In Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, and other states, legislators have passed or are considering passing funding restrictions that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving state and federal healthcare funds. Within hours of Indiana’s Governor, Mitch Daniels, signing a funding restriction into law, Planned Parenthood filed suit and later received support from the Department of Justice for its cause.
On Friday, June 24, 2011, Planned Parenthood won a first-round victory in an Indiana federal district court, temporarily halting the implementation of the law. Indiana has appealed this decision, but more lawsuits, including one in Kansas, are already appearing. One important argument that Planned Parenthood is making in its defense centers around the claim that Planned Parenthood provides non-abortive healthcare. Thus Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards claimed that Indiana's law would "take away health care from thousands of women in Indiana." However, phone calls made by Live Action volunteers to sixteen Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana revealed that all of the clinics admitted that women on Medicaid could receive healthcare elsewhere.
But why all the fuss from these state legislatures? Planned Parenthood defines itself as a protector of women’s health and “rights.” Furthermore, public perception of Planned Parenthood tends to be favorable; recent polls by CNN show that many Americans do not currently support defunding the organization.
In part, the abortion business of Planned Parenthood—the nation’s largest abortion provider—is what the “fuss” is about. States simply do not want to subsidize the abortion industry with taxpayer dollars. This is certainly true in Indiana, where the funding restriction does not target Planned Parenthood by name, but prohibits the state from contracting with abortion providers.
An in-depth investigation of Planned Parenthood by Americans United for Life, the nation’s first pro-life public-interest law and policy organization (where I serve as Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel), demonstrates that abortion is central to Planned Parenthood’s business. The AUL Report, however, uncovers much, much more than just the importance of abortion to Planned Parenthood operations. It reveals Planned Parenthood practices that are irresponsible, dangerous, and fly in the face of the organization’s claims of dedication to women in need of medical services.
AUL’s Report pulls together in one place, for the first time, a litany of scandals associated with Planned Parenthood, demonstrating the breadth and persistance of the organization’s abuses. The Report shows that the “fuss” about Planned Parenthood is currently, if anything, about far too little. What follows in this article are just a few examples of the many reasons, all documented by the Report, why state—and federal—legislatures are (and all Americans should be) rethinking their dedication to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood and its affiliates receive over $363 million dollars in government grants and contracts. Medicaid, a program administered by the states and jointly funded by the federal government, contributes a large portion of these funds, and audit reports reveal that Planned Parenthood affiliates have overbilled Medicaid in at least New Jersey, California, New York, and Washington. In California, for example, reports show that one Planned Parenthood affiliate in one fiscal year overbilled the government by over $5 million. In this time of fiscal crisis, Planned Parenthood’s failed stewardship of state and federal taxpayer dollars is appalling.
In addition to defrauding the government and the American taxpayer, it is questionable whether Planned Parenthood abides by state and federal laws restricting abortion funding. Abby Johnson, a former director at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, has stated, “as clinic director, I saw how money received by Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics all went into one pot at the end of the day—it isn’t divvied up and directed to specific services.” If so, this procedure is a violation of federal laws, such as the Hyde Amendment, that specifically prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion.
More sinister than its misuse of public funding is how little Planned Parenthood cares for the safety of the young women who seek its medical care. The statistics on sexual abuse of girls under the age of eighteen in the United States are staggering. 75 percent of girls under fourteen who have engaged in sexual activity report having had a forced sexual experience; many of the men who engage in these abusive sexual relationships and father children are significantly older.
Even Planned Parenthood acknowledges in its “Fact Sheet” on “Reducing Teenage Pregnancy” that among women younger than 18, the pregnancy rate among those with a partner who is six or more years older is 3.7 times as high as the rate among those whose partner is no more than two years older. To help protect these young girls, all fifty states and the federal government have enacted mandatory reporting laws. These laws require that certain organizations, such as hospitals, report suspected cases of abuse or rape. Thirty-seven states also have parental involvement laws in place that involve the parents in a minor’s decisions regarding abortion.
Given the statistics, most parents—indeed, most people—would expect that an organization like Planned Parenthood, which prides itself on the quality of its care, would be especially protective of young pregnant girls. However, the opposite is the case. In Arizona, Ohio, and Alabama, legal action has been initiated against Planned Parenthood affiliates for failing to report sexual abuse or to obey abortion laws. Instead of providing protection for young victims of abuse, Planned Parenthood’s practices—detailed in the AUL Report—enable the abusers to cover their crimes. For example, in Arizona, Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona was found liable after it failed to report the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl who was raped by her 23-year-old foster brother.
Planned Parenthood even appears willing to protect men who traffic girls as young as fourteen, allowing the continued exploitation of these children for commercial sex. Planned Parenthood clinic workers have been caught telling clients, claiming to be engaged in “sex work,” how to avoid reporting and parental consent laws. It seems that Planned Parenthood is satisfied with providing cheap abortions and contraceptives to young victims of the sex trade and then simply sending these girls back into the arms of their abusers and pimps rather than reporting their terrible situation.
Planned Parenthood also refuses to abide by Food and Drug Administration standards, seeming to put its bottom line above women’s health and safety. For example, Mifeprex/Mifepristone, a drug that has been approved in combination with Misoprostol (the RU-486 regimen) as an abortion-inducing drug, had been authorized by the FDA for use only up to the 49th day of pregnancy. After 49 days, there is a substantially increased risk of the drug’s failure and complications for a woman’s health and safety. However, Planned Parenthood prescribes the abortion drug through the 63rd day of pregnancy, two weeks later than approved by the FDA.
What is the consequence of this off-label use? On top of an increase in serious health risks (such as hemorrhaging), RU-486 has a 23 percent failure rate at this stage in pregnancy. By providing women with a drug that fails nearly one in four times, Planned Parenthood can get women to pay for a second abortion. This second abortion must be performed surgically and is therefore more expensive. Planned Parenthood compounds its already hazardous use of RU-486 by distributing the drug through “telemedicine.” Telemedicine entails an “online” visit with a doctor before RU-468 is prescribed, rather than the in-person office visits required by the FDA. This violates FDA protocol and circumvents state laws designed to protect women’s health.
Not only has Planned Parenthood violated existing laws protecting women, it has stood against lawmakers' attempts to implement new and more effective safety measures. In 2001, the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, signed legislation that strengthened mandatory reporting laws for sexual abuse of a woman under seventeen and Planned Parenthood vigorously opposed its implementation. In Illinois in 2011, Planned Parenthood lobbied against legislation to broaden a sexual abuse reporting law to require almost all employees and volunteers of organizations that provide or refer for reproductive healthcare or sex education to report child abuse or suspected sexual abuse. They also have opposed laws in Nebraska increasing parental involvement by requiring notification or consent and bills in Illinois offering a pregnant woman who is seeking an abortion the opportunity to get an ultrasound. These are commonsense laws that would make the world a little safer for women. Planned Parenthood’s opposition to what should be “common ground” shows how far the abortion organization is outside the mainstream.
Planned Parenthood claims to be a “trusted health care provider,” but the AUL Report clearly shows that there is little to trust about Planned Parenthood. Even so, the Report only scratches the surface. Congress should use its power to investigate Planned Parenthood futher and determine, once and for all, if it deserves our support, our loyalty, and our money. Until Planned Parenthood answers for its behavior, the surprise is not that the people of Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas want to take away their funding, but that Planned Parenthood has not already been stripped of taxpayer dollars throughout the nation. Slowly but surely, Americans will become aware of how little Planned Parenthood deserves our trust, our respect, and our tax dollars. It is time to consider whether you really know about Planned Parenthood.
If you would like to learn more and read the complete report published by AUL, please visit www.aul.org.
William Saunders is the Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel of Americans United for Life.