This month, Planned Parenthood released its 2018-2019 annual report. Much of the commentary and analysis have focused on the fact that the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood reached an all-time high.
In fact, throughout the 2018-2019 period, Planned Parenthood performed 345,672 abortions – an increase of over 3.8 percent from the 2017-2018 year. Furthermore, despite political efforts at both the state and federal level to reduce public funding to Planned Parenthood, the group's government revenues increased by over nine percent between the two years. All of this should rightly concern pro-lifers.
The long-term trends are even more troubling. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood increased by a whopping 75 percent. Overall, in less than 20 years, Planned Parenthood’s share of the U.S. abortion market went from 15 percent to approximately 40 percent, according to total U.S. abortion stats reported by the Guttmacher Institute. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood continues to perform fewer health services. Between 2009 and 2018, Planned Parenthood’s prenatal services fell by 76 percent and its cancer screenings, due in part to changing practice guidelines, are down by 69 percent. These statistics make it obvious that abortion remains Planned Parenthood’s top priority.
Planned Parenthood’s long-term fiscal trends are interesting. For every year from 2001 until 2009, Planned Parenthood’s largest source of revenue came from non-government health services – money received from private insurers and clients. However, between 2008 and 2010, Planned Parenthood’s government funding surged – increasing by around 40 percent in real terms during that time. As such, in 2010, government funding became the largest source of income for Planned Parenthood.
However, since 2011, Planned Parenthood’s funding from government sources remained fairly stable. Even with the increase in government funds in 2019, the amount of funding that Planned Parenthood received from government sources grew by less than one percent in real terms between 2011 and 2019. Currently, 18 U.S states limit the ability of abortion facilities to receive government funds. Perhaps some of those efforts have succeeded in limiting the amount of revenue Planned Parenthood is receiving from government sources.
Obviously, much more work needs to be done. The fact that government revenue has been Planned Parenthood’s largest source of funding for nine of the past 10 years indicates that big abortion needs big government. Defunding the abortion industry has been, and will continue to be, smart public policy for pro-lifers. Some history is instructive. After the Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. abortion rate surged – more than doubling between 1973 and 1980. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one important factor was that for much of this time, the federal government was paying for elective abortions for low-income women through the Medicaid program.
During this time, pro-lifers shrewdly realized that they had block taxpayer funding to abortion facilities. The Hyde Amendment, an annual rider to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill, which limits the ability of the federal government to fund abortions through Medicaid, was first passed in 1976. After years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment in Harris v. McRae in 1980. Since that time, the federal Medicaid program has only paid for abortions in very limited circumstances.
Since 1980, the U.S. abortion rate has consistently fallen. It has fallen during both Republican and Democratic Presidential administrations. It has fallen during both recessions and times of economic prosperity. Overall, recent data from both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute indicate that the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by 50 percent since 1980. Furthermore, a very broad body of academic research shows that cutting taxpayer funding for abortions reduces the abortion rate. In fact, my 2016 analysis, which was published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, indicates the Hyde Amendment prevents approximately 60,000 abortions annually and has saved some 2.25 million lives since its enactment.
The Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule, which prevents Title X grantees from co-locating with abortion facilities or doing abortion referrals is a good start. However, clearly more needs to be done at both the state and federal level. Elected officials need to shift funding away from Planned Parenthood and toward Federally Qualified Health Centers and pregnancy help centers, which offer life-affirming alternatives. Pro-lifers have made impressive progress lowering the abortion rate during the past 40 years. However, for this progress to continue, big abortion needs to be defunded.
Michael J. New, Ph.D. is a Visiting Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New