The Blog

Pence v. Planned Parenthood

The campaign to defund the country's largest abortion provider advances.

1:31 PM, Apr 13, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

One storyline to emerge from the 2011 budget deal is that social conservatives were really the ones who lost. 

plannedparenthood

"It’s a lousy deal for social conservatives," Slate's Dave Weigel wrote. Boehner's failure to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding was a "massive victory" for "the pro-choice movement."

But Planned Parenthood has received federal funding under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Was maintaining the status quo on this issue really much of a "victory," especially considering that Republicans control just half of Congress?

John Boehner may not have been able to get Harry Reid and President Obama to bend to his will on the Planned Parenthood rider. But the speaker of the House did effectively use the issue to get Obama to give in on reinstating the ban on taxpayer-funding of abortions for Medicaid recipients in Washington, D.C. "John, I will give you D.C. I'm not happy about it," Obama told Boehner, according to a presidential aide who was in the Oval Office. 

That deal has been tolerable for pro-lifers. Most seemed to know all along that the Planned Parenthood rider had about as much chance of passing as did the rider to defund the president's signature health care law. Even stalwart social conservative Mike Huckabee urged fellow Republicans to cut a deal on Friday.  "Nobody's more pro-life than me. Nobody," Huckabee said. "But as much as I want to see Planned Parenthood defunded, as much as I want to see NPR lose their funding, the reality is the president and the Senate are never gonna go along with that. So win the deal you can win and live to fight another day."

While voters are strongly opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion, the issue of federal funding for Planned Parenthood is more complicated. Democrats argue that the funds aren't technically, ever so technically, spent on abortion (more on that in a moment). And many Americans don't know that Planned Parenthood performs abortions. Letting the government shut down over Planned Parenthood would have been even trickier for Republicans because they had signed off on Bush-era budgets that included such funding. 

There was a good reason Republicans didn't try to defund Planned Parenthood during the Bush years: They didn't have the votes to do it. When Indiana Republican Mike Pence first offered his amendment in 2007 to ban funds from Title X, the federal contraception program, to Planned Parenthood, 18 members of the Republican House minority voted against it. This year, just 7 members of the Republican House majority voted against the Pence amendment.

In 2007, 7 Republican senators voted against the ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood (throw in Virginia's John Warner, who didn't vote, and 8 Republican senators were opposed). This time around, there will probably be five GOP votes against the ban: Murkowski (Ak.), Snowe (Maine), Collins (Maine), Kirk (Ill.), and Brown (Mass.).

Were it not for the efforts of Pence and pro-life groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, Republicans wouldn't be so unified and ready to defund Planned Parenthood the next time they control Congress and the White House.

By picking a fight, Pence allowed pro-lifers to pick apart a number of Planned Parenthood's talking points. For example, Planned Parenthood and its supporters claim that only 3 percent of its services are abortions (every pregnancy test and every birth control packet counts as a "service" in Planned Parenthood's accounting). Pro-lifers reply that that "3 percent" figure is incredibly misleading--it translates to more than 300,000 human beings aborted each year at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Another troubling statistic: Over the past decade the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood has gone up, and the tiny number of adoption referrals has gone down. From 2000 to 2009, abortions performed by Planned Parenthood jumped from 197,000 to 332,000. During that same time, adoption referrals dropped from 2,486 to 977--while taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood increased from $202 million to $363 million.

Why should an organization so deeply invested in the business of abortion receive hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies? Pence's amendment doesn't cut a dime from family planning funds. It would allow such funds to be spent at hundreds of other qualified health facilities that are capable of distributing birth control.

While pro-choice advocates argue that the law already prohibits Planned Parenthood from paying for abortions with tax dollars, the law actually does nothing to prevent tax dollars from subsidizing abortionists. "Separation of Title X from abortion activities does not require separate grantees or even a separate health facility," according to the regulation issued by the Clinton administration. The regulation allows Title X programs and abortion clinics to even share the same staff.

In addition to underwriting abortion facilities and staff, federal dollars free up funds to pay for Planned Parenthood's political activities and lavish salaries. During the 2004-2005 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt raked in over $900,000 as the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the tax-exempt "non-profit" organization with a billion dollars in assets. That same year, Feldt earned about $24,000 as the president of Planned Parenthood's political arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, an operation that takes in around $10 million per year in order to defeat pro-life Republicans, parental consent laws, and other pro-life measures.

Planned Parenthood's current president Cecile Richards makes about $340,000 per year--double the salary of a U.S. senator--for working 32 hours a week for Planned Parenthood's nonprofit arm, according to the organization's tax forms. She takes in about $37,000 annually for working 40 hours per week for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. So, taxpayers subsidize Planned Parenthood's abortion-performing arm, which in turn subsidizes Planned Parenthood's political operation.

If all of this weren't bad enough, over the past four years pro-life activist Lila Rose has uncovered dozens of instances of Planned Parenthood officials willing to cover up statutory rape.

Recently, an actor posing as a pimp was given advice by a Planned Parenthood official in New Jersey on where he could get services in New Jersey for foreign 14-year-old prostitutes.

"We're involved in sex work," the actor told Planned Parenthood manager Amy Woodruff.  "Some of [the prostitutes] are like, ah, they're kind of young. Some of them are like 15, 14, and some of them don't speak any English," he continued, asking Woodruff why the prostitutes shouldn't be worried they'll be reported while coming in for Planned Parenthood's services. 

"As long as they just lie and say, 'Oh, [my sexual partner is] fifteen, sixteen.' You know, as long as they don't say 'fourteen' and as long as it's not too much of an age gap then we just kind of, like--then we just kind of play stup[id]," said Woodruff.

Woodruff was fired. Planned Parenthood dismissed the incident as an aberration.

But, as Charlotte Allen detailed in her 2007 article for THE WEEKLY STANDARD, "Planned Parenthood's Unseemly Empire," Planned Parenthood's most egregious behavior hasn't occured in hypothetical situations. In Connecticut, a 15-year-old girl was abducted, raped, and then had an abortion procured at Planned Parenthood. "She apparently wouldn't name the father, and it is all but certain that no one at Planned Parenthood went out of their way to inquire into the circumstances that led to her pregnancy," wrote Allen.

Another incident at a Planned Parenthood franchise in Ohio involved a 13-year-old girl "impregnated by her school soccer coach who accompanied her to the clinic and paid for the abortion with his credit card, while she showed the staff her junior high school ID card," Allen wrote. "Spokesmen for Planned Parenthood have insisted that such cases are flukes (or that the victims lied, relieving the clinics of responsibility), and that clinic staff are carefully trained to report all instances of suspected abuse."

It's safe to say that if any another federally funded organization had so many "flukes" over the years, it would not only lose its taxpayer-funding, it would face a criminal investigation. When ACORN was stung by James O'Keefe's undercover videos, Democrats were more than happy to throw the organization under the bus. Maybe that's because ACORN is a ward of the Democratic party, whereas Planned Parenthood is the Democratic party, as much or more than any big union.

And so Planned Parenthood is untouchable in the minds of President Obama and other Democratic leaders and activists. But thanks to the efforts of Mike Pence, Lila Rose, and other pro-lifers, the Republican party stands ready to privatize the largest abortion provider in America.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers