I was driving up Monroe Street a few weeks ago and happened to notice a billboard for Planned Parenthood. The ad focused on a woman with, presumably, her husband. The board said something to the effect of, “somebody’s life was saved because they had their annual exam.” Planned Parent is best known for its abortion services, a fact they are well aware of. Consequently, whenever the organization comes under fire, they respond not by addressing the abortion issue, but by hiding behind the other services, such as breast cancer exams, they provide.
When Mitt Romney recently suggested the government cease giving money to Planned Parenthood as a way to ease spending, the Democratic National Committee rushed to attack. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC, defended Planned Parenthood as a “90-year-old organization that one in five American women has depended on for health care, and that for many women is their only option for cancer screenings, clinical breast exams, and critical preventive care,” according to Kathryn Lopez of National Review.
In December, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, the nation’s largest breast cancer advocacy group, decided to cease providing funding to Planned Parenthood due to its provision of abortion and certain birth control services. While Komen for the Cure tried to keep the issue quiet so as not to reflect badly on Planned Parenthood, it was not to be. President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards objected, stating that the foundation’s decision to “end its support of lifesaving breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood health centers comes as a blow to women across America.” In the face of intense backlash, the foundation eventually reversed its decision to withdraw its funding.
When Congress considered cutting government funding for Planned Parenthood last year, the response was much the same. This time, Richards listed mammograms as one of the critical services provided by Planned Parenthood that evil Republicans were trying to eliminate. However, the organization had to do some fancy footwork when it came out that they did not actually provide mammogram services, according to Rob Stein of the Washington Post.
Simply put, Planned Parenthood uses the issue of women’s health to play off of people’s fears and sympathies, instead of addressing the real issue: abortion.
While the organization downplays abortion, stating that it represents only three percent of their services, the facts are a little different. First off, regardless of how you run the numbers, Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of abortions. The organization itself reported that they performed 329,445 abortion procedures in 2010. Even as the total number of abortions has decreased, the number being performed by Planned Parenthood has steadily increased.
As a side note, Planned Parenthood makes so few referrals to adoption agencies that they do not even bother to list the number anymore. The last reported number of referrals was only about 1,400.
Furthermore, Charlotte Allen of the Weekly Standard estimates that, even if they technically represent a small percentage of total procedures, abortions provide well over a tenth of Planned Parenthood’s total revenue, and over a third of the income to its local clinics. Clearly, Planned Parenthood has a vested financial interest in seeing abortion continue.
No one is saying that Planned Parenthood does not provide some services that are valuable and important. No one criticizing Planned Parenthood is calling for an end to breast cancer exams. Yet Planned Parenthood’s only response to criticism is to shower its opponents with groundless accusations about how much they hate women.
There is plenty of room to criticize Planned Parenthood. However, for them to ignore the issue of abortion is highly disingenuous. If they are going to provide abortion services, they should be able to defend them honestly.
Nelsen is a senior majoring in political science. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.