- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2015

Planned Parenthood has been roiled by undercover videos exposing its handling of aborted fetal tissue, but a bigger problem may be the perception that the 99-year-old organization is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

The rise of community health clinics, coupled with Obamacare’s heavily subsidized health care policies for low-income earners, has thrown Planned Parenthood into a tailspin as its clinics close, its patient base dwindles and its services trend downward.

“Planned Parenthood has a demonstrably shrinking influence. By its own numbers, its overall clients are going down,” said Anna Paprocki, staff attorney for Americans United for Life. “You look at specific services — even its own reports show that its noncontroversial services besides STD testing are all declining.”

Planned Parenthood officials, led by President Cecile Richards, argue that the organization is vital to ensuring women’s health, but its own annual reports suggest that its role is being usurped by other government-funded services.

Where Planned Parenthood continues to lead is in the number of abortions performed each year, growing from 289,750 in 2006 to more than 327,000 in each of the last five years, according to figures from Planned Parenthood’s annual reports as compiled in AUL’s January analysis, “Abortion, Inc.”

Ironically, one of the reasons for Planned Parenthood’s declining influence is the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2009 with no Republican votes, which funneled $11 billion into community health clinics in anticipation of increased demand.

“Planned Parenthood is not vital today because there are so many options available,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America. “If you look at Obamacare, women’s health care services are provided without a copay. So particularly those women who have health insurance or have signed up for Obamacare, they have now free health care services without a copay.”

Democrats for Life of America reported earlier this week that there are more than 9,000 community health clinics, while Planned Parenthood now has fewer than 700 — less than the total number of community health clinics in California alone.

“[W]hen you look at CHCs, there is so much more available to people,” said Ms. Day. “In 31 states, there are 10 or fewer Planned Parenthood clinics. So for them to put themselves out there as the number-one health care provider for women is dishonest.”

The DLA’s analysis is entitled, “Planned Parenthood: the largest provider of health care services to women only if you define health care services as abortion.”

“They may be the largest organization nationwide that focuses on women, but they’re not the only provider for women,” said Ms. Day.

From 2006 to 2013, Planned Parenthood’s patient visits dropped from 3.1 million to 2.7 million. Also on the decline are breast exams, cancer screenings and prenatal care — in other words, the same services that Planned Parenthood has emphasized in its defense since the first undercover video was released July 14.

One reason for the decline in clinics, which once numbered more than 1,000, is Planned Parenthood’s decision in 2012 to require that all its affiliates offer on-site abortions as opposed to referrals. The result was that some clinics peeled off from the organization.

“There’s no need for us to be duplicating services that are already adequately and well provided locally,” Debra Marcus, former CEO of Planned Parenthood South Central New York, told WBNG-TV.

Planned Parenthood may also be on the wrong side of the generation gap. Polls show millennials tend to be more opposed to abortion than their parents or grandparents, and Planned Parenthood is inextricably associated with abortion.

“You see young people becoming more pro-life,” said Ms. Day.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America responded to a request for comment with a July 29 statement from Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, opposing a Senate bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

“This proposal demonstrates a lack of respect for and understanding of the preventive health needs of the millions of individuals who rely on it as their usual, and oftentimes sole, source of health care,” said Ms. Coleman. “In many communities, there are not other health care providers that would be equipped to fill the void created by the prohibition of funding for a qualified, trusted family planning provider.”

For Republican Chris Sununu, the solution is simple: Shift Planned Parenthood funding to other health providers. A member of the New Hampshire Executive Council, he voted as part of the 3-2 majority Wednesday to cancel state funding of its Planned Parenthood affiliate.

“There are lots of other providers of these services that are out there,” Mr. Sununu said. “All I’m saying is, let’s go contract with them and use these other health care providers to make sure we are giving adequate choice to these women in providing the services.”

New Hampshire is one of three states — Alabama and Louisiana being the others — to defund the organization this week in response to the release of a series of undercover videos by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress attacking Planned Parenthood’s handling of fetal tissue from abortions.

Ms. Richards has insisted that the organization did nothing wrong. She has also defended Planned Parenthood by saying that one in five women depend on the organization for their health care, a figure that has since been challenged.

Using 2012 data from the Centers for Disease Control, FactCheck.org said Wednesday the figure is closer to 2.8 percent.

The 1-in-5 figure apparently comes from a Huffington Post/YouGov online survey from July 2013 that found 20 percent of respondents said they had visited a Planned Parenthood clinic.

“But the methodology of that survey differs from traditional telephone polling. It is an online survey of respondents who were recruited through Internet advertising and agreed in advance to participate in surveys,” said FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Ms. Paprocki added that, “The idea that one in five women have at some point gone to Planned Parenthood doesn’t describe what Planned Parenthood is today.”

“This is not your mother’s Planned Parenthood,” she said. “This is an organization that has an increasingly pointed abortion focus.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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