A lawsuit from Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association (AMA) accuses the Trump administration of actions that could spur “a national public health crisis in short order” for issuing the Title X rule change — which critics are calling the “gag rule.” This rule dictates that any family planning facility receiving federal Title X funding cannot make abortion referrals. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the lawsuit alleges, “Pregnancies that are unintended, and thus riskier, will increase. The number of abortions will also increase. And there will be fewer tests for sexually transmitted infections and cancer screens — putting patients and their partners at great health risk.” Let’s unpack this.
False idea #1: Abortions will increase if Planned Parenthood loses Title X funding.
Not even close. In fact, the opposite is true. As Planned Parenthood’s government/taxpayer funding has increased, its abortion numbers have increased as well — while its legitimate healthcare service percentages have plummeted.
The claim that abortions will actually increase if women don’t receive abortion referrals and if Planned Parenthood loses $60M annually is just one of many exaggerations in the lawsuit, which seems to be designed more for recouping potential financial losses than anything else.
False idea #2: Planned Parenthood is irreplaceable. Where will people go to get all these other services?
The AMA appears to be helping to perpetuate the false idea that Planned Parenthood, with its relatively small 2.4 million patients per year, is irreplaceable. The lawsuit relies on the either/or logical fallacy; it says that either Planned Parenthood receives its funding or women will go without services. The Chronicle reports (emphasis added):
Planned Parenthood, which operates a nationwide network of health centers, says it will leave the Title X program if the rule is implemented, forgoing an estimated $60 million in annual funding rather than abide by the new restrictions. Such an exit could have enormous impact: Planned Parenthood serves 1.6 million of the 4 million women who get care through Title X. The program, enacted in 1970, makes family-planning services available to low-income individuals for free or at low cost.
The Department of Health and Human Services publishes a 200-page listing of Title X Family Planning grantees, so Title X money is available to more facilities than just Planned Parenthood. The HHS listing notes Planned Parenthood locations, of course, but also many other locations, known as community health centers (CHCs), which vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood. But it isn’t just Title X grantees that offer birth control services to the public, of course. Planned Parenthood claims that FQHCs cannot replace Planned Parenthood for these services; however, this claim makes little sense, as Planned Parenthood’s client numbers have remained at 2.4 million for the past few years (2015-2017). Those numbers have plummeted nearly 23 percent from the 3.1 million they boasted in 2006, and 21 percent (20.55%) from the 3,020,651 clients they claimed in 2007. In contrast, FQHC patients have increased nearly 12 percent (11.85%) – by millions each year.
As Planned Parenthood serves 2.4 million annually, other community health centers (CHCs) serve 27 million each year — without abortion. Around 23 million of those clients visited CHCs solely for medical (not dental) care.
Planned Parenthood operates under 600 facilities in the U.S (51.5 percent of all free-standing abortion centers in the U.S.). By contrast, there are over 1400 CHC program grantees, equating to approximately 12,000 locations — one grantee may have multiple locations, across a wide expanse of area. This is why CHCs can serve about 27 million people annually. Absorbing another 1.6 million Title X patients (reportedly Planned Parenthood patients) seems to be a concern for abortion supporters; however, many CHC/FQHC sites already offer contraception services, along with many other comprehensive health care services, and more centers will likely step in to fill any possible void should there be one.
Looking at just one metropolitan area, Des Moines, Iowa, this list of federally funded CHCs within five miles of Des Moines appears:
Finding a Planned Parenthood within five miles of Des Moines was less fruitful (after these, it jumps to seven miles, then 30, then 89):
Heading into more rural regions, the lists are shorter. In Mason City, Iowa, for example, there’s a CHC within five miles — yet the nearest Planned Parenthood is 59 miles away in Cedar Falls. In Fort Dodge, IA, there are two CHCs within five miles, but the nearest Planned Parenthood is 42 miles away in Ames. While these examples are anecdotal, middle America is is not atypical of other locations where you will find more CHCs than Planned Parenthoods — by a significant margin.
CHCs exist in the most rural of areas, places Planned Parenthood would be unlikely to turn a profit. These clinics can prescribe birth control just like Planned Parenthood. Women will not suddenly be forced into pregnancies if money is redirected to these centers instead of to abortion providers.
False claim #3: If Planned Parenthood doesn’t get Title X funding, people won’t get cancer screenings.
Again, the lawsuit mentioned at the beginning of the article claims that without funding for Planned Parenthood, “there will be fewer tests for sexually transmitted infections and cancer screens….” Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen posits (emphasis added):
… for many of our patients, we are their only source of care for cancer screenings, birth control, and crucial preventive care…. Families that are struggling to make ends meet and people who live in rural areas must have the same access to full, unbiased information from their doctor as everyone else.
Wait just a minute… cancer screenings? Birth control? Preventive care? You mean the very services that continue to plummet at Planned Parenthood while abortions skyrocket, according to Planned Parenthood’s own annual reports? Planned Parenthood only does 2% of the nation’s cervical cancer screenings and breast exams in the U.S.
And to expect unbiased information from a company that makes a profit from only one pregnancy option — abortion — is naïve, at best.
Low-income patients are free to go to the thousands of other providers. According to HHS, between 2014 and 2018, the TitleX overall program budget has remained unchanged. Planned Parenthood’s rhetorical machine is so powerful that it has convinced the public that women will have to go without treatment if its facilities cease to exist. This is simply untrue.
It is ironic coming from this abortion profiteer is the claim that it is wrong to forbid their providers from referring patients for abortion. Planned Parenthood’s idea of options counseling is dismal, according to a former manager, and while it’s illegal to use federal funds to pay for abortion, federal taxpayers — thanks to fungibility — end up propping up the abortion giant through reimbursement of its other services, so it can continue to commit abortions.
Beyond that, it wasn’t long ago that Planned Parenthood helped to create a ‘gag rule’ in California, meant to force pro-life agencies to go against their constitutionally-protected religious beliefs to promote abortion. Apparently forcing agencies to promote abortion was acceptable to Planned Parenthood. Forcing agencies to remain neutral? Not so much.
If Planned Parenthood cares that deeply for its patients, it’s time to stop promoting abortion and simply care for patients, as this new rule stipulates. There are more than 11,000 other facilities in this nation fully able to care for patients, regardless of ability to pay.
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