Planned Parenthood is on the ropes. And like any entity taking a well-deserved and very public beating, it is anxious to redeem - or in this case, strategically recast - its increasingly tattered reputation.
In response to this week’s announcement that Planned Parenthood is the subject of a congressional oversight investigation and to earlier action by nine states to strip the scandal-ridden organization of its taxpayer funding, Planned Parenthood is recycling the discredited claim that its principal mission is not to promote and provide abortions but to ensure “women’s access to primary and preventive care.”
However, its claims are readily dismissed when you look beyond the politically fueled and desperate rhetoric to the facts.
The controversy over Indiana’s 2011 law prohibiting all health care contracts with and grants to Planned Parenthood provides an instructive case study. Faced with the loss of millions of dollars in Medicaid and other government funding, Planned Parenthood made the calculated decision to divert attention from its record in the state and instead accuse Indiana officials of conspiring to deny women access to basic health care. Specifically, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards claimed the law would “take away health care from thousands of women.”
Inherent in this ploy is a disingenuous effort to position the organization as an irreplaceable provider of well-woman exams, Pap smears, sexually transmitted disease (STD) tests and other basic care to women. Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood, the facts tell a very different story.
According to its own statistics, Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana serve less than 1 percent of the state’s Medicaid patients while providing more than 50 percent of the state’s abortions. Obviously, the overwhelming majority of Indiana women are getting their basic health care elsewhere and avoiding the abortion-saturated Planned Parenthood.
Many likely are receiving care at community health centers, which, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers, provide care to the nation’s underserved populations, including the uninsured, those on Medicaid and Medicare, migrant workers and people living in rural areas.
In 2009, Indiana community health centers saw more than a quarter of a million Medicaid patients and provided more than 22,000 Pap smears, more than 2,000 mammograms and more than 4,000 STD tests, obliterating Planned Parenthood’s market share of the state’s Medicaid patients and contracted services. And the community centers have the capacity to see more patients.
“If Planned Parenthood only sees 1 percent of Medicaid patients in the state, and that’s their statistic, it doesn’t seem like they are making a big imprint in the first place,” said Dr. Geoffrey C. Cly, at the Northeast OB/GYN Women’s Health Group in Fort Wayne, Ind. “I know in our group, we currently have capacity to see more patients, and I’m sure many other groups could easily take care of the 1 percent that’s left if Planned Parenthood no longer took care of those patients.”
What is true in Indiana is likely also true in the other 49 states. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, community health centers provide more than 9,000 doctors, 10,000 nurses and 8,000 health care delivery sites across the nation. Clearly, these centers are serving the real health care needs of American women while, in a crass attempt to maintain its $363 million in annual taxpayer funding, Planned Parenthood deceptively attempts to position itself as a critical provider of basic health care.
Tacitly acknowledging that the organization has been hurt by repeated scandals and the increasing momentum to end its taxpayer subsidy, Ms. Richards has made “rebuilding Planned Parenthood’s reputation as a provider of non-abortion services” a top priority. Apparently, part of her plan is to cunningly peddle the fiction that Planned Parenthood is America’s “health care provider.”
Just this week, in responding to the congressional investigation, Ms. Richards opined, “As people learn about this latest attack on their health care provider, they will speak out and stand with us to protect access to health care for women and families.”
Clearly, she hopes that simply repeating this dishonest narrative over and over will somehow make it true. Moreover, recognizing that 70 percent of American taxpayers do not want their tax dollars paying for or subsidizing abortions, Planned Parenthood is determined to present a different (and demonstrably false) image to the American public. The organization’s self-serving propaganda cannot overcome the facts: It is not “America’s health care provider.” It is America’s abortion mega-provider. And American women don’t need Planned Parenthood.
Denise M. Burke is vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life.