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Cut Planned Parenthood's funding

By Chuck Donovan, Special to CNN
  • Charles Donovan: Planned Parenthood should not be exempt from budget cuts
  • In 2009, he writes, Planned Parenthood centers in the U.S. performed 332,278 abortions
  • Taxpayers should not be paying for those abortions, Donovan argues
  • Donovan: Organization has plenty of money; women have other options for services

Editor's note: Charles A. Donovan is senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation's DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.

(CNN) -- Sometime the Planned Parenthood Federation of America will have to accept a cut in federal funding. The cut is overdue, and it will benefit American women and their children.

The spring of 2011 has brought a perfect storm to an organization that has known, and occasionally even courted, its share of controversy. Planned Parenthood is sailing against an energized Republican House of Representatives, just four months after a resounding electoral triumph.

Moreover, it is fighting a tidal wave of public opinion insistent that record federal deficit spending -- $223 billion in the month of February alone -- be addressed now. Planned Parenthood's $363 million in annual government receipts, most of it from the U.S. Treasury, is a tiny fraction of this year's $1.5 trillion deficit. But it's a start.

To make matters even more precarious for the houses Margaret Sanger built, Planned Parenthood has been running surpluses of its own. The nonprofit organization had income over expenses of $85 million in 2008 and $63.4 million in 2009. It reports some offsetting investment losses -- but welcome to the club. Its annual budget today exceeds $1 billion.

Another view: Protect funding for Planned Parenthood

Yet, for all that wealth, the organization has been unable to avoid public relations nightmares. In stings conducted by Live Action, one Planned Parenthood worker was recorded accepting an offer of donations from someone posing as a racially bigoted donor and another employee was videotaped agreeing to facilitate birth control and abortions for underage girls controlled by two people posing as sex traffickers. (That employee was subsequently fired.)

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As embarrassing as these episodes have been, the most enduring controversy for the organization has been its role as the flagship abortion provider in the United States and perhaps globally. Planned Parenthood's increasing involvement in abortion is no historical accident. In the 1970s, it opened its first abortion clinic and pursued a policy its then-president, Alan Guttmacher, accurately described in his book "Understanding Sex" as "abortion on demand."

Using figures from Planned Parenthood, I calculate that from 1981 to 2009, the last year for which published figures are available, the group's abortion tally grew by a yearly average of 9,000. This trajectory renders talk about making abortion "rare" little more than rhetorical.

In 2009, the more than 800 Planned Parenthood centers in the U.S. performed 332,278 abortions, with a market share constituting over one-quarter of the annual U.S. total. Planned Parenthood derives roughly 15 percent of its total income from abortion, a percentage that would be much higher if one counts only clinic income and excludes general fund donations. Its cumulative abortion count exceeds 5 million in the United States alone.

In truth, Planned Parenthood's federal funding is at significant risk not just because of its abortion practice but because of its philosophy. Today, its increasingly impersonal approach to sex and reproduction -- for example, allowing an Iowa clinic to dispense prescriptions for RU-486 over the telephone -- misses key truths about the human person and the longings for personal connection that animate decisions about sexual relationships.

Advocating a utilitarian approach to sexuality, the group dismisses abstinence and plays down the emotional and psychological dimensions of sexuality. Thus, Planned Parenthood elevates the pursuit of pleasure in its advice to teens and offers abortion, often without parental knowledge, for the inevitable contraceptive "failures" that result.

Will women's health suffer because of the funding limits Rep. Mike Pence and 239 of his House colleagues have adopted? Highly unlikely. In addition to being overfunded and therefore much more capable of belt-tightening than most charities, Planned Parenthood is not the sole provider of any of the legitimate services it offers. It provides little prenatal care and hardly any adoption assistance. It does not, despite impressions to the contrary, offer mammograms at its centers but provides referrals instead.

Public health departments and free clinics (and even a growing number of pro-life pregnancy care centers) perform low- or no-cost STD testing, and they also routinely refer women for other screenings and services they do not provide directly.

Over the long term, real health care reform will move toward honoring the dignity of poor women by giving them options to own their health-care policies and by continuing the popular and well-established policy against tax-subsidized abortions. And that will be something to celebrate at least 332,000 times a year.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Charles A. Donovan.

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