s.
- She believes Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are a “deliberate, methodical, orchestrated attack on women’s rights.”
- She states that people need and use Planned Parenthood because more than half of their facilities exist where there isn’t ready access to healthcare.
- She reiterates that Planned Parenthood does not spend one penny of federal funds on abortion services other than in the case of rape, incest, or threat to the mothers life.
- She states, “The Republican plan to defund Planned Parenthood is a Republican plan to defund women’s healthcare.”
Ironically, the video, which was supposed to silence me, has had the opposite effect; It inspired me to write about why we must have a serious discussion about Planned Parenthood.
I want Planned Parenthood defunded, but…
- …I don’t want to restrict access to women’s healthcare centers.
- …I’m not out to attack women’s rights.
- …I don’t want to defund women’s healthcare.
I don’t oppose Planned Parenthood because I want to attack women’s health or their rights. I’m opposed to Planned Parenthood because they’re a highly partisan organization with extreme positions who has been surrounded by controversy since their inception.
The proposed bills to defund Planned Parenthood wouldn’t cut funding for women’s healthcare. Instead it would shift those funds to be spent elsewhere. This is a quote from the bill which passed in House of Representatives.
(3) All funds that are no longer available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. and its affiliates and clinics pursuant to this Act will continue to be made available to other eligible entities to provide women’s health care services.
The response of many is to point out that Planned Parenthood provides women’s healthcare in areas others don’t.
- Does Planned Parenthood provide needed services? Yes
- Does Planned Parenthood provide services which actually reduce the number of abortions? Yes
- Does that mean we can turn a blind eye to questionable behavior? No
In fact, if what they’re doing is this important, it’s even more important that we raise our standards. If what they’re dong is so important, perhaps we need more options than just one organization.
#1 | Planned Parenthood is a Dangerous Monopoly
One of the strongest arguments for funding Planned Parenthood is that they are the only health care provider in many lower income areas. Therefore, cutting spending and shutting down facilities greatly reduces access to health care for lower income men and women.
For the sake of the discussion, I will trust Elizabeth Warren when she says they are the sole provider of women’s healthcare in certain areas.
Now, any challenge to Planned Parenthood’s integrity, any proposed new restrictions, and any suggestion of changing government funding can be spun as an attack on women and the poor. It doesn’t matter if the questions regarding their integrity are true, the restrictions noble, or the funding shifts necessary; the victims are women and the poor. Planned Parenthood functions as their own version of a monopoly.
If the ultimate goal is to provide affordable healthcare for all women then, instead of simply defending Planned Parenthood, we should be exploring how to create more options. So long as Planned Parenthood is the only option, we’re essentially being held hostage.
Consider the video of Elizabeth Warren from early in this post. In her passionate defense of Planned Parenthood, she BARELY even touched on the criticisms being brought against them. She shrugged off the recent hidden camera videos simply by saying they’re, “heavily edited.” She mentions abortions, but only to point out how safe the procedure is, and how comforting the doctor will be. Instead of acknowledging that opponents to Planned Parenthood may actually have reason to be suspicious of the organization, she spun the story into an attack on women’s healthcare. The only reason such an absurd claim can stick is because Planned Parenthood is a functional monopoly. She’s so concerned with women’s healthcare that she has formed a blind spot over any suspicious behavior involving Planned Parenthood. The lack of alternatives has created an environment where there is no real accountability.
If we’re serious about women’s healthcare, we need to find solutions which don’t shackle us to a single organization.
#2 | Planned Parenthood is Fulfilling Margaret Sanger’s Eugenics Agenda
Mararet Sanger was a social reformer who was a major part of popularizing birth control. With a desire to end unsafe abortions by making contraception available, she founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. This organization would eventually evolve into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. From 1952 to 1959, she served as the president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In many ways, she’s seen as the founder of Planned Parenthood.
On the surface, Sanger’s mission seemed noble, and she was actually largely opposed to abortion . Unfortunately, she was also an advocate for negative eugenics, “which aims to improve human hereditary traits through social intervention by reducing the reproduction of those who were considered unfit.” 
Her own written and spoken words are extremely telling.
In 1929, she spoke at a Ku Klux Klan rally  and, according to her own writings, it led to additional speaking offers:
“I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan … I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses … I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak … In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.” 
One Huffington Post article tried to defend her connections to the KKK by suggesting it was a mainstream group at the time. 
In a letter she wrote to Clarence Gable about the “Negro Project,” she said:
“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” 
While this quote is taken out of its context, it represents how suspicious their actions must have been. People don’t get suspicious that you’re attempting genocide unless you’re doing something highly untrustworthy.
Elsewhere, she wrote:
“While I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane and syphilitic, I have not been able to discover that these measures are more than superficial deterrents when applied to the constantly growing stream of the unfit. They are excellent means of meeting a certain phase of the situation, but I believe in regard to these, as in regard to other eugenic means, that they do not go to the bottom of the matter.” 
In a 1957 interview with Mike Wallace, she said:
“I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world — that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin — that people can — can commit.” 
While the person of Margaret Sanger was certainly more complex than a series of quotes from over 70 years ago, the reality is that she was a bigoted extremist. If she said any of these things in the 21st century, she would be written off for her hate speech instantly.
The other sad reality is that the organization that she started is fulfilling her dream. 
- 36% of abortions are performed on black mothers, but black Americans only make up 13% of the population.
- 64% of abortions are performed on minorities.
A lot has happened in the more than 90 years since she founded the organization that became Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, one thing that hasn’t changed is that it’s fulfilling some of it’s founder’s less noble causes.
#3 | Planned Parenthood’s Views on Abortion are Extreme
While I am thoroughly pro-life, I can understand support for first trimester abortions. I can’t say that my position would change on abortion if I did not have my religious beliefs but, logically, I can see why someone would have no moral problem ending life at that stage of development.
With that said, I get physically ill thinking about abortions after 20 weeks. After my first child was born, there was about three months I struggled with obsessing over the concept that there are people who would or could abort a baby that was kicking. To be clear, I’m well aware that this is a very small percentage of abortions, and that they’re highly regulated.
It would be a lot easier for me to view Planned Parenthood from a more gracious perspective if they didn’t seem to support extremely radical views on abortion. To my knowledge, they lobby to oppose any restrictions on abortion. Anytime a bill is presented which could restrict abortions, they oppose it. When you combine their pro-abortion stances with lack of competition (which I wrote about above), a scenario is created where fairly reasonable laws (i.e. abortion providers must have admitting privileges for a hospital) are spun as an attack on women.
Or take, for example, an interaction at a Florida hearing about new abortion restrictions. Alisa Laport Snow was attempting to defend Planned Parenthood, and she was asked the following question:
Representative Jim Boyd asks her,
“So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I’m almost in disbelief. If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”
She responds with:
“We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician.”
The clip continues on for five more minutes as she attempts to dodge a very direct question. The obvious answer to the question was, “We would provide medical care for the child.” That’s not just my religious belief. That’s the law. A baby born alive has rights.
However, their views on abortion are so radical, and their moral compass is so far off, that EASY questions have become ethical dilemmas. No debate needs to be had about the question. Babies born alive are humans with inalienable rights by even the most EXTREMELY liberal and progressive standards. Even in Slate’s infamous article, “So what if abortion ends life?” where they argue that life begins at conception, but that life is “a life worth sacrificing,” they acknowledge that birth is when we receive the right to life .
Over the last couple of months, a series of videos have been released which show high level Planned Parenthood employees discussing the cost for various body parts being donated to research institutes. The bulk of the discussion about these videos has been about whether these practices are legal. I suspect almost everything they’ve done is either legal or within the grey zone. In my mind, the question isn’t, “Is this legal?” Lots of things have been legal in our nation’s history which weren’t remotely ethical. I’m less concerned with whether these practices are legal, and I’m far more concerned with why the doctors in the videos have become so numb to what they’re doing that they can casually joke about severed body parts and intact brains.
It’s not just that Planned Parenthood is Pro-Abortion. It’s that they support extremist views in regards to abortion.
#4 | Planned Parenthood Promotes an Extreme Sexual Ethic
A couple years back, I wrote an article titled, “Planned Parenthood Sponsored a Tutorial Video Bondage & Naked Selfies for Teenagers.” It was probably a bit angrier than it should have been but, the facts remain, they sponsored some radical videos.
A few years back, the New England branch of Planned Parenthood sponsored a 20 year old YouTube star named Laci Green to create a series of quirky sex education videos for teenagers. The series was called A Naked Notion. To give you a little bit of background on Laci Green, at the age of 18, she started her own YouTube channel to provide sex advice. One time, a pregnant teenager sent her an email asking her what to do. She decided to make three videos (one for abortion, one for adoption, and one for giving birth), and she then asked her viewers to click “LIKE” on which option they recommend. Planned Parenthood was so impressed by her work that they offered to sponsor this new series and link to it on their webpage.
This new series contained videos such as:
- Your Anal Sex Questions Answered
- Birth Control Basics: Pulling Out
- Problems With Penises
- Getting Kinky: BDSM 101
- Posting Nude Pics?
The last video is tutorial on how to safely send nude selfies…for teenagers. Many of the people watching these videos are under-age. Thus, it’s a video on how to create child pornography and not get caught.
The underlying sexual ethic behind all of this is very simple: We’re all sexual beings, and therefore people are going to do it. So, let’s teach them to do it safely.
I can understand this as a pragmatic belief system, but I certainly don’t support it as a sexual ethic to teach teenagers. It’s very difficult for me to understand why my tax dollars are going to support an organization which isn’t just providing sex education, they’re teaching a sexual ethic. This is far more than providing services and education. This is shaping morality.
#5 | Planned Parenthood is a Highly Politically Partisan Organization
While Planned Parenthood may be the recipient of large sums of federal funds, they also donate to hundreds of politicians. Their website claims that they are non-partisan organization . However, if you look at their actions, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
To be more specific, they donate to 100s of Democrats, and a handful of Republicans. Based on public records, they donate roughly 100 times as much money to Democrats as to Republicans. Based on a quick look, it appears they have donated to virtually every Democrat Senator and Congressman. Likewise, they’ve sent employees (paid for by tax dollars) on bus tours to rally for politicians .
Recently, the Senate voted on whether or not to defund Planned Parenthood. Of the 46 Senators who voted to keep funding the organization, 45 have received money from them . On the flip side, it appears that maybe 1 of the 53 Senators who voted to defund them received money from them. There seems to be a pretty clear conflict of interest. In 2012, their advocacy groups spent roughly $15 million on ads for Obama, or against Romney .
While I understand that this is our how government works, and nothing illegal was done, this is the type of conflict of interest in politics we need less of. We should be striving for fewer places where organizations and individuals are buying politicians, rather than more.
Lastly, it seems remarkably dubious that we would provide $500,000 to them, and that they would then turn around and pour money into the pockets of the people voting to provide them money.
#6 | Federal Funds Free Private Donations
Since Row V. Wade, it has been illegal for federal funds to be used to pay for abortions. This is the reasoning frequently used to defend federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In theory, this makes a lot of sense. The pro-life crowd wants to defund Planned Parenthood primarily due to their abortion practices. Therefore, if funds aren’t going to fund abortions, the pro-life crowd should be happy.
However, I don’t understand how that works in practice. Don’t the federal funds free private funds to be used for abortions? Donations which otherwise would have been used to fund women’s healthcare suddenly are freed up by federal funds to go to abortions.
To simplify the numbers, let’s say Planned Parenthood’s budget is $1,000,000,000 annually ($500,000,000 for abortions and $500,000,000 for other services), and they receive $500,000,000 from private donations, and $500,000,000 from federal funds. Therefore, all of the private funds go towards abortions, and all the federal funds go towards other services. But, if you cut all of the federal funding, they would have to reallocate their budgets on both sides. Federal funds can’t legally be used for abortions, BUT the existence of federal funds frees up private donations to be used for abortions.
What am I missing?
#7 | They’re Unwilling to Compromise Over “3%” of Their Procedures
According to their website, “Three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services are abortion services” . When the pro-life crowd criticize them for their abortion services, defenders are often quick to point out the 3% statistic. The argument goes that defunding Planned Parenthood hurts 100% of services over 3% of their services.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it goes both ways. If abortion truly is only 3% of what they do, if they truly value the other 97%, they would be willing to compromise on the 3%. Instead, they consistently dig their heels into the sand over what is supposedly 3% of their procedures.
A couple of years back, Texas became the center of much debate over new abortion laws. Wendy Davis did a good old fashioned talkie filibuster and, in doing so, launched herself into political stardom. These new abortion restrictions would cause a number of Planned Parenthood facilities to shutdown. During the entire discussion, I kept thinking to myself, “Instead of shutting down, why don’t they simply stop providing abortions? If it’s only 3% of what they do, why shut the other 97% down?”
While only 3% of health services may be abortion services, that doesn’t tell us anything about what percentage of their revenue comes from abortion services.
Former Planned Parenthood site director, Abby Johnson, turned Pro-Life advocate, claims that the 3% number is highly misleading, and that the real number is closer to 12%. Likewise, she claims that, as a clinic manager, she was told to double the number of abortions her site performed in order to increase revenue .
If abortion is only 3% of their operations, why do they have such a long track record of treating it as a central issue? Why are they so opposed to any restrictions on something which are trying to convince us is a very minor part of what they do’?
#8 | Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
Planned Parenthood has always been a controversial organization, but the national debate exploded in July of 2015 with the release of series of videos of undercover actors discussing the price of aborted fetus tissue. At the time of this writing, I believe 11 videos have been released, and more are likely on the way.
In these videos we see:
- Planned Parenthood employees discussing the price for various organs of aborted fetuses while drinking wine and eating a salad. In another video, an employee turns over a fully intact aborted baby and, upon seeing the gender says, “It’s a boy,” as a joke. Another video has an employee talking about valuable the gonads are.
- In one video, a former employee recalls an incident where she was instructed to assist in removing the brain of an aborted baby outside the womb with a beating heart…also known as dissecting a living human.
- Throughout the videos, there are little jokes and comments from employees about people making lots of money through abortions and tissue donation.
- Some of the videos appear to show employees discussing changing abortion procedures to attempt to keep organs and body parts intact.
- In the fifth video, Abby Johnson (mentioned previously as a former Planned Parenthood site manager) claims her facility brought in $120,000 monthly from the sale of aborted fetus tissue.
Defenders of Planned Parenthood are quick to point out that these videos are heavily edited, and that receiving reimbursement for donated tissue is perfectly legal. However, even the President of Planned Parenthood has issued an apology for the tone and statements made in some of the videos .
While many try to discount the videos as heavily edited, the full footage is available for viewing. Certainly, in some places, the full footage drastically changes the context of the comments. But, in other places, the comments are simply unsettling. The problem with attempting to simply discredit the videos as “heavily edited,” is that there’s simply too much smoke to think to suggest that there isn’t a fire.
Watch the full footage here:
This isn’t the first time Planned Parenthood has been exposed via sting operation videos. An organization called Live Action has repeatedly led undercover sting operations against Planned Parenthood. Each time they have done so, employees have been fired . In a sting operation back in 2012, an undercover actor asked a Planned Parenthood employee about a gender specific abortion. After informing the actor she’ll find out the gender around the 20th week, she explains that Planned Parenthood won’t deny her access to an abortion despite her reason . In yet another video in 2013, an employee explains how, if an aborted fetus is delivered, even if it’s still moving and breathing, it is placed in a solution. As the employee put it, “The solution would make it stop [moving] … That’s the whole purpose of the solution” .
Certainly, the way these sting operations were acquired is ethically dubious. Certainly, some of the actions would be considered entrapment if the police did them. At the same time, each time someone has dug deep and dirty to discover Planned Parenthoods darker side, they’ve found it.
I don’t believe they’re an entirely evil organization. I’m sure the majority of their employees are loving people with the best of intentions. However, it’s difficult to ignore the consistent stories of corruption and immoral practices.
What Would It Take…
As someone who is Pro-Life, it’s easy for me to quickly see and believe the negative stories surrounding Planned Parenthood. If you’re like me, biased towards opposing Planned Parenthood, it’s vitally important that you attempt to view them as real people in an organization that actually does provide services which help women. We can’t believe every horror story, and we can’t believe the talking points and spin. If you truly believe the unborn have a right to life, then this is too important to lazily believe everything you read or see. We must be intellectually honest.
For anyone reading this who is more on the Pro-Choice/pro-Planned Parenthood side, please consider two questions:
- What would have to be revealed about Planned Parenthood for you to stop supporting them?
- If there was an alternative organization across the street which offered all the services minus abortion, would you be opposed to transferring the funding from Planned Parenthood to this other organization?
You need to know where your line is, and the reason you’re behind it. Far too many support Planned Parenthood simply because they’re the solo provider of health care for women in certain areas. That seems to be a problem that needs to be solved and, once that problem is solved, we can re-evaluate Planned Parenthood from a clear perspective.
As nice as it would be if reality fit neatly into our preconceived notions and the narrative we believe, reality is virtually always more complex than that. Planned Parenthood is most likely neither the noble champions of women their defenders claim, or the mustache twirling villains their attackers perceive. The real Planned Parenthood truly does serve women, but it also appears to have become numb to how extreme their practices have become.
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger
-  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/5/grossu-margaret-sanger-eugenicist/
-  Margaret Sanger, “An Autobiography,” Page 366
-  Birth Control and Racial Betterment,” Feb. 1919, The Birth Control Review
-  http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/08/20/false-narratives-margaret-sanger-used-shame-black-women/
-  http://www.salon.com/2013/01/23/so_what_if_abortion_ends_life/
-  http://liveactionnews.org/planned-parenthood-finances-campaigns-of-all-but-one-senator-who-voted-against-defunding/
-  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2012/11/14/revenge-of-planned-parenthood/
-  http://istandwithplannedparenthood.blogspot.com/2011/03/events-this-week_22.html
-  http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/
-  http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-at-a-glance
-  http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/153699-exposing-the-planned-parenthood-business-model
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_Parenthood_2015_undercover_videos_controversy#Alleged_variation_in_abortion_procedures
-  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41382676/ns/us_news-life/#.Vf4rJLQ84q4
-  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/planned-parenthood-video_n_1552672.html
-  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/live-action-abortion-videos_n_3178725.html
-  https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/3134/text