I’m willing to concede that all of the recent fervor over defunding Planned Parenthood is generally well-intentioned. Those who would defund Planned Parenthood truly feel that they’re sticking up for what they believe in, and that pulling funding for Planned Parenthood would (a) reduce the overall number of abortions performed in the US and (b) constitute some kind of magic bullet in helping to eliminate state and federal budget deficits. The problem with this Magical Double Whammy is that none of it is actually true.
First, let’s look at raw numbers: for FY 2014 the United States federal budget was approximately $3.65 trillion dollars. In FY 2014 Planned Parenthood’s annual report indicated that they received $528 million in federal funding. That sounds like a lot, right? 528 million is a huge number, almost unfathomable. The bulk of it comes from Medicaid reimbursements for services rendered. Some of it comes from Title X funding for family planning programs.
Let’s pause for a second to make one point abundantly, painfully clear: in 1976 Congress passed a legislative provision called the Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funding (including Medicaid funding) for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. This provision has been attached to spending bills continuously since 1976 (most famously in 2010 when former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak agreed to throw his support behind the bill that would become Obamacare if and only if the Obama administration clarified that the Affordable Care Act abided by the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.) In short, there is no federal funding for abortion anyway (except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life) and there hasn’t been for forty years. Not to put too fine a point on it, but defunding Planned Parenthood at the federal level will not have any effect on federal funding for abortion.
So what actually happens if Planned Parenthood loses $500 million in federal funding? Well, there’s a report for that. The Congressional Budget Office has prepared a fairly comprehensive report detailing possible scenarios if federal Planned Parenthood funding were to be eliminated. The short answer is “all signs point up.” Although other clinics and programs would pick up some of the slack left from reduction in Planned Parenthood services, CBO estimates that of the 2.6 million clients served by Planned Parenthood every year, 5-25% would lose most or all access to the types of care Planned Parenthood provides.
That CBO report contains one incredibly damning statistic, one I certainly wasn’t aware of: right now Medicaid pays for all or part of 45% of all births/deliveries in America. The gravity of that statistic is mind-boggling. It essentially means that 45% of births in this country are to women making less than 195% of the federal poverty guideline. That’s staggering just in the way that it implies just how many children in this country are born to low-income women, and just how many families in this country struggle to provide basic necessities. The burden of the CBO-estimated $235 million cut from family planning services would shift to programs like Medicaid, children’s healthcare programs like SCHIP, food stamps, and welfare benefits. It doesn’t just go away.
But the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood reach far further than pregnancies and deliveries. Planned Parenthood also provides testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections. There is abundant evidence that early testing and treatment of STI’s results in overall harm reduction for the individual and the community. Planned Parenthood’s 2013 annual report states that they provided 4.4 million services related to testing and treatment of STI’s. Planned Parenthood’s STI treatment programs received considerable attention recently when an HIV outbreak in Scott County, IN that led to over 150 new infections was directly traced to Indiana’s defunding of the local Planned
When it comes to defunding Planned Parenthood, the bottom line is simple: we can’t afford it, and it wouldn’t work anyway. Federal funding for abortions is already largely illegal, and state funding for abortions is rare. For the federally-funded
services Planned Parenthood does provide, pulling those funds would create a shift that would result in higher costs for other programs and higher human costs. It’s just grandstanding from far-right extremists, and it’s illogical grandstanding at that.
Just a reminder about the importance of making a contribution to Planned Parenthood, no matter how small, from the inestimable Dan Savage:
We have to stand with Planned Parenthood now. When it’s a little difficult. When it’s a little awkward. When they’re under fire. We need to stand with Planned Parenthood. I stand with Planned Parenthood and you should, too. I’m going to make a donation to Planned Parenthood today and I’m going to ask YOU to make a donation to Planned Parenthood today. Go to PlannedParenthood.org and click on “Donate“.
I’ve said this before – if you’ve been listening to the show long enough to hear me come to Planned Parenthood’s defense in the past, you’ve heard me say this – you don’t have to donate $500. You don’t have to donate $1,000. You don’t have to donate $25. If all you can spare is five bucks or ten bucks or twenty bucks, go donate it. Go make that donation. Because Planned Parenthood cannot only point to the amount of money it raises from the public as evidence of it’s support, it’s broad support, but the number of donors is another figure that really matters. Another data point that really matters in defending Planned Parenthood, in Planned Parenthood defending itself, and supporters of Planned Parenthood defending Planned Parenthood. Both those numbers have equal weight, equal value. The amount raised from the public and the number of donors, private donors, out their in the public who support Planned Parenthood.
So, even if you can’t inflate the numbers of dollars that they’ve raised, you can inflate the number of donors that they have, the number of supporters that they have who are motivated enough to donate. So, even if you can only spare five bucks, MAKE. THAT. DONATION. Stand with Planned Parenthood. Now. Now is when it really matters most.
If you’re in Michigan, make your donation HERE.