Does Planned Parenthood really have any interest in reducing the number of abortions? Should anybody take them seriously when they pretend to have a plan for eliminating one of their primary income streams? Birth control is not the magic key to ending abortion and the abortion industry knows that full well.
Planned Parenthood once had a page on their website titled "5 Ways to Prevent Abortion (And One Way That Won't Work)." According to that list, the best way to prevent abortion is to "Make contraception more easily available." That may seem a reasonable suggestion, but remember who's making it. Planned Parenthood performed 327,166 abortions in 2012.1 At an average cost of $625 per abortion,2 that means they made more than $200 million on abortion alone. And that doesn't include the $528 million they received in government grants or the $392 million from private donations3—much of which is ideologically tied to abortion.
Planned Parenthood likes to claim that abortion only represents 3% of its operations, but this is a numeric sleight of hand. According to their own published figures, 11% of their clients have an abortion,4 and abortion may account for up to half of their health center income. More to the point, of the pregnant women who come to Planned Parenthood for counseling, almost 98% have abortions.5 Two percent receive prenatal care.6 Less than half of one percent are referred for adoption.7 In light of these numbers, isn't it remarkable that Planned Parenthood thought itself credible enough to publish such a list in the first place? Believing that Planned Parenthood wants to prevent abortion is like believing that Philip Morris wants to prevent smoking.
Abby Johnson spent eight years working for Planned Parenthood. She began as an idealistic college student who honestly believed they were helping reduce the overall frequency of abortion. She resigned as a jaded, clinic director—weary of increasing corporate pressure to get her abortion revenue up. In her own words:
“Abby,” I was told pointedly, “nonprofit is a tax status, not a business status.” I was ordered to get my priorities straight—which meant I had to get my revenue up. As the meeting continued, I sat there stunned...
When I looked at the numbers, I did a double take. I noticed that the client goals related to family planning hadn’t changed much, but the client goals under abortion services had increased significantly...
I came away from that meeting with the clear and distinct understanding that I was to get my priorities straight, that abortion was where my priorities needed to be because that was where the revenue was…
To me [our clients] had always been individuals. But now I believed that to the organization they were dollar signs...
The money wasn’t in family planning, the money wasn’t in prevention, the money was in abortion...8
If Planned Parenthood really wanted to prevent abortions, they could simply stop selling them. But that would destroy their bottom line. Instead, they declare that the best way to reduce our national reliance on abortion is to increase our national reliance on birth control (which happens to be another Planned Parenthood revenue stream). What is the one thing, according to Planned Parenthood, that won't prevent abortion? Making it illegal (based on the vacuous assertion that millions of illegal abortions were already happening each year prior to Roe vs Wade, and tens of thousands of women were dying in the process). This would all be laughable if the results were not so tragic. Though the list has disappeared from their website, their ideology remains the same.
Planned Parenthood's conflict of interest notwithstanding, we are still left to ponder the question of birth control. Is contraception really the best way to prevent abortion? Would there actually be more abortions if Planned Parenthood didn't exist? As anyone who has opposed abortion in the public square can tell you, it is not uncommon to hear some variant of: if you really wanted to eliminate abortion, you'd be handing out condoms. Planned Parenthood declares on its website that each year, it prevents 612,000 unintended pregnancies.9 According to the Guttmacher Institute, 40% of unintended pregnancies are aborted.10 Do we say then that Planned Parenthood is preventing 244,800 abortions each year? No. Those are hypothetical saves. They pale in comparison to the 332,278 actual lives who were violently destroyed by Planned Parenthood.
In a 2010 CDC report examining contraceptive use in the United Sates over the last 30 years, they reach this rather shocking conclusion:
Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age… But that does not mean that contraceptive use in the United States is completely consistent or effective. One-half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the average probability of an unintended pregnancy in 12 months of contraceptive use in the United States is 12%, unchanged from 1995.11
Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the largest independent abortion provider in the UK, had this to say about birth control in a 2008 London debate:
We live in a society where we know contraception fails. In the real world, out of women who are using the pill well, about 8 in every 100 will get pregnant in the course of a year… we need abortion as a backup to contraception.12
This is the dirty secret of birth control. It only works most of the time. What does that mean on the average, university campus? Consider the University of Minnesota. In 2007, the UM Boynton Health Service surveyed 10,000 college students throughout the state. Seventy-two percent indicated they were sexually active during the last year.13 Since there are roughly 52,000 students at the University of Minnesota, and since females represent roughly 57% of American college students,14 that indicates that there are 21,131 sexually active women at the University of Minnesota. According to the CDC report, even if every single one of them is using birth control, 2,536 will get pregnant over the course of a year. And that's just one campus, in one state. Birth control has created the illusion that you can enter into sexual relationships without consequences. Its use is "virtually universal" among sexually-active women, and yet there are still more than one million abortions every year in the United States – and that's been true every year since 1977. If the promises of birth control are the very thing that's convincing more unmarrieds to be more sexually active, and if 12% of the women using birth control still wind up pregnant, it's no wonder that contraceptives have proved so ineffectual at curbing our national abortion epidemic.
Planned Parenthood concedes on their website that, "Being continuously abstinent is the only way to be absolutely sure that you won't have an unintended pregnancy or get a sexually transmitted disease (STD)... abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It also prevents STDs."15 On their chart comparing the effectiveness of different birth control methods, Planned Parenthood estimates that 2-9% of pill users will get pregnant in any given year and 15-24% of condom users will still wind up with an unplanned pregnancy.16 Abby Johnson makes a revealing observation concerning her own birth control history. "There’s an incredible irony," she writes, "in the fact that I had a career in educating women about contraception and yet, for the third time, conceived while using contraceptives."17 If you scoff at the CDC assertion that 12% of the women using birth control still wind up pregnant, consider that even a professional, sex-educator – the director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic wound up with three unplanned pregnancies – all while using contraceptives.
Eighty-four percent of all abortions (more than one million a year) are performed on unmarried women. The way to eliminate these abortions is not by handing out more condoms. Its by giving people a better understanding of what abortion actually is and does and a better understanding of how unreliable birth control can be. Rest assured, if abortion were not so readily available, a lot more singles would think twice about getting in bed together.
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- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Fact Sheet: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/PPFA/PP_Services.pdf, October 2011, 2.
- The Planned Parenthood website states that the average, first-trimester abortion costs between $300-$950 and “more for a second-trimester abortion.” Planned Parenthood. In Clinic Abortion Procedures, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures-4359.asp (Dec 9, 2011)
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Annual Report 2013-2014, 29.
- Three million clients / 332,278 abortions. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. “Fact Sheet,” October 2011, 1, 2.
- 332,278 abortions / 7,021 prenatal clients / 977 adoption referrals. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. “Fact Sheet,” October 2011, 2.
- Abby Johnson. Unplanned. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition, 2010) 114-115, 174, 204.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. Planned Parenthood at a Glance. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-glance-5552.htm (Dec 9, 2011).
- Guttmacher Institute. In Brief: Fact Sheet: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html, August, 2011.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Use of Contraception in the United States: 1982-2008. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_029.pdf, 15.
- Ann Furedi, “Abortion: A Civilised Debate,” Battle of Ideas, (London, England, November 1, 2008).
- Patty Mattern. “University of Minnesota releases first ever comprehensive report of the health of college students.” (University of Minnesota, Nov 15, 2007: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-11/uom-uom111507.php)
- Alex Williams. “The New Math on Campus.” The New York Times, Feb 5, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/fashion/07campus.html
- Planned Parenthood. Abstinence, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/abstinence-4215.htm (Dec 9, 2011)
- Planned Parenthood. Comparing effectiveness of birth control methods http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/birth-control-effectiveness-chart-22710.htm (Dec 12, 2011)
- Abby Johnson. Unplanned. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition, 2010) 66.
- Can Birth Control Cause an Abortion?: That largely depends on when you think pregnancy begins.
- Is it Wrong to Use Birth Control?: A look at the moral arguments surrounding the use of birth control.
For Further Study:
- What Birth Control Can & Cannot Do (Abort73 Blog)
- The Law Can’t Make Abortion Safe; Birth Control Can’t Make Abortion Rare (Abort73 Blog)
- Margaret Sanger and the Religion of Birth Control (Abort73 Blog)
- Gandhi on Birth Control and Abortion (Abort73 Blog)
- Marriage, Contraception, and Unplanned Pregnancy (Abort73 Blog)
- The Tangled Web of IVF and Birth Control (Abort73 Blog)