Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A response to Planned Parenthood on taxpayer funding of abortion

In our May 7 Star Tribune commentary we made the case against taxpayer funding of abortion in Minnesota. On May 9 the newspaper published a reply from Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

It is utterly unpersuasive. Three points call for a response.

First, Stoesz claims it is "completely false" and "a blatant disregard for the facts" to say, as we did, that "public funding means more abortions." Why is it false? Because abortions in Minnesota have declined in recent years even though the state funds the procedure for low-income women.

Actually, though, the number of abortions increased in the years after Medicaid started paying for elective abortions in 1994—interrupting a very substantial decline—and did not start consistently dropping again until 2002.

In any case, our point, which I had thought was clear, was that public funding increases the incidence of abortion relative to what it would be without public funding, and limits on funding decrease the incidence of abortion relative to what it would be without those limits. This is virtually undeniable—it is supported by a wealth of peer-reviewed research and even confirmed in a Guttmacher Institute literature review, which we quoted in our op-ed and which Stoesz does not question. (Stoesz acknowledges that "some women will choose to carry a pregnancy to term if their insurance doesn't cover abortion," but that is just a another way of expressing the same point we made, which she condemns as "completely false"!)

Stoesz does, however, seem eager to downplay the number of women who choose life when state abortion funding isn't available. But the number is significant. Using Guttmacher's own 25 percent estimate (which may well be too low), about 893 fewer Minnesota women would have had abortions in 2012 (the latest year for which data is available) if the state did not pay for abortions through Medicaid. There would have been 16,456 fewer abortions since June of 1994, when public funding began.

In other words: Thousands and thousands of abortions have occurred because of this policy of taxpayer-funded abortion, which Stoesz and Planned Parenthood so strongly support.

Second, Stoesz "celebrates" the long-term abortion decline in Minnesota because, she asserts, it means that Planned Parenthood's work is succeeding. This is an odd statement. Planned Parenthood is the state's leading abortion provider, performing 3,917 abortions in 2012, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Planned Parenthood has somehow managed to increase its abortion total by 60 percent since 2000—even as overall abortions have dropped 26 percent.

It seems more plausible to say that abortions have declined despite the work of Planned Parenthood, not because of it.

Finally, Stoesz repeatedly refers to taxpayer-funded abortion as a "medical decision" that must be preserved for the sake of "a woman's health and safety." But we are talking about elective abortion, which, we noted in our original commentary, "is not health care—it violently attacks the health and ends the life of a developing human being."

Stoesz offers no real justification for treating the killing of human beings in utero as a public good that all taxpayers should be required to subsidize. She offers only confused and misleading statements and tired rhetoric.