According to their website, Planned Parenthood serves nearly 5 million people per year, worldwide. They offer sexual and reproductive health care, education and outreach. Nearly 2.5 million clients are served by Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers in the U.S and more than 1 million clients are served by PPFA-supported partners in 12 developing countries. According to a Government Accountability Office report released in March 2015, nearly 80% of their US clients had incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) currently supports 56 independently incorporated affiliates that operate nearly 650 health centers across the U.S.. They are in all 50 states, and the District of Columbia. Planned Parenthood was founded 100 years ago in October 1916.
Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood’s founding
Margaret Sanger grew up in an Irish Catholic family of 11 children in Corning, New York. Her mother’s health had been weakened by so many pregnancies (including 7 miscarriages), and she died when Sanger was only 17 years old. Sanger went on to work as a visiting nurse on the Lower East Side of New York, a poor immigrant neighborhood at the time. Both her work with poor women in these neighborhoods and her experiences at home led her to believe large families and poverty go hand in hand. She became inspired to make a difference in women’s lives.
On October 16, 1916, Sanger, along with her sister Ethel Byrne opened a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Sanger and her staff provided birth control information and advice to poor immigrant women in a crowded, working-class neighborhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Nine days after the clinic opened, it was raided by police and shut down. Sanger and her staff were arrested, and charged with providing birth control information, as well as fitting women for diaphragms. Sanger refused to pay the fine and spent 30 days in jail, where she shared birth control information with the other inmates.
Planned Parenthood’s latest organization wide Annual report uses data from 2014 and shows the following:
Sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment
- 45% of their services were for STI/STD screening and treatment.
- 4.2 million tests and treatments provided
- 651,695 HIV tests conducted
- 171,882 STIs diagnosed, enabling people to get treatment and to learn how to prevent the further spread of STIs
- 31% of the services they provided in 2014 were for contraceptives
- 2 million reversible contraception patients
- 941,589 emergency contraception kits
- 3,445 vasectomies
- 718 female sterilization procedures
- 1.1 million tests were done, which was 12% of their services.
Cancer screening and procedures:
- 7% of their services were for cancer screenings
- Pap smears (cervical cancer screening): 270,000 per year
- Breast exams/care: 360,000 per year
- Other procedures: 46,000 per year
- Mammograms: PP doesn’t do mammograms in-house. They provide prescriptions/referrals to radiological facilities, and then provide follow-up care.
- 3% of the services they provided in 2014 were abortions. This was 323,999 abortions.
- 17,419 visits, less than 1% of their services.
- Adoption referrals to other agencies: 2024
- Total Services performed in 2014: 9,455,582
- They provided sex education to 1.5 million people in a variety of settings. From schools and universities, to prisons, social service organizations, and more.
- Training programs were also provided to 21,000 professionals who work with children, teens, and young adults.
Pregnancy prevention and birth control
- Planned Parenthood estimates it prevents 579,000 unintended pregnancies per year in the U.S.
Nationwide demographic information is hard to come by, but a Yale study published in November 2013 in cooperation with Planned Parenthood Southern New England (PPSNE) includes regional demographics for that affiliate. PPSNE consists of 18 clinics in Connecticut and Rhode Island. These are some of their results:
“Defunding” Planned Parenthood
Politicians often talk about “defunding” Planned Parenthood, but what does that actually mean? Planned Parenthood doesn’t receive direct federal funding. The funding they receive comes mainly as reimbursements for services performed. Medicaid reimbursements for health care account for 75% of federal funding according to Planned Parenthood. The rest comes from Title X, which is a Federal Family Planning Program created in 1970 by President Nixon for low income or uninsured individuals. Use of federal funds is already prohibited from being used for abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk) by the Hyde amendment, passed in 1976.
So when politicians talk about defunding, what they really mean is they want to stop low income patients from being able to get their care at Planned Parenthood clinics. In low-income and rural areas where women depend on Planned Parenthood contraceptive services, defunding it would cause unwanted pregnancies to rise. This already happened in Texas, which passed a bill in 2011 to cut funds for family planning in an effort to close Planned Parenthood affiliates. The bill went into effect in 2012, cutting funding from $111 million to $38 million for family planning. This caused 25% of the family planning clinics in the state to close, including many clinics beside Planned Parenthood affiliates. In focus groups with low income Texas women after the funding cut, many women found it more costly and difficult to obtain birth control. Those who were able to find new providers were often forced to use less effective birth control methods, rather than long-acting IUDs and implants. As a result, these women experienced more unplanned pregnancies, and were unable to access screening services and follow-up care. In the long run, more unplanned pregnancies by women on Medicaid increases the burden on the program.
Community Health Centers can take Planned Parenthood patients, if it’s defunded.
If Planned Parenthood is “defunded”, according to politicians, Community Health Centers who don’t do abortions will be able to step in and provide healthcare to Planned Parenthood patients. One of the problems with this thinking is that Planned Parenthood has been a trusted provider nationwide for many years. Patients would be forced to leave their trusted provider and find a new one who is willing to take new patients and low Medicaid reimbursements. This has not worked out well in states that cut family planning funding. Last year, Texas awarded $1.6 million to an anti-abortion group called the Heidi Group, to help strengthen small clinics that specialize in women’s health to offset the impact their budget cuts had on women’s health in the state. It was also designed to be a model for other states to follow, showing there would be no gaps in service if Planned Parenthood was defunded. After 8 months of work, the Heidi Group and its founder, Carol Everett has had little success in getting other clinics on board with the program. In a brief interview Carol Everett gave to the Associated Press, she said that the community clinics she worked with were not cooperating despite her best efforts. Clinic officials contacted by the AP either did not return phone calls or would not speak on the record about the situation. So far, neither the Heidi Group, nor state officials would provide information on how many women have been served by this program.
Planned Parenthood and Mammograms
Various politicians, in defending Planned Parenthood, have claimed that they perform a large number of Mammograms. This is not quite true, as noted by both Politifact, and by the Washington Post. A big part of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative care, but they don’t have the radiologic equipment in-house to do Mammograms. They, like most other primary care or OB/Gyn doctors, give patients a prescription and referral to another facility, which performs the Mammogram. They then follow-up with the patients afterwards. According to this article on their website, they also provide financial help to those patients who need help paying for their mammogram.
Although they do not perform Mammograms, Planned Parenthood provides other cancer screenings such as Pap tests and regular breast exams in-house.
Abortion as a percentage of services – PP says it’s 3%, while Pro-life groups say it’s 95%
Planned Parenthood calculates their services by counting each individual service as separate, and then dividing by the total number of services. The problem with this approach is that a patient may have multiple services during a single visit: like a pregnancy test, a breast exam, and a pap smear. They would count this as 3 separate services, while it really only constitutes one visit. Abortions are then compared to the total number of services vs. the number of visits. Comparing it to the total number of visits would give a more accurate picture of their abortion rate.
Pro-life groups, on the other hand, use only the pregnancy-related services to compare to the abortion numbers. This is not accurate because pregnancy-related services are a very small part (< 1%) of the work that Planned Parenthood does for patients. As noted above, 2024 referrals for adoption were made and 14,419 prenatal visits were done. Pro-life groups add only these 2 services together, and compare the total to the 323,999 abortions that were done in 2014, giving the 95% figure. Since the vast majority of the work Planned Parenthood does is for STI/STD testing and Birth Control services, the 95% number is meaningless.
Fetal tissue “sales”
On 14 July 2015, The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) posted an undercover video supposedly showing a leading Planned Parenthood doctor, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, admitting to “buyers” from a human biologics company that Planned Parenthood profits from sales of organs from aborted fetuses. Officials in 12 states initiated investigations into these claims, but none found Planned Parenthood to have sold any tissues for profit. In fact, a Texas grand jury indicted CMP founder David Daleiden and another member of his organization for their roles in creating the videos. Texas found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. The charges were later dropped. On March 29, 2017, California prosecutors filed 15 felony charges against the same 2 CMP leaders who recorded these videos. They obtained fake IDs, created a fictitious bioresearch facility and secretly recorded these conversations. In California, both parties must consent to being recorded in order for it to be legal.
Factcheck.org contacted four experts in the use of human tissue for research about the potential for profit for Planned Parenthood, as mentioned in the Center for Medical Progress video. One of the experts was Sherilyn Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s biorepository. She said the asking price mentioned in the video – $30-$100 per specimen – represented a reasonable fee, and there was no way to make a profit at that price. The other experts Factcheck.org contacted echoed this statement. Jim Vaught, president of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories, mentioned that the costs to the clinic are typically much higher than this.
Margaret Sanger and Eugenics
There has been much criticism of Margaret Sanger in the press due to writings about eugenics that were attributed to her and her affiliation with some groups that espoused eugenic philosophy. This is clearly not the reason she became interested in birth control, nor why she opened the first birth control clinic. Here is a copy of her early writings published in May 1917. In this work, she states that she was appalled to discover “knowledge of controlling birth was available to women of wealth, while working women were deliberately kept in ignorance of this knowledge”. She wanted to help these working women learn to control their own lives and destiny, and they were anxious to learn. Working women didn’t want to continue to have children that they couldn’t afford to feed or clothe,or to see them die of hunger and neglect. If you have time, read the introduction of the document, which explains her stance, and the issues of the day she encountered as an OB/Gyn nurse. It is very informative, insightful and continues to apply today. The Case for Birth Control by Margaret Sanger
From Biography.com: For all of her advocacy work, Sanger was not without controversy. She has been criticized for her association with eugenics, a branch of science that seeks to improve the human species through selective mating. Sanger held some views that were common at the time, but now seem abhorrent, including support of sterilization for the mentally ill and mentally impaired. Despite her controversial comments, Sanger focused her work on one basic principle: “Every child should be a wanted child.”