Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Planned Parenthood should be stripped of government funding

The U.S. House voted last week to deny federal government funds to Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading performer of abortions. Planned Parenthood currently receives some $360 million taxpayer dollars each year, and performs more than 300,000 abortions.

Why should Planned Parenthood be stripped of federal funding? I can think of a few good reasons.

1) Contrary to what some members of Congress have claimed, federal funding of Planned Parenthood does work to support abortion. Although the Hyde Amendment prohibits direct federal funding of most abortions, the money Planned Parenthood receives is fungible. Federal dollars free up other funds and enable Planned Parenthood's abortion-promoting work to thrive. The more government money the group has received over the years, the (many) more abortions it has performed, even as the total number of abortions nationwide has declined. I don't know of any way to interpret the facts such that funding Planned Parenthood does not have the effect of supporting abortion and increasing the number of abortions. The government should not force taxpayers to be complicit.

2) Planned Parenthood has shown itself to be (even apart from abortion) morally bankrupt, and ridiculously undeserving of public money. For example, recent undercover investigations, in addition to actual cases, have shown a clear pattern of Planned Parenthood employees breaking the law and turning a blind eye to statutory rape and underage sex trafficking.

3) Planned Parenthood bears the burden of demonstrating that it should receive government money in the first place. The group already rakes in money from patient fees and large donors, and it is not at all clear that Planned Parenthood needs federal funding to continue whatever decent (non-abortion) health services it may provide. Nor is it clear that those services are not better provided by other organizations and programs, and there are many of them. In fact, the Planned Parenthood funding ban does not affect government funding levels at all, but merely diverts funds away from Planned Parenthood and toward other (better) organizations and services that provide health care for low-income women.

It seems to me that even pro-choice members of Congress should vote to deny Planned Parenthood taxpayer money -- whether because they think it is not appropriate to force pro-life taxpayers to subsidize the abortion industry, or because they care about victims of sex trafficking, or simply because they have a sense of fiscal responsibility. Or, hopefully, all three.