A federal government proposal to remove Title X funding from programs and facilities that perform abortions has drawn considerable media attention, raising questions of whether such a move would impact women’s access to health care.
On May 18, President Donald Trump formally announced that his administration is proposing a new rule that would prevent Title X family planning funds from going to clinics that perform or promote abortions.
The move was lauded by pro-life advocates, while pro-abortion groups called it an attack on women that would be devastating to the availability of women’s healthcare.
Planned Parenthood, the largest performer of abortions in the U.S., would be eligible for continued Title X funding if it stopped doing abortions, or if separated - both physically and financially - its abortion facilities from the rest of its operations.
Outgoing Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards rejected the idea of the organization cutting ties with abortion during a meeting with White House personnel last year.
Planned Parenthood blasted the new proposal as “an attempt to take away women’s basic rights” and a move “would block patients from healthcare.”
But is this really the case?
Last year, according to its annual report, Planned Parenthood received over $543 million in taxpayer dollars. About $60 million of that funding comes from Title X. The remainder is from other government grants, including Medicaid payments for services.
However, government funding makes up only 37 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue. The organization also fundraises, and has claimed that the threat of defunding has increased its contributions from private donors. Planned Parenthood reported $98.5 million in excess revenue last year.
Over the last decade, Planned Parenthood’s government funding increased significantly: in 2006, the organization received $336.7 million in government money. While its public funding increased, however, the organization saw fewer patients and provided fewer overall services during that time frame. Prenatal care and cancer screenings offered from 2006-2016 decreased, while the number of abortions increased by more than 10 percent.
For this reason, and because many alternatives to Planned Parenthood exist for women’s health care, it is unlikely that women would be negatively affected the new proposal, said Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who now works as a pro-life advocate.
“There over 13,000 federally qualified Health Centers that serve entire families and offer many more services than Planned Parenthood offers, not including abortion,” Johnson told CNA.
“Planned Parenthood is trying to scare women with their rhetoric, when in reality, women will have more options with greater affordability, instead of resorting to the abortion industry, where money is put above all other goals.”
The 13,000 federally qualified health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood's 650 facilities by a ratio of 20 to 1. They do not perform abortions, but provide other medical care, and could be eligible for an increase in funding under the new Trump administration rule.
Given that these facilities provide more types of medical care than Planned Parenthood facilities, and are far more widespread throughout the nation, the changes to Title X are a smart move for women, Johnson said.
“Our government is wisely choosing to remove tax dollars from the nation’s largest abortion provider and redirect them to actual healthcare providers who seek to serve the same demographic of Americans,” she told CNA.
In recent years, Planned Parenthood has been mired in controversy.
While federal law prohibits federal funding from being used directly for abortions, a report from the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom suggested that, according to federal and state audits, taxpayer dollars were funding abortion-related expenses in several states.
Furthermore, a 2015 report from Alliance Defending Freedom said that Planned Parenthood clinics in several states had failed to report suspected cases of sexual abuse of minors, as they are required by law to do.
Undercover video reporting in recent years has also appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer of aborted fetal tissue for money, a practice that violates federal law.
The organization has also drawn criticism for repeatedly claiming to offer mammograms, a statement that fact-checkers have repeatedly rejected.
Planned Parenthood claims that abortions account for only three percent of the total services they provide, although fact-checkers — at the Washington Post among others — have taken issue with that claim, pointing out that Planned Parenthood counts each small procedure like a pregnancy test or a pap smear as a service provided, but abortion accounts for much greater cost and revenue for the organization.