Planned Parenthood: Agendas and Activities By DiscoverTheNetworks.org 2005
Self-described as a “forceful advocate for reproductive rights and reproductive health issues,” the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is the largest abortion provider in the United States, with some 850 clinics around the country (down from a peak of 938 in 1995). Although PPFA purports to offer “a wide range of medical and counseling services and health care education,” its primary business is providing abortion services. Notwithstanding its net loss of 88 clinics during the past decade, in 2004 the organization increased the number of abortions performed at its facilities by 6.1 percent (over the 2003 figure) to 244,628. At an average cost of $400 per abortion, it is estimated that PPFA took in $104 million from surgical abortions in 2004 -- the first time this number has surpassed $100 million -- accounting for 34 percent of its $302.6 million clinic income that year. And contrary to PPFA’s aforementioned claim about “a wide range of medical and counseling services and health care education,” it aborted 138 babies for every adoption referral it made to an outside agency.
Whereas PPFA’s mission of “family planning” has not changed during its long history, new advances in modern science and technology have affected the organization’s birth control and abortion businesses. In a March 2004 news report, PPFA praises the merits of “emergency contraception” (a.k.a. the “morning-after pill”) and Mifepristone (a.k.a. the “abortion pill”). In that report, PPFA seeks to counter what it describes as “misinformation circulated by anti-choice groups [which] can make it hard to decipher basic information about each of these pills.”
PPFA depicts emergency contraception pills (ECPs), which contain hormones that prevent pregnancy when taken following sexual intercourse, as an alternative to abortion and boasts that they can be used by victims of sexual assault. “Most importantly,” states PPFA, ECPs prevent unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, abortion. ECPs [also] provide tremendous peace of mind for women who have been sexually assaulted or have had a birth control lapse or failure, such as a broken condom.” In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused to make ECPs available without a prescription, stating that no evidence exists showing that young teenage girls could safely use the pills. “These pills have not been adequately tested for their effect on teenagers,” says Christian Medical Association Executive Director David Stevens, “yet teenagers are a prime market for the drugs.” According to Wendy Wright, a senior policy director of Concerned Women for America, “The FDA is right to be cautious about making a potent drug that can harm women available next to candy bars and toothpaste,” adding that her organization “exposed numerous medical and public health problems with the morning-after pill.” Wright concluded that “having the morning-after pill easily available would make guinea pigs of unsuspecting women.”
PPFA describes Mifepristone (also known as RU-486), a noninvasive means of terminating a pregnancy, as “extremely safe, [having] been used by millions of women worldwide for years.” The organization further notes that “some women who have used this method say that using Mifepristone feels more natural,” and that “it can also be more private [allowing women] to stay in the privacy of their homes, or at another safe and comfortable place, until the process is complete.” According toThe New York Times, however, the FDA has received hundreds of reports of problems with Mifepristone, including serious infections, ectopic pregnancies, cases of blood loss that required transfusions, and even three deaths.
PPFA, which accounts for nearly one out of every five abortions performed in the U.S. each year, distributes the aforementioned pills to many of its clients. In 2004 the organization conducted an aggressive marketing campaign resulting in a 22.2 percent increase in RU-486 sales. PPFA markets RU-486 as an “Emergency Contraception Kit.” Between 1999 and 2004, PPFA sales of these kits multiplied more than tenfold – from 72,024 in 1999 to 774,482 in 2004. In large measure due to such sales volumes, in 2004 PPFA enjoyed its 18th consecutive year of record total income ($810 million) and ended the period with a net profit of $35.2 million.
PPFA was founded in 1942; it grew out of the American Birth Control League, which was founded in 1923 by Margaret Sanger. A radical social activist who was jailed numerous times for breaking New York’s Comstock Laws – which made it illegal to send “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” materils through the mail – Sanger is widely hailed by PPFA for her efforts toestablish “the principles that a woman’s right to control her body is the foundation of her human rights,” and to “establish the contemporary American model for the protection of civil rights through nonviolent civil disobedience.” Says PPFA, “[W]e are merely walking down the path that Ms. Sanger has carved out for us,” and “we are proud” to be “walking in the footsteps” of Margaret Sanger.
PPFA gives out an annual Margaret Sanger Award, the organization’s “highest honor,” generally bestowed upon an individual who somehow promotes the group’s values and ideals. Past recipients of the award include Kathleen Turner, the famous actress and abortion advocate; Robin Chandler Duke, the former president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and President Clinton’s ambassador to Norway; and Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade, which made abortion legal.
PPFA calls itself “the world’s largest and most trusted voluntary reproductive health care organization, with highly respected domestic and international programs.” One of its domestic programs is Teenwire.com, which it describes as “the leading website for teens needing information about sexual health,” and a source that is “committed to giving [teenagers] the facts about sex so that [they] can use this information to make [their] own responsible choices.” Many of PPFA’s recent campaigns have been aimed at teenagers, and Teenwire.com is the culmination of this effort. The website uses colorful cartoon characters and slang to appeal to a younger demographic, and dispenses advice on topics ranging from homosexuality to masturbation.
A good deal of the information on Teenwire.com also deals with abortion. In the website’s discussion of what it means to be pro-choice and pro-life, it states, “People who are pro-choice believe that women have the right to decide when and whether to have children. . . . People who are anti-choice oppose abortion and often call themselves pro-life. Many people who are anti-choice do not believe that women should be able to choose abortion under any circumstances, even if she has been raped or if carrying the pregnancy to term may put her life in danger.”
Through Teenwire, PPFA attempts to diminish the gravity of abortions by trivializing both the physical and emotional dangers involved. PPFA tells teenage girls that “abortion is a very safe procedure. It’s about twice as safe as a shot of penicillin, and is 11 times safer than giving birth.” PPFA also states that “abortion poses little danger to a woman’s emotional and mental health. . . . Severe emotional and psychological reactions to abortion are rare.” There is much evidence to the contrary, however. One study, for instance, polled women who had undergone abortions and found that 61.3 percent of them “strongly agreed” with the statement: “After my abortion, I experienced feelings of guilt,” 57 percent “strongly agreed” that they experienced feelings of self-condemnation, and just 1.3 percent “strongly disagreed” with both of these statements. Fully 94 percent of the women polled in the study answered “yes” to the question: “Have you ever regretted having had the abortion?”
PPFA opposes any limitations on access to abortion; it opposes a ban on partial-birth abortions, and even opposes the requiring of parental notification for minors wishing to undergo the procedure. According to the Capital Research Center, approximately one-third of PPFA’s clients are girls younger than 18 who live with one or both parents. Approximately 97 percent of these girls qualify for federal assistance to reimburse a provider of social services. This is because PPFA teaches its affiliates how to exploit federal “family planning” programs by qualifying as many clients as possible for federal subsidies of pregnancy tests, contraceptives, and abortions covered by Medicaid. When a teenage girl seeks help with pregnancy-related concerns, PPFA calculates her financial need not on the basis of her parents’ income, but on the basis of her own income, which is usually very low. By this standard, only about 3 percent fail to qualify. This is good for PPFA, which has two fee scales: one for cash-paying clients, and another for those who receive government support. As of 2002, cash customers paid an average of $16 per pregnancy test; those who qualified for government assistance generated payments of $57 apiece flowing into PPFA’s coffers. The respective fees charged for other services and procedures are similarly disproportionate. This explains why PPFA opposes laws requiring parental consent or notification in cases of minors seeking abortions. It has a financial incentive to prevent parents from counseling their daughters against having abortions, or from themselves footing the bill for PPFA’s services (rather than allowing PPFA to collect the inflated rate at which the government reimburses its services). About 30 percent of PPFA’s income each year derives from taxpayer dollars.
In the 2004 presidential election, PPFA for the first time endorsed a candidate – John Kerry. Gloria Feldt, who served as PPFA’s president from 1996 to January 2005, explained that the decision to back Kerry was made in response to “the Bush administration’s war on choice.” Following Kerry’s loss, Feldt criticized him for his ineffectuality in addressing his pro-abortion stance. “I have great respect for John Kerry,” said Feldt, “but there’s no question he did not articulate these issues well. He seemed equivocal. He ceded the moral high ground to the other side.” Feldt is the author of the book The War on Choice: The Right-Wing Attack on Women's Rights and How to Fight Back. During her tenure as PPFA director, she helped to introduce the abortion and emergency contraception pills, and was also one of the chief organizers of the April 25, 2004 “March for Women's Lives” held in Washington, D.C. – a rally that drew more than a million demonstrators advocating for unrestricted access to taxpayer-funded abortions at any stage of pregnancy.
Apart from its decision to support John Kerry for President in 2004, PPFA has additional connections to the Democratic Party. As Front Page Magazine writer Lowell Ponte reports, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean (who is a medical doctor by training) once served as a board member of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and reportedly worked as an intern in an OB/GYN rotation at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Burlington, Vermont in the late 1970s. Ponte writes that Dean has avoided answering questions about whether he ever performed an abortion – or how many he might have performed. Dean strongly opposed the recently passed bill to ban partial-birth abortions, and he favors allowing girls to get abortions without parental notification or permission.
Dean’s local church is the First Congregational Church UCC (United Church of Christ); UCC churches, according to Ponte, are so far to the left politically that they are the Protestant equivalent of the neo-Marxist liberation theology movement in the Roman Catholic Church. In 2002, Reverend Mark Bigelow attracted media attention when he stated, “One thing I know from the Bible, is that Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy. Jesus was for peace on earth…and choice on earth.” Rev. Bigelow is a pastor of the Congregational Church of Huntington in Centerport, New York, an affiliate of the UCC. That same claim, which asserts that Jesus Christ was pro-abortion, appeared on the 2002 holiday greeting card of the PPFA, on whose Clergy Advisory Board sits Rev. Bigelow.
PPFA’s 2005 Interim President (filling Gloria Feldt’s vacated seat) is Karen Pearl, whose major campaign since taking office has been to impugn abstinence-only programs, which she describes as “dangerous and ineffective” despite the fact that many experts believe the programs deserve credit for declining rates of teenage pregnancy. Pearl accuses the Bush administration of “dispensing inaccurate information” regarding birth control, and of “packing government health and science agencies with anti-choice zealots.”
Among PPFA’s highest priorities is to preserve the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal; the organization enacted its SaveRoe.com campaign and website for this express purpose. “Roe is the key to a whole set of freedoms around sexual health, gender equality, nurtured children, welcome childbearing,” says former president Gloria Feldt. “A new value has been placed on children because of choice — a truly radical 20th century notion by the way, for which Planned Parenthood can be justifiably proud.”
Despite its obviously partisan politics, PPFA receives a large portion of its funding from the U.S. government. There are at least 18 federal statutes and hundreds of state and local programs that authorize tax dollars to be spent for “family planning” programs and procedures. Under the Hyde Amendment, however, tax dollars are not supposed to pay specifically for abortions. But PPFA has mastered the art of exploiting loopholes in that law. It capitalizes on the fact that when federal funds for family planning are administered by state agencies, county health departments, and local school districts, enforcing compliance with the law is nearly impossible.