Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) recorded 327,166 abortions by its affiliates, according to its annual report released Dec. 11. That total marked a drop of nearly 6,800 of the lethal procedures from the previous year, when PPFA's affiliates provided a record 333,964 abortions.
Other aspects of Planned Parenthood's report were not as encouraging, but its 2 percent decline in abortion procedures was part of a series of welcome news for pro-life advocates in recent months. In other news:
-- Abortions continued to decline in the United States, according to a Nov. 29 report by the Centers for Disease Control that showed the reported legal procedures dropped by 3 percent from 2009 to 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, and by 9 percent from 2001 to 2010.
-- A total of 87 surgical abortion clinics in the country stopped doing the procedures during 2013, according to a Dec. 23 report by the pro-life organization Operation Rescue (OR). Since 1991, the number of surgical abortion centers has fallen by 73 percent from 2,176 to 582, O.R. reported.
-- States enacted 69 pro-life laws this year, according to a report released in September by Americans United for Life, including measures requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges, mandating health and safety standards for abortion clinics and banning abortions of babies at 20 weeks after fertilization because of evidence they can feel pain at that point in their development.
-- The 40 Days for Life outreach continued to grow, according to the pro-life organization's report when its latest campaign closed in early November, with 709 babies being saved from abortion, five abortion workers leaving the business and 110,000 people participating in the peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics in 306 cities during this fall's effort.
-- Nearly 90 pro-life institutions and businesses have filed legal challenges to the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate, with many achieving victories in federal courts and two being accepted by the Supreme Court for review next year.
The Southern Baptist Convention's lead ethicist called for Christians to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus in addressing abortion.
"The pro-life movement continues prophetically to speak to the American uneasy conscience about the lives of our unborn neighbors," said Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a statement to Baptist Press.
"As churches, we must continue to call for justice for the unborn while pointing burdened consciences to the forgiving mercy of God through the blood of Christ," Moore said. "We must call for legal protection for the unborn even as we create counter-cultural congregations where children, whatever their circumstances, and their mothers are received as gifts of God."
David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life, said encouragement appeared to mark the participants in its latest campaign.
"There seems to be a growing sense of hope and optimism as record numbers of abortion centers are closing, as more workers are converting and going public, and as more local and state pro-life laws are enacted," Bereit told BP in an email interview.
The hopeful signs for pro-lifers -- enhanced by polls in recent years showing younger generations increasingly are on the side of life for the unborn -- exist with the recognition that abortion remains a widespread expectation in the culture and its corporate behemoth, Planned Parenthood, maintains its dominance.
While many states approved measures that should have the effect of reducing abortions, California enacted a law that permits non-physicians to perform the procedures and could produce an increase in their number in the country's most populous state.
Despite the decline in the number of PPFA's abortions, its latest report demonstrates that the procedure continues to play a vital role in its services and the organization continues to flourish financially. For instance, PPFA:
-- Totaled record revenue of $1.21 billion, which included $540.6 million – or about 45 percent of the total -- in government grants and reimbursements.
-- Recorded total assets of $1.63 billion.
-- Distributed 1.59 million "emergency contraception" kits, an increase of about 160,000 over the previous year for drugs which have abortion-causing properties.
-- Made only 2,197 adoption referrals to other agencies, meaning it performed about 149 abortions for every adoption referral.
In its report, PPFA also cited the following among its highlights for the year: (1) Its chapters on college campuses increased by 50 percent; (2) more than 25 percent of its new supporters are less than 35 years old; and (3) it is reaching about 10,000 young people a month on its chat/text program that launched in 2013.
Though abortion clinics are closing, PPFA said it has opened 30 new health centers in the last two years. Several of these are mega-clinics that include abortion services.
The remainder of Planned Parenthood's report implies that the decline in the number of abortions "may be short-lived," said Randall O'Bannon, who tracks PPFA's activities as director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee.
"Planned Parenthood is rich, powerful, and politically well-connected," O'Bannon wrote in a Dec. 12 analysis. "Every page of the signals that it will continue to aggressively promote its abortion agenda both here and abroad."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said, "Business is booming for America's largest abortion provider, which receives public funding at a rate of $1.5 million per day.
"Planned Parenthood claims to be a trusted health care provider, but their numbers tell a different story," Dannenfelser said Dec. 11 in a written statement. Planned Parenthood's mission "is to profit off of abortion," she said.
PPFA has increased its share of the abortion market as the number of the procedures has shrunk during a span of about two decades. Since 1990, the number of abortions in the United States has fallen by 25 percent. Planned Parenthood saw its number of abortions rise by 33.7 percent from 2003 to 2013, according to the American Life League's Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP) initiative. In PPFA's history, its affiliates have performed a total of more than 6.3 million abortions, STOPP reported.
"Emergency contraception," which includes such brands as Plan B and Next Choice, works to restrict ovulation in a female, but it also can act after conception, thereby causing an abortion. This secondary mechanism of the drug blocks implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.
PPFA's report on abortion and other services covered the year from October 2011 through September 2012, while its financial report was for July 2012 through June 2013.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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