What is Planned Parenthood?
Depending on which news outlets you tune in to and your political and social views, you might have a very different answer to that question than your neighbor.
The reproductive health non-profit is often surrounded by controversy, as is the case with the current media storm around sting videos showing their executives and employees discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses and the grisly methods used for this task. Needless to say, the accusations generated by these videos have kicked up a dust storm of rhetorical sparring between liberals and conservatives, feminist and racial agendas, religious and non-religious parties-and even a few cold, hard facts about Planned Parenthood.
For instance, they receive approximately $500 million per year from federal and state governments, which is about 40% of the total $1.3 billion they bring in every year. Seventy-five percent of that $500 million comes via Medicaid; the rest through a federal family planning program called Title X.
It's also been reiterated that not all of that funding goes to abortions, although Planned Parenthood is by no means shy on social media or at events about providing abortions. Out of the services they offer-women's cancer screening, STD screening, contraception, and abortion-abortion accounts for 3% of those services. In other words, 3% of their clients have abortions performed-which translates to about 328,000 abortions every year.
Beyond this much-published figure, there is no record of how much of the group's actual revenue comes from abortions (or the alleged sale of fetal tissue, for that matter).
In fact, despite so much attention from special interest groups and the media, mysteries about Planned Parenthood persist. Some of these mysteries go back to the organization's very founding...
The Planned Parenthood mission statement reads:
Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual's income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence. We believe that respect and value for diversity in all aspects of our organization are essential to our well-being.
While this mission statement is surely something that most people would agree, it's unlikely that the founder of the organization, Margaret Sanger, would agree with it.
Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921 (the name would change to Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942). Like many academics of her time and many of the founding directors of Planned Parenthood, Sanger was an outspoken member of the eugenics movement, which advocated producing better human beings through breeding out inferior classes.
In her paper "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda," Sanger wrote:
"In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit though less fertile parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective."
As you can probably guess, Sanger and others who held racist views at the time naturally lumped minorities (especially blacks) and the disabled into the "inferior" class.
Sanger herself was known to have spoken at Ku Klux Klan meetings and was the driving force behind the "Negro Project," which used black community leaders to introduce introduce birth control into their neighborhoods and, some say, surreptitiously reduce the black population Sanger looked down upon. About this project she was wrote:
"We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
Today, Margaret Sanger is mostly remembered as a pioneer in feminism and women's health. But for many, these slices of history and Planned Parenthood's heavy presence in predominantly minority neighborhoods cause many to wonder if Sanger's goals and views haven't been realized in the organization she created.
Sanger's shady dubious views on minorities provide plenty of fuel for opponents of Planned Parenthood, especially in combination with the following stats from a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Abortion Surveillance:
A recent letter protesting Sanger's presence in a Smithsonian exhibit pointed out this startling statistic: "In certain areas such as New York City, a black baby is more likely to be aborted than carried to term."
Are all these oft-quote stats unfairly pointed at Planned Parenthood? After all, they aren't the only provider of abortions in the U.S. However, by its sheer size and reach, the organization is, by far, the largest abortion provider in the country and is surely responsible for a large number of the abortions in the stats above. Finally, according to the 2010 Census, 79% of Planned Parenthood facilities are conveniently located within walking distance of predominantly black or Hispanic neighborhoods.
Again, does Planned Parenthood actively target minority groups? The numbers seem indisputable on this point. Are they doing this to pursue a eugenist agenda started by their founder almost a century ago? This question could probably be answered reliably only by a Planned Parenthood decision-maker.
Planned Parenthood is officially a non-profit. As such, they have access to very specific benefits in terms of taxes and government funding, as mentioned above. However, one of the things that has made the fetal tissue debate so intense is because it raises the possibility that the organization could be profiting from abortions. Which would, of course, violate the rules around their non-profit status.
And then there are the other actions Planned Parenthood has taken that are uncharacteristic of charities and non-profits. For instance, Planned Parenthood uses much of its revenue, which comes mostly from U.S. taxpayer dollars, to fund its own political action committee (PAC) called Planned Parenthood Action Fund. This political action committee focuses specifically on "maintaining reproductive health rights and supporting political candidates of the same mindset."
Most recently, this PAC was found to have donated to all but one of the senators who blocked the U.S. Senate's most recent move to defund Planned Parenthood. In other words, there is a very real possibility that this charity paid off elected officials so that their funding could continue. And they paid for it with taxpayer dollars. Talk about irony.
While every charity has its own agenda and even political leanings, when a non-profit uses taxpayer dollars on ads or events to promote a specific political candidate, you can expect some eyebrows to be raised. It certainly invites questions about whether those dollars are being used to help those people who are supposed to be receiving help.
Maybe it comes from his roots as a community organizer. As seen in the above video, Pres. Obama has an unusually cozy relationship with Planned Parenthood, regularly standing up for them when threats arise and giving them White House access that even most members of Congress can't match.
For instance, a few years ago, when states began taking it upon themselves to defund Planned Parenthood through their own state Medicaid programs, it was the Obama Administration who swooped in and administered a budgetary smackdown, threatening to shut down the federal government rather than defund the organization.
In 2011, when Indiana's legislature voted to defund Planned Parenthood, the president threatened to pull $4.3 billion in Medicaid funding for the state.
In September of that same year, New Hampshire's Executive Council voted to defund Planned Parenthood. So Obama contracted directly with the state's branch of Planned Parenthood. In 2012, he did the same thing in Tennessee.
Finally, under similar circumstances, the president pulled $30 million in Medicaid waiver funds from Texas.
And Obama's interaction with Planned Parenthood isn't limited to the bully pulpit and budgetary squabbles. Starting with Obama's very first day in the Oval Office, Cecile Richards, current president of Planned Parenthood, has scored 39 visits with the president.
Does Pres. Obama have a special place in his heart for Planned Parenthood? Without a doubt. He doesn't do this for the American Red Cross or the World Wildlife Fund. Heck, he doesn't even give this kind of TLC to the agencies that make up the federal government.
So the real question becomes, why? Why does Obama go to such unusual lengths to protect Planned Parenthood? Do a Google search and you'll find that speculation abounds on this subject. But the real answer might be known to only a handful of individuals.