Fetal Legal Eagle: Answering Common Objections to #DefundPlannedParenthood

The Fetal Legal Eagle Mascot: Umbert the Unborn (© Gary Cangemi)

It is no surprise, of course, that Planned Parenthood brutally dismembers living human children.  And the casual inhumanity with which their doctors commit and profit from murder can only be mildly surprising.  After all, we have all read (or, perhaps, pretended to read) Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jeruslaem.  Yet the citizen journalist videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress (watch them if you don’t know what I’m talking about) have thrown the sheer shocking evil of the abortion industry into sharp relief.  I didn’t live in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s time, but I have always imagined the moral awakening that followed Uncle Tom’s Cabin felt something like what we’re feeling now.

The first, immediate, obvious, necessary, and urgent step to be taken, in light of the videos, is to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.  The need for this is obvious to any remotely ethical human being, but, sadly, we live in a world where people generally think of themselves as much more ethical than they are.  So there are objections.  And objections to the replies to the objections.

These are, for the most part, morally monstrous objections in the first place: we do not cooperate with profound moral crimes that violate inalienable human rights, not even if we hope to reduce the rate or evil of those crimes by our cooperation. Imagine if we’d waited for society — for the “alternatives to be reasonable” while we made certain that “the culture is ready” — for the end of chattel slavery.  We’d still be waiting today.  Year after year, generation after bloody generation, tens of millions of families destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people involved in supporting the institution, billions of dollars invested in it, uncountable suffering.  What a terrible fate we’d be condemning the slaves to: we’d promise to free them, one day, or maybe their children, or their children’s children — but each day they would have to get up before dawn, underfed, under guard, and start picking cotton, or plowing streets, or whatever their owners wanted them to do.  The promise of some future relief for some future individual would serve only to taunt the victim of today.  A government that cooperates with an outfit like the Royal Africa Company or Planned Parenthood is no better than a government that funds child pornographers.  It’s just not an ethical option, even if it were for the sake of some greater good.

But people get very utilitarian about dead babies they don’t have to look at, whose deaths aren’t mentioned on the evening news, and so they raise all sorts of utilitarian objections to defunding Planned Parenthood, and it is politically important for us to refute those objections.  Fortunately, that’s pretty easy: the objections are uniformly terrible.  Let’s take a look:

Objection 1: Defunding Planned Parenthood will reduce the availability of contraceptives and pap smears to women.

No, it will not.  The Defund Planned Parenthood bill, which you can read here, explicitly redirects Planned Parenthood’s funding to other eligible health centers.

Objection 2: Women who rely on the Planned Parenthoods in their communities will be stranded far from contraceptive access.  If they do not have the ability to drive, they will be entirely deprived.

No.  In reality, other government-funded contraception providers outnumber Planned Parenthood by vast margins.  Let’s look at just one such option, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs for short).  There are 700 Planned Parenthoods in the United States, serving 2.8 million patients annually.  By contrast, there are 9,170 FQHCs in the United States, serving 21.1 million patients annually (source).

In other words, FQHCs outnumber Planned Parenthood a dozen to one.

And, with rare exceptions, they serve the same communities.  Take Louisiana. Somebody last night asked me to look up the impact of all the Planned Parenthoods in Louisiana closing down, so I did some research.  Turns out, Planned Parenthood only has two centers in Louisiana, in the urban centers of Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  Then I went to the federal government’s FQHC locator tool (which you can use for yourself here).  Within 5 miles of the Baton Rouge address, there are 8 FQHC’s.  Within 5 miles of the New Orleans address, there are 22.

Today, I ran a few similar searches up here in the Midwest, where Planned Parenthood has more of a rural presence.  Fargo has a Planned Parenthood… and 7 FQHCs.  Moorhead has a Planned Parenthood… and 7 more FQHCs.  The Twin Cities are bursting with Planned Parenthood’s (8 of them, which fits Planned Parenthood’s urban strategy)… but they’re still vastly outnumbered by 58 FQHCs.

The country is crawling with FQHCs.  Look at this map.  Very, very few Planned Parenthoods exist in areas without an FQHC.  Indeed: very, very few people live in areas without an FQHC.

There are a few cases, all in deep rural areas, where closing a Planned Parenthood inconveniences some of its clients.  For example, if the Planned Parenthood in Alexandria, MN closed down, a low-income resident of Fergus Falls, MN would have to drive 55 minutes to Moorhead to reach the nearest FQHC.  Of course, she already would have had to drive 50 minutes to get to Alexandria (“Alec,” as we call it), so the closure of Planned Parenthood would add 5 minutes to her drive.

Of course, a Fergus Falls resident could also walk to the nearby Mahube-Otwa Center, located in gorgeous downtown Fergus Falls.  It’s not an FQHC, but it does provide birth control regardless of ability to pay, and it’s a lot closer than Alec’s Planned Parenthood.  (It has locations in four neighboring counties, as well.)  You wouldn’t know it from the Google Search Results, because Planned Parenthood dominates the search results, but Fergus Falls residents have several nearby birth control clinics.  Why does Planned Parenthood do so much better than these local clinics?  Because a good chunk of that federal money we give Planned Parenthood goes back into or offsets their enormous marketing budget.  The point is: even outside the FQHC network, which is pretty amazing to begin with, there are a huge number of other ways for low-income people to get birth control.

There would be even more ways if we took that money away from Planned Parenthood and redirected it to actual doctors — which is what the Republicans are proposing to do.

Objection 3: But Planned Parenthood serves people regardless of their ability to pay.  These other clinics with federal funding don’t.

No, that’s not true.  FQHCs are required, by law, to serve all clients in their area, regardless of their ability to pay. (42 U.S. Code § 254b)

The very reason the FQHC program exists, actually, is to serve “a population that is medically underserved, or a special medically underserved population comprised of migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, the homeless, and residents of public housing” (though they are open to others as well).  So, just like Planned Parenthood, FQHCs use a sliding fee scale to ensure that all their clients are served.

Objection 4: But not all of these FQHCs provide contraceptives.

Actually, they do.  Again, they are required by law to do this. All FQHCs are required, as a condition of receiving their FQHC grant, to provide “basic health services,” including “preventative health services,” including “voluntary family planning services,” to their patients, regardless of their ability to pay. (42 U.S. Code § 254b(b)(1)(A)(i)(III)(gg))

Objection 5: But some FQHCs are religious, and use exemptions to avoid giving out contraceptives.

Not true.  There is no religious exemption in the law.

No exemption is required by the First Amendment (even as interpreted by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act), because no one has a right to federal grant money if they aren’t willing to carry out the services for which the grant is given.

If you are a religious organization that refuses to provide contraceptives, that’s great, and you can open up a health clinic if you like, but it is not an FQHC, and will not receive FQHC funding.

There is one exemption in the law, but it has nothing to do with religion: clinics whose sole purpose is to serve migrant farm workers may have some of their care requirements waived, on a case-by-case basis, by the Department of Health and Human Services, at HHS’s discretion.

Objection 6: Well, these FQHCs sound great, but I’ll bet some of them provide abortions, so redirecting money to them from Planned Parenthood doesn’t really get you anything but a token victory.

Nope!  FactCheck points out (in the course of criticizing a pro-life talking point) that FQHCs “do not provide abortions to any of their patients,” and have never done so.

Objection 7: It’s not fair to destroy Planned Parenthood when abortion is only 3% of what they do.

There are so many conclusive rebuttals to this.  Let’s try three:

(1) Was it fair to destroy Bill Cosby even though rape was less than 3% of what he did?  I sure thought so.

(2) As I’ve shown before, it’s more like 20% of what Planned Parenthood does.  50% if you exclude “taking donations and government money” and just focus on what their money does in the clinics.

(3) The 3% line is premised on some really, really silly accounting that counts “spending five seconds giving someone a $10 box of pregnancy tests” as a service exactly equal to “spending five hours performing invasive surgery.”  Rich Lowry points out how cynical this is, and he does it better than I ever have.

Fun fact: when you slice the data another (more honest) way, abortion makes up 94% of the services Planned Parenthood provides to pregnant women.  Their abortion-to-adoption-referral ratio?  149:1.

Objection 8: Reducing funding for contraceptives will only increase the number of abortions.

Well… everything we’ve been discussing up to now shows that defunding Planned Parenthood would not reduce contraception access or funding.  So this objection doesn’t even apply here.

But, for what it’s worth, it isn’t true.

Objection 9: Planned Parenthood is already barred (by the Hyde Amendment) from using federal funds for abortion, so this doesn’t help anyone.

This is a cheesy, almost meaningless accounting trick.  Money given to Planned Parenthood that is not spent on abortions must by definition offset the money they do spend on abortions. Progressives recognize this (when it’s applied to religious schools they loath rather than the abortion clinics they love), and U.S. case law reflects it.

Planned Parenthood knows it, too.  When Ronald Reagan tried to tighten regulations separating Planned Parenthood’s “family planning” business from its “abortion” business, they went to war, suing all the way to the Supreme Court (they lost) and tying up the law in litigation until Bill Clinton won the presidency and undid it.

Heck, if Planned Parenthood’s abortion business were so incidental and such a tiny part of what they do, why don’t they just stop doing abortions?  That would instantly get them out from under all this political pressure.

It’s because abortion isn’t an afterthought for Planned Parenthood.  It’s the center of a highly successful business model, which draws in customers with loss-leader contraceptives, which lead to a certain percentage of those customers coming back for abortions (all contraceptives fail sometimes), which provide raw material for Planned Parenthood’s side business in the dead-baby body-parts biz.

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Long story short, the only possible reason you could have for wanting to maintain federal funding of abortion is if you want to protect and promote the practice of abortion.  Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant of the evidence, hasn’t thought it through yet, or lying.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I didn’t have as much time as usual to check this for typos or links, so please note any mistakes in the comments.  Thanks!

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  • http://jamesjheaney.com James J Heaney

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