Last week, ten pro-life leaders signed an open letter to Congress urging them to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Time is of the essence. Through the reconciliation process, simple majorities in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate can defund Planned Parenthood. However, the 2017 reconciliation bill expires at the end of the month. So far, 2017 has been a good year for pro-lifers. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. President Trump expanded the Mexico City Policy which prevents federal foreign aid money from going to organizations that perform abortions. That said, defunding Planned Parenthood remains an unfulfilled objective.
The case for defunding Planned Parenthood can be neatly summarized into one sentence, “Big Abortion Needs Big Government.” Some history is instructive. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision effectively legalized abortion on demand in 1973. Between 1973 and 1980, the U.S. abortion rate nearly doubled. There are a variety of reasons for this sharp increase. However, one important factor is that for most of this time, abortion for low-income women was subsidized by federal Medicaid dollars.
During this time, pro-lifers shrewdly realized that they had to take steps to defund big abortion. In 1976 Congress passed the Hyde Amendment which placed strict limits on the Federal Government’s ability to pay for abortion through Medicaid. After years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment in Harris v. McRae in 1980. Since that time the federal government has paid for abortion in only very limited circumstances.
As a result, the U.S. abortion rate has consistently fallen. It has fallen during both Democratic and Republican Presidential administrations. It has fallen during times of both economic prosperity and economic stagnation. In 2014, the most recent year for which we have data, the U.S. abortion rate is half of what it was in 1980. And the Hyde Amendment has played a key role in that decline. There is broad body of research which shows that cutting of funding for abortion reduces abortion rates. Furthermore, my 2016 analysis which was published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute indicates that the Hyde Amendment saves 60,000 lives every year.
Planned Parenthood realized that the election of President Trump and Republican Congressional majorities jeopardized the $554 million they receive in taxpayer funding – approximately 41 percent of their budget. As such, they and their allies put on a full court press. They tried to argue that defunding Planned Parenthood would deny women access to health care. However, Congressional proposals would redirect Planned Parenthood’s funding to the over 9,000 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the country. Additionally, Planned Parenthood’s allies have used misleading statistics to claim that the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Texas in 2011 caused a public health crisis in the Lone Star State.
However, despite plenty of media reports to the contrary, many public health trends in Texas are positive. Since Planned Parenthood was defunded, births to minor girls have fallen by more than 20 percent. Abortions performed on minor girls have decreased by over 40 percent. There is no evidence of an increase in the unintended pregnancy rate. In fact, the Lone Star State clearly shows that positive public health outcomes are possible without taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is America’s number one abortion provider, aborting over 320,000 innocent pre-born children every year. Furthermore, they have engaged in a considerable amount of misconduct. Evidence shows that Planned Parenthood has failed to report cases of statutory rape. They have helped minors circumvent state pro-life parental involvement laws. There is evidence from 11 states that Planned Parenthood affiliates have overbilled state Medicaid programs -- costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Tragically, taxpayers currently reward this misconduct to the tune of approximately $1.5 million every day. The message is clear. Congress needs to defund Planned Parenthood.