How Planned Parenthood’s health care “reinvention plan” failed

Planned Parenthood’s attempt to reinvent themselves as “health care” providers instead of the largest chain of abortion clinics in the United States began years ago for solely economic reasons. Dubbed the “reinvention plan” the proposal to somehow morph from an abortion clinic into a heath care agency was originally proposed in the mid-1990’s. Ironically, it was not well received by many within the Planned Parenthood organization because of all reasons, it barely mentioned abortion.

Reinventing Planned Parenthood primary care

The “plan” was developed under the guidance of then president Pamela J. Maraldo, a former nurse who came into leadership of Planned Parenthood the same year Bill Clinton was first elected as president of the United States. Clinton promised to implement national healthcare which would pay for abortions. At that time, Planned Parenthood claimed that abortions accounted for 10 percent of the services they provided. But, the truth is that the “reinvention” plan, drafted between October 1994 and April 1995, became a necessary way for Planned Parenthood to survive because health maintenance organizations were swiftly stealing patients from the organization. “I’ve been working very hard to ensure that Planned Parenthood has a seat at the table in health care reform,” Maraldo told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “How we are going to be involved is a big question. We don’t want our clients to have to go through an HMO before they see us. We want to retain their right to confidentiality.”

PP to switch focus to Health Care Nov 21 1992

The proposal would ensure that Planned Parenthood could succeed in the new healthcare marketplace, according to R. James LeFevre, Jr. As one of the nine members of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) “Reinvention Group,” LeFevre recalled that the “Reinvention Team” was tasked to, “literally design PPFA in order to succeed in the era of health care reform.” Or, as the New York Times describedit it at the time to change Planned Parenthood to a “broad health organization that could compete in the era of managed care.”

In addition, the New York Times reported that the reinvention agenda also included plans to:

• Start licensing Planned Parenthood brand products — birth control pills, condoms, health guides, perhaps even tampons or diapers.

• Create a Planned Parenthood Political Action Committee.

• Reorganize Planned Parenthood’s governance procedure

On the table was the suggestion that the abortion business “look at new revenue centers” by becoming a for-profit organization to “bring Planned Parenthood into the 20th century.” As the executive director of a Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood affiliate bemoaned that Planned Parenthood can’t “pretend we can be here by the grace of God.”

Despite today’s claim of “Care No Matter What,” in 1995, Planned Parenthood leaders seemed to imply that the organization would be financially devastated without a move into primary care. In fact, Susan LaMontagne, vice president for media relations at that time even admitted to the Hartford Courant that the reinvention proposal was “mainly economy-driven.” In addition, one Planned Parenthood board member observed that if Planned Parenthood did not reinvent themselves they might get “frozen right out of the system.” And, a Minnesota Planned Parenthood center director pointed out that Planned Parenthood needed to look at revenue sources and diversification “to survive in an increasingly competitive field.”

The concept of survival was mirrored by the New York Times while at the same time suggesting that the reinvention plan was viewed as “unpopular” by some within Planned Parenthood because it would divert from the organization’s focus on “reproductive rights” code for abortion. In a July 1995 article the paper wrote:

In Atlanta, at their annual meeting last October, the affiliates voted to “develop a plan to reinvent” Planned Parenthood so that it could survive in the changing health marketplace. But Ms. Maraldo’s first draft of a reinvention document, suggesting that every affiliate become a broad women’s health-care provider, was unpopular…. By April, when the affiliates met again in Chicago, the idea that every affiliate should move beyond reproductive health had been dropped. But the affiliates did vote to make primary care an optional service and to create a new group at headquarters to help affiliates negotiate managed care contracts.

Despite their desperation, the reaction to the “reinvention plan” had been vehemently opposed by some who felt that a “health care” focus would diminish the organization’s role as advocates for abortion rights. Widespread opposition to the reinvention plan was made public, when, internal memos about the plan were leaked to the media. Excerpts from high ranking Planned Parenthood leaders were published by the Park City Daily News who got a copy of a confidential letter sent to affiliates by clinic executives in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. According to the paper, the letter described concern that Planned Parenthood was moving away from its abortion mission.

Never has a document seemed so out of touch with our mission.” The reinvention proposal would “totally revamp a 78 year organization around the cornerstone of providing primary care with no evidence that it will work.

“The word abortion is mentioned only eight times…And never in the discussion of our future,” the memo stated, according to the report.

Opposition was so widespread that some felt it contributed to the resignation of Maraldo as well as Dr. Willard Gaylin, one of the board members who supported her. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Planned Parenthood board member admitted to the New York Times that, “There was a very widespread concern that she was more interested in being involved in managed care than in being Planned Parenthood.” Adding, “It’s raised some very basic questions about what Planned Parenthood is.”

Over twenty years later, there is no question about what Planned Parenthood is. A look at their own figures on abortion show that Planned Parenthood remains the largest provider of abortion in the United States with well over 300,000 abortions performed annually. To satisfy their massive budget which feeds their six-digit salaries, leaders within Planned Parenthood want the public to believe that they are all about “health care.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

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