The Politics of Defunding Planned Parenthood

House Speaker Paul Ryan reignited a firestorm when he announced that defunding Planned Parenthood would be part of the Obamacare repeal effort. As one may remember, previous efforts threatened to “shut down the government” and led to an outcry from the liberal press and Democrats. In surveys released in the aftermath of that episode, the same press, Democrats and Planned Parenthood itself were quick to point out the results of those polls.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 61% opposed defunding the organization, a USA Today/Suffolk poll found 65% opposed (which fell to 58% in a follow up survey), and a Pew Research poll found 60% opposed to the idea. But, like the popular vote and the Electoral College, these results do not tell the political reality that should guide the efforts.

In the previous efforts, it was highly unlikely that Obama would have approved of any such legislation and would have used his veto power. Truthfully, no one can say what Trump would do given some of his favorable remarks towards Planned Parenthood during the campaign. The cited reason is that, according to Trump, Planned Parenthood provides some good women’s health services. The organization itself notes that abortion accounts for only 3% of all their case services which may be true, but is equally misleading. They do not deny the fact that they are the largest abortion provider in America despite abortion being only 3% of their “business.”

In 2011, Planned Parenthood provided 334,000 abortions. In fact, they view abortion as “family planning,” or just another form of contraception. Compare these figures with the 28,674 women who received prenatal services or the 2,300 who were referred to adoption agencies by Planned Parenthood and it becomes obvious that they are more apt to deal in death which, to them, is the easiest solution. No one doubts that 97% of their business is dedicated to Pap smear tests, STD testing, contraception and the like. One thing we DO know is that they do not provide mammograms despite feminists and Democratic constant assertions to the contrary. Planned Parenthood itself admits that not one of their facilities has such services. They do provide physical examinations (which any woman herself can do) and then make a referral, but they themselves do not provide the most basic women’s health screening- a mammogram.

Technically speaking, the government does not directly fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of about $540 million a year. Instead, states, through Medicaid allocations from the federal government, basically outsource the service to Planned Parenthood. But, there is no mistaking the dollar amounts that flow into their coffers indirectly from the federal government. The Weekly Standard did an analysis of their finances and concluded that 33-40% of a Planned Parenthood clinic receives their income from abortion services. Any business that receives one-third of their revenue from a single source would have to admit that that source was a major contributor to their bottom line. So, even though 3% of the services provided in any given year may be classified as “abortion,” the 3% looks less glaring when dollar amounts are introduced.

As an analogy, if I sell 97 of something for $10 and three of something for $1,000, I have gross sales of $12,700. I can truthfully say that only 3% of my sales are attributable to the expensive product since I sold only 3 out of 100. But, that 3% accounts for 23.6% of my total sales in terms of dollars and that may be what likely keeps me in business.

As for the politics, we can use the 2016 election as a template for looking at political reality despite the NBC, USA Today, and Pew poll results cited earlier. In a lead up to the election, 66% of North Carolinians, 65% of Nevadans, 60% of Pennsylvanians, and 63% of those in New Hampshire said they had a positive view of Planned Parenthood. In North Carolina and Pennsylvania particularly, respondents also said they were less likely to vote for incumbent Senators Richard Burr and Pat Toomey respectively if they opposed Planned Parenthood. We know how that turned out with both Toomey and Burr winning reelection. As for New Hampshire and Nevada, the races were very close and other factors likely decided the outcome.

A more recent poll goes unnoticed by the media, Democrats and Planned Parenthood. That poll showed that defunding Planned Parenthood would actually help Republicans in states where Democratic incumbents are up for reelection in 2018. The following illustrates the problem for Democrats:

1) North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp)- 70% oppose funding/ 77% oppose supporting a candidate who endorses funding;
2) Montana (Jon Tester)- 61% oppose funding/ 64% oppose supporting such a candidate;
3) Ohio (Sherrod Brown)- 57% oppose funding/ 60% oppose pro-Planned Parenthood candidate;
4) Missouri (Claire McCaskill)- 54% oppose funding/ 57% oppose such candidates;
5) Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin)- 51% oppose funding/ 58% oppose such candidates, and;
6) Florida (Bill Nelson)- 48% oppose funding/ 53% oppose such candidates.

Incidentally, Trump won all these states in 2016.

Additionally, when poll questions are worded which reflect the true GOP plan- redirect funds that would have gone to Planned Parenthood instead to community health centers- support for defunding Planned Parenthood increases. Considering there are 1,202 community health centers nationwide compared to 650 Planned Parenthood clinics, redirecting $540 million to these centers would make greater economic sense.

But, sense of any kind is lacking in the arguments of the merchants of death. Cloaked in misnamed language of “reproductive health” or “women’s health,” they pursue a policy of abortion on demand not because of rape, incest or the mother’s life being in danger. Those incidents comprise a small minority of abortions. Instead, the vast majority of abortions are performed for convenience.

The only thing lacking and perhaps the one issue most concerning to true conservatives in this area is the lack of will among the Republican leadership in Congress. Their political excuses ring hollow in light of the political reality shown in those polls. The fear of blame for a government shutdown and the resulting political fall out played no role since Pat Toomey and Richard Burr were reelected in 2016 and Ayotte and Heck barely lost their election efforts.

Perhaps a better solution is that instead of costly litigation fighting something or creating PSAs and lecturing the rest of the country, these pro-Planned Parenthood activists can open up their wallets with donations. It is always easier to fight for something when it involves the money of someone else.

Batting .500 is good and consider that the playing field in key states where Planned Parenthood does not have great support removes any excuse for Congress not to defund Planned Parenthood. The sisterhood will march in the streets, the lawyers will inundate the courts and we may be cursed with yet another public service announcement from the likes of Hollywood elites (and Lena Dunham). But even batting .500 in 2018 if it saves innocent human life is a pretty good batting average. Hopefully, Congress won’t commit an error costing the game this time out.