- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nobody questions the clout of Planned Parenthood as a political player, feminist icon and Democratic fundraising machine, but as a health care provider, the organization is increasingly finding itself on the skids.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s annual report released this week shows that patients are abandoning the 99-year-old organization’s clinics amid the proliferation of community health centers without Planned Parenthood’s political baggage.

The number of patients visiting Planned Parenthood clinics dropped from nearly 3 million in fiscal 2012 to 2.5 million in fiscal 2014, the lowest annual total since 1998. The fiscal 2015 report is expected in December 2016.

Meanwhile, the number of services provided fell from 10,590,433 to 9,455,582, a one-year decline of 10.7 percent. Even so, federal funding in the form of grants and reimbursements increased from $528.4 million to $553.7 million, an increase of 4.8 percent.

The trend undercuts Planned Parenthood’s longtime insistence that zeroing out the organization’s federal funding and shifting it to community health clinics, as Republicans have advocated, would deal a devastating blow to women’s medical care.



Eric Ferrero, Planned Parenthood vice president for communications, said Wednesday that the 2014-15 report shows “Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education.”

He said the latest numbers do not give an accurate picture of the overall trend of the group’s services.

“Our funding, and our services have remained consistent over the last several years: 90  percent of what we do nationally is lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, and other preventive care,” Mr. Ferrero said. “We are also proud to provide abortion services and we ensure that women have accurate information about all of their pregnancy-related options. With 661 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood serves all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment.”

The 37-page update does showcase Planned Parenthood’s role outside the clinic doors, including its advocacy on behalf of birth control access, participation in research projects, efforts to protect and expand abortion access and the launching of a political movement, Planned Parenthood Generation Action.

The report also cites Planned Parenthood’s collaboration with “leading celebrities” to “[reshape] the narrative about sexuality through popular culture.”

“With President Cecile Richards leading the way by sharing her own abortion story, we amplified the voices of Planned Parenthood patients and supporters who have had an abortion,” the report said.

Jim Sedlak, vice president of the American Life League, which released an analysis chronicling the decline of patients and procedures, called it “absolutely incredible that Planned Parenthood continues to get more and more taxpayer dollars while its customer base and services provided plummets.”

 

Despite votes by House and Senate Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, Congress ultimately approved two weeks ago a $1.1 trillion budget deal that funds the organization through September 2016.

“An 11 percent decrease in services and a record low number of clients are very significant, yet Congress recently passed a budget for 2016 keeping Planned Parenthood fully funded. It is time this stopped,” Mr. Sedlak said in a statement.

What’s striking is that the latest report reflects figures from fiscal 2014, which ended 15 months ago on Sept. 30, 2014.

Therefore, the latest decline fails to take into account any fallout from 2015’s pitched battles over defunding or the release of explosive undercover videos. The fiscal 2015 report is expected in December 2016.

Planned Parenthood took a public relations hit after the pro-life Center for Medical Progress posted a series of hidden-camera videos starting in July linking the organization to the sale of fetal tissues from abortions for medical research.

In response, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund kicked off in October a $20 million campaign aimed at electing pro-choice candidates in 2016 while promising a “rude awakening” for the organization’s foes.

The latest drop also comes before this year’s concerted effort by pro-life groups to steer women from Planned Parenthood and toward other options. In August a coalition of 17 organizations launched GetYourCare.org, which offers an interactive map for federally qualified health centers that provide “low-cost health centers offer[ing] women and their families high-quality health care” but not elective abortions.

In August the Alliance Defending Freedom and Charlotte Lozier Institute launched a social media campaign, “Women Have Real Choices,” highlighting the 13,540 health care clinics that do not use public funds for elective abortions, as opposed to the 665 Planned Parenthood locations.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood reported performing 323,999 abortions, down from the previous year’s 327,653, a figure representing 3 percent of its procedures, according to the report.

The same percentage has been cited in many previous years — a percentage that pro-lifers challenge, saying Planned Parenthood uses loose definitions of “procedures” to inflate the total number of “procedures” and make the abortion percentage artificially low.

The U.S. abortion rate has been on the decline nationally since 1991, falling in 2011 to 16.9 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, the lowest since 1973, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“Although this may seem to be a small drop, it continues a trend of Planned Parenthood’s decreasing abortion business,” Mr. Sedlak said. “This year’s number is the lowest number of annual abortions at Planned Parenthood since 2007.”

His group reported two weeks ago that Planned Parenthood centers are also on the decline. Even though Planned Parenthood opened 16 facilities in 2015, the total decreased from 668 to 645, according to ALL.

Despite Planned Parenthood’s decreasing footprint, “No one would bother attacking Planned Parenthood if we didn’t matter,” said Ms. Richards and PPFA chair Jill Lafer in a letter at the start of the annual report.

Planned Parenthood’s resilient staff and clinicians are making a huge difference in the field of reproductive and sexual health care and in the cultural landscape at large,” they said.

*The original story has been updated to include Planned Parenthood’s full response Wednesday.

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