Blair: A Change of Plans

by Peter Blair | 7/18/11 10:00pm

This past Monday, the New Hampshire Executive Council voted to cancel the state's contract with Planned Parenthood. It's about time. Political defunding is an excellent first step in hastening what we can only hope will be a swift death to America's most morally embarrassing institution.

I realize that paragraph is controversial, so an important clarification is in order: I do not mean to say that those who work at or receive services from Planned Parenthood are evil. They are, as far as I'm aware, mostly well-intentioned people. The actions of the organization itself, however, are objectively both illegal and immoral.

Before I make the positive case for this claim, I want to address two popular talking points: Depriving Planned Parenthood of funding will strike an irreparable blow against the provision of health care in this country and 97 percent of Planned Parenthood services are non-abortive.

The former is easily answered there are many other health-care providers who could do what Planned Parenthood currently does, and do it better. For example, rural health centers offer a much wider range of services than Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood often refers to these centers patients whose conditions are beyond their capacity to handle. It is simply a matter of reallocating funds. If what people really care about is women getting preventive screening, why are they so attached to Planned Parenthood? Is Planned Parenthood the only place where such services can be rendered? Manifestly not. The only thing, then, that can account for people's passionate interest in Planned Parenthood's continued provision of these services is pure ideology, and ideology should not govern our policies.

The latter deception is trickier to unmask, because it is a very clever one. Planned Parenthood's 2005-2006 report does show that 97 percent of the 10 million services it provides throughout the year are non-abortive. What the partisans neglect to mention, however, is that the same report shows that those 10 million services only go to three million patients. Planned Parenthood counts every procedure separately, even when they are all going to the same patient whose primary motive for entering a clinic is to receive an abortion. And since a woman coming in for an abortion receives several other services that are preparatory for an abortion but counted separately from it, Planned Parenthood is able to make it look like abortion plays a much lesser role in its operations than it actually does.

So much for Planned Parenthood's chosen self-defense. But what is the positive case against it? In what way is it morally embarrassing, disregarding the question of abortion? Let's start at the beginning. Planned Parenthood was founded in 1916 by Margaret Sanger for racist and eugenic purposes. Sanger said that she "did not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population," and she supported "more children from the fit, less from the unfit," by which she meant poor people, racial minorities and the mentally handicapped ("Woman's Body, Woman's Right" by Linda Gordon, Birth Control Review; May 1919, respectively).

Things have not gotten much better. There have been an increasing number of independently confirmed reports over the past year that accuse Planned Parenthood of numerous moral and legal infractions. From just three of these sources Live Action stings, testimony of former Planned Parenthood branch manager Abby Johnson and an Americans United for Life investigation there has arisen the following alleged facts about Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood regularly violates sexual abuse reporting laws, facilitates sex trafficking and statutory rape, encourages people to lie to avoid laws designed to protect minors, sympathetically accepts donations explicitly earmarked for the abortions of African-American children, misleads women about the nature of abortion, prescribes medicine past when it is physically safe for women to take it and overbills the government, illegally using government money to directly fund abortion. These accusations, if true, more than establish Planned Parenthood's penchant for illegal actions.

Many Planned Parenthood supporters do not accept the veracity of these reports. They claim that this evidence is biased or doctored. The first charge usually rests on the assertion that these reports can be dismissed because they have all come from pro-lifers. This claim is a version of the genetic fallacy, for surely the merits of the reports must be judged on their own, independent of the source from which they come. The second charge is usually directed at Live Action. They have, however, repeatedly addressed these charges by posting multiple versions of the same sting operation on their website for easy comparison. It should be clear that these tapes are authentic.

Planned Parenthood started as a racist, eugenic organization, and it remains to this day a concoction of moral and legal corruption. It's time for it to go.