“Care. No matter what,” that’s the slogan for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which sells itself as the “most trusted women’s health care provider in the country.” But Planned Parenthood’s public relations line avoids the heart of its “service” — abortion.
The organization — which boasts almost one billion dollars of net assets — is the largest provider of abortion in the United States, performing more than 30 percent of the 1,058,490 abortions done each year. All the while, Planned Parenthood takes in more than $500 million annually from federal, state and local government. Its four clinics in Alaska receive thousands of public dollars from the state.
Now, however, as the public takes a clearer look inside Planned Parenthood through a series of undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress in California, there have been renewed efforts to defund the organization. As in the past, Planned Parenthood and its advocates have sounded an alarm — that women needing health care would be lost without Planned Parenthood. Its CEO Cecile Richards recently Tweeted: “Attacking women’s health care continues to be a bad idea” and “Anti-abortion politicians vowed to do everything in their power to cut patients off from care.”
In an Aug. 15 interview Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York claimed: “Anyone who wants to defund Planned Parenthood wants to defund health care for women across the United States.”
But in fact, there are thousands of health care providers across the nation — and hundreds in Alaska — that provide health services for women, including women with low incomes, without performing abortion. And there might be more such providers if they had access to Planned Parenthood’s massive public subsidies.
Planned Parenthood’s main business is abortion. According to its latest annual report (2013-2014), Planned Parenthood’s affiliates performed 327,653 abortions. Last year in Alaska, there were 1,361 total abortions — according to Alaska’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. It is unclear how many of those were done by Planned Parenthood clinics in Alaska, and the organization’s state affiliate did not respond to an inquiry from the Catholic Anchor.
The state’s Vital Statistics Bureau would not disclose the number of Planned Parenthood abortions. Andrew Jessen, a Bureau research analyst and acting section chief, told the Anchor: “We can’t release that information” because the Bureau isn’t allowed to confirm — even indirectly — the identity of any facility that performs abortions.
An Alaska state statute requires the state to compile an annual statistical report on abortions based on voluntary reports from those performing abortions in the state. According to the statute, the state’s report “may not identify or give information that can be used to identify the name of any physician who performed an induced termination of pregnancy, the name of any facility in which an induced termination of pregnancy occurred, or the name of the municipality or community in which the induced termination of pregnancy occurred.” Then, after compiling the annual report, the state registrar “shall destroy the [abortionists’] reports received under this section.”
HEART OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD
But if the national Planned Parenthood’s annual financial report is any indication, abortion is the most lucrative aspect of the organization’s business in Alaska and elsewhere. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a standard surgical abortion at 10 weeks in 2009 was $451. So Planned Parenthood’s national total 327,653 abortions would represent at least $147.7 million (not taking into account pricier chemical and later abortions). If Planned Parenthood’s Alaska clinics likewise perform 30 percent of all abortions in the state, that translates to over $180,000 in revenue from abortions.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood insists abortion constitutes just three percent of their “services.” But Planned Parenthood calculates the three-percent figure by counting all “services” it renders the same – whether a disposable pregnancy test or an invasive, surgical abortion (sometimes multiple “services” are connected to the abortion). So while it provides more pregnancy tests (1.1 million nationally) than abortions, abortions account for a third of its total billion-dollar annual income.
Despite its abortion agenda, Planned Parenthood continues to receive massive amounts of public money. Across the nation, it receives $528 million in government grants and contracts from the federal government. Federal law stipulates federal dollars may not pay directly for abortion, but it enables Planned Parenthood to free up other funds for that purpose — and for promoting abortion on demand and fighting modest restrictions like parental-involvement laws, laws requiring abortion clinics to adhere to standards required of other surgical clinics, and laws to ban abortions on unborn babies who are fully capable of experiencing pain.
Alaska’s state government helps keep the abortion giant running here. Over the last three years, Planned Parenthood’s clinics received an average of $550,000 annually in state Medicaid reimbursements.
Planned Parenthood’s big abortion business has come under greater scrutiny in the last month, thanks to an undercover journalism project led by the Center for Medical Progress in California. Their videos show Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the value of human fetal tissue obtained through abortions they performed which they sell to medical suppliers. The videos also show employees combing through and joking about the remains of aborted babies with discernible limbs.
This has led to a public outcry and efforts to strip public funding from Planned Parenthood nationally and at state levels. Over the last two months, activists and several state legislators seeking to de-fund Planned Parenthood have held rallies in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
In early August, the U.S. Congress took up a bill – S. 1881 – to stop the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. The money going to Planned Parenthood would have been reallocated to women’s health services provided by others. But President Barack Obama, a Planned Parenthood supporter, promised to veto the bill. And the bill was blocked in the Senate.
SERVICES THEY DON’T PROVIDE
Planned Parenthood is eager to hold on to its public dollars. When defending itself in the media and with legislators, Planned Parenthood spokespersons appeal to its now-debunked “three-percent” statistic and insist that providing other health services justifies their huge government checks. According to Planned Parenthood’s website, those health services are “birth control, general health care, HIV testing, LGBT services, men’s health care, morning-after pill (emergency contraception), pregnancy testing and services, STD testing, treatment and vaccines, and women’s health care.” Planned Parenthood’s CEO Cecile Richards has also stated that the group provides mammograms, but it does not.
In reality, Planned Parenthood does not provide much primary health care. In the latest count, Planned Parenthood’s affiliates across the country together provided primary care only to about 19,700 of its three million unduplicated clients. And these services have been trending downward – from 21,247 in 2007 to 20,235 in 2008, to today’s 19,796.
Curiously, in an August letter to constituents on the issue of funding Planned Parenthood, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Alaska’s Planned Parenthood “has provided a wide range of services to 21,000 Alaskans” — which is greater than the number of Planned Parenthood’s primary care clients nationwide. The Catholic Anchor could not ascertain what “services” those people received because Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest refused to respond.
To be sure, Planned Parenthood’s services to pregnant women are skewed to abortion.
As posted in its 2013-14 annual report, this is Planned Parenthood’s breakdown of services to pregnant women: prenatal care 5.4 percent, adoption 0.5 percent, abortion 94.1 percent.
LIFE WITHOUT PLANNED PARENTHOOD
Women, including low-income women, have many and more comprehensive options outside Planned Parenthood.
Across the nation, tens of thousands of doctors and hospitals provide health care without performing and promoting abortion. And many institutions — like Providence Alaska Medical Center, a system of Catholic health care facilities in Anchorage, Kodiak Island, Mat-Su Valley, Seward, and Valdez — provide charity care for those with low income.
There are other consortia of providers who offer free or low-cost health care. Through Anchorage Project Access, patients are served by more than 450 physicians and providers including hospitals, imaging centers, therapists and other support services.
In addition, there are thousands of “safety-net” providers, namely community health centers like Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. Many of these are designated federally-qualified health centers, providing a range of primary and preventive care to medically underserved and uninsured people, including cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted infections and contraception, the last of which contravenes the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
According to Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services, in Alaska there are 27 groups — such as tribal health corporations and governmental entities — that receive public funding for community health centers in over 150 sites — all across Alaska.
A 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that as many as 40 million Americans may come to rely on community health centers. Currently, five percent of Americans rely on them.
Pregnancy resource centers like Community Pregnancy Center of Anchorage provide free pregnancy testing, limited obstetrical ultrasounds and limited STI screenings. And services are expanding across the nation. Guiding Star and the Obria Foundation are nonprofit organizations in accord with the Catholic Church on the sanctity of human life that provide a continuum of comprehensive and affordable reproductive health care under one roof for women and men at medical clinics in Florida and California. The groups are working to expand across the country to improve women’s access to good reproductive health care. As affiliates of these parent organizations, existing pregnancy resource centers would provide consistent medical services — and many more than Planned Parenthood.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention runs a nationwide program for the early detection of breast and cervical cancer. Through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, women of low income — including those in Alaska — may obtain a free or low-cost Pap test and mammogram — a mammogram that Planned Parenthood does not provide, even for cash.