Defund Planned Parenthood?

By Natalie Scholl ’13

Right now the American people and government are involved in a debate of ethics, resources, and responsibility.  The controversial issue kicked off by Rep. Mike Pence pivots on the use of taxpayer dollars, more specifically on the use of pro-life taxpayer dollars, for an organization widely associated with abortions.  Should the US government defund Planned Parenthood?

Planned Parenthood falls under the category of Title X funding. Title X, which contributes to various family planning and women’s health services, currently faces the guillotine of expenditure cuts.  While Pence advocates eliminating Planned Parenthood from the equation, he does not support the eradication of all Title X funding.  In the specific case of Planned Parenthood, leaders of the defunding effort cite moral objections and the desire to decrease national spending, while Planned Parenthood supporters highlight the value of the women’s health services Planned Parenthood provides.  The discussion can be divided into two parts: practicality and ethics.  By those measures, the defunding of Planned Parenthood is a reasonable and just course of action.

The practical part of the matter pits the national deficit against national sexual health. Is it more important to reduce national spending or to ensure that millions of Americans have access to the sexual health resources that Planned Parenthood offers?  Unlike the age-old cake paradox, the data suggests that these two choices are not mutually exclusive.

According to the annual reports on its website, Planned Parenthood receives a third of its funding, about $363 million, from the government and has a total annual expenditure of approximately one billion dollars. The remainder of its funding comes primarily from private contributions and health center incomes, with anywhere from $100-300 million from abortions.  Government funding is not the heartbeat of the organization, though its removal would most probably necessitate downsizing on the part of Planned Parenthood.

This scenario distresses many people.  After all, don’t we have the responsibility to ensure that every citizen has access to quality sexual health services?  However, regardless of Planned Parenthood’s fate, Americans still have access to the kinds of sexual health resources that it offers.  Planned Parenthood is not the only provider of such things as contraceptives and Pap and HPV tests. Such procedures are commonly found at hospitals, emergency rooms, and other medical clinics. Logistically speaking, the government doesn’t need to fund Planned Parenthood because the governmnt already contributes to providing the same resources in other facilities, including other organizations which receive Title X funds.  If certain Americans want the supplies that Planned Parenthood offers in addition to the ones we as a nation already fund through other sources, they should do that on their own dime, not at the expense of their pro-life neighbors.

In addition to fiscal practicality, there has been another controversy surrounding the government’s funding of Planned Parenthood involving the second half of the equation: ethics.  Planned Parenthood is, according to its own statistics, the largest provider of abortions in the US with over 300,000 per year.  Needless to say, this has caused cries of protests from pro-life Americans, who object to the fact that they are forced against their moral beliefs to fund the abortion giant.

Yet supports contend that Planned Parenthood is not only in the abortion business, but also deals with adoption referrals. Yet this does not strongly support the organization’s case for funding because recent information from Planned Parenthood’s reports shows that over the last few years, abortions have increased while adoption referrals have decreased. The ratio of abortions to adoption referrals in 2007 was 62 to 1; in 2008 it was 135 to 1; and in 2009 that ratio dramatically increased to 340 to 1. These statistics undermine claim against pro-life opposition.

Planned Parenthood supporters will readily remind us that government funds already have a stipulation attached to them that prevents their direct use for abortions.  That argument seems to overlook the reality that if the government gives money to Planned Parenthood it is funding abortions indirectly because, as Rep. Mike Pence noted, it frees up other portions of Planned Parenthood’s funds to be used for abortion.  In the end, it’s all just money, and even though government funding may be earmarked as “not for abortions”, another potion of their budget can be re-appropriated to that operation while our taxpayer money fills in the gap.

It might also be said that everyone has a right to choice, and all citizens should seek to further and protect individual freedom by contributing to Planned Parenthood.  Yet there is an inherent contradiction in forbidding approximately half of the country to have a choice but subsidize a “pro-choice” organization.  Why should millions of Americans be forced to finance something that many not only find ethically reprehensible but also fiscally irresponsible?

Cuts need to be made somewhere in the national budget, and defunding Planned Parenthood would not only give some relief to the consciences of pro-lifers but also to the national pocketbook.  Based on practicality and ethics, Planned Parenthood should be defunded.

Natalie Scholl is a sophomore from Plymouth, MN. She intends to major in classics. She can be reached at nscholl@princeton.edu.

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