With the recent failed bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the U.S. Senate, there has been discussion nationwide on whether the federal government should continue to give tax dollars in grants to the nonprofit organization. A variety of statistics, with varying levels of reliability, have been thrown into the debate surrounding how much of Planned Parenthood’s services comprises of abortions.
The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List claims 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services were abortion-related in 2013. Planned Parenthood claims only 3 percent of its clinics’ services were abortion-related and tout its other vital healthcare services for women—particularly uninsured women—who would be without healthcare options if it loses federal funding altogether.
Who is correct?
According to an article in the Washington Post, neither. The article points out inaccuracies in the way both organizations manipulate and present the statistics.
“With limited data, there is no accurate way to measure how much of Planned Parenthood’s activities comprise of abortions. Both sides are using meaningless and incomplete comparisons to make their argument, and the public should be wary of both figures,” the article said.
If your reason for not supporting Planned Parenthood is a moral one, you’re on the right track—according to Planned Parenthood, 327,653 abortions were performed nationwide at their locations last year. Manipulation of statistics means we might never know the correct breakdown of funding.
But what of those who say Planned Parenthood provides much-needed healthcare services, particularly for those who are uninsured?
Let’s break some more figures down, all of them from 2013 for consistency. According to Planned Parenthood’s website, 2.7 million people visit Planned Parenthood clinics annually. According to a survey from the Census Bureau, roughly 42 million people, or 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, were uninsured in 2013.
If we assume all clients of Planned Parenthood were uninsured, that means between 5 and 6 percent of the uninsured population relies on Planned Parenthood. The total number of visitors: 2.7 million, out of the total U.S. population of 318 million, means less than 1 percent of Americans utilized Planned Parenthood last year, hardly making Planned Parenthood the Mecca of healthcare as it is made out to be.
It is also safe to question, what services does Planned Parenthood exactly provide for women that aren’t abortion procedures? In 2011, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards appeared on the Joy Behar Show and claimed that if Planned Parenthood was defunded, “millions of women in this country are gonna lose their healthcare access—not to abortion services—to basic family planning, you know, mammograms.’” But in testimony given at the end of September at congressional hearings, Richards claimed just the opposite.
“We do not have mammogram machines at our health centers and we’ve never stated that we did,” she said.
Aside from pregnancy tests, STD testing and pap smears for cervical cancer screenings, it is hard to say what exactly Planned Parenthood is providing for its clients that constitutes health care.
There is another option for those who are uninsured and need these services: centers that both provide mammograms and other health care services without providing abortions. We need not be heartless to the plight of the uninsured. According to Democrats for Life of America, in the U.S. there are 9,000 Community Health Clinics that offer medical services to many individuals, including those who are low-income and uninsured, that do not provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood has more than 700 clinics across the country, a far cry lower than the 9,000 clinics that don’t provide abortions. The money that is currently used by Planned Parenthood could be used by those health clinics. The government can reach a wider amount of people in need of health services, while protecting the sanctity of life at all stages.
There are ways to fund healthcare efforts in this nation to ensure men and women, particularly pregnant mothers, are provided for in the United States. Planned Parenthood is not one of them. Defunding the organization and redirecting those funds to Community Health Centers makes life better for everyone looking for healthcare, including those in the womb.
Christian Matozzo can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.