The Pro-life Case for Planned Parenthood

Science, technology, and life.
Dec. 11 2008 7:53 AM

The Pro-life Case for Planned Parenthood

We have a late-breaking frontrunner for dumbest policy idea of 2008: defunding Planned Parenthood in the name of fighting abortion.

Stephanie Simon reports the latest developments in the Wall Street Journal :

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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Abortion opponents are pressing state and local governments to stop sending taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, arguing that the nonprofit group has plenty of cash and shouldn't be granted scarce public funds at a time of economic crisis. ...
In recent weeks, Planned Parenthood chapters have lost public funds in two states as elected officials juggled tight budgets. Fulton County, Ga., which includes Atlanta, canceled a $420,000 contract as part of statewide cuts in health care. The move ended a teen-pregnancy prevention program and prompted a local Planned Parenthood clinic to raise fees to make up lost revenue. Sarasota County, Fla., ended years of subsidizing Planned Parenthood's sex-education programs with annual grants of as much as $30,000. ... The Family Research Council is developing a kit to help grass-roots activists dig through financial reports so they can make detailed presentations to elected officials about the assets and revenue of local Planned Parenthood chapters. The council has sent letters to 1,200 state legislators describing Planned Parenthood's strong financial position and urging "a second look" at public funding.

Defunding Planned Parenthood is hardly a new idea. What's new is the fiscal-responsibility angle. And from a pure cost-cutting perspective, you can make the case that Planned Parenthood brings in plenty of private funding and doesn't need public money. I think the pure cost-cutting perspective is a mistake, given the enormous social and economic benefits of preventing unintended pregnancies. But you can make that case, if you really believe in fiscal austerity.

What's insane, however, is the real motivation behind this push. The Family Research Council doesn't really care about economics. That's why, as you might have noticed, it's called the Family Research Council. The campaign to defund Planned Parenthood is really about abortions . FRC would like to see fewer of them. So would I . And that's the crux of the idiocy: The single best thing you can spend money on to reduce the number of abortions , not just in this country but around the world, is Planned Parenthood.

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I'll say that again: If you define pro-life as preventing abortions, Planned Parenthood is the most effective pro-life organization in the history of the world. No, it doesn't give teenagers the idea of having sex. That idea comes to them quite naturally, thank you very much. What Planned Parenthood does, more comprehensively than anyone else, is to distribute the means and knowledge to control your risk of getting pregnant when you don't want to be pregnant. And those two things, combined with pressure to exercise that control assiduously, are the surest way to prevent abortions . If you wait till women are already unhappily pregnant, you're too late.

If you think Planned Parenthood is sufficiently funded, fine. Write your check or award your grant to some other, smaller organization that does similar work. But don't imagine that defunding birth control will buy you fewer abortions. It will buy you more.

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