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Planned Parenthood: new face, same legacy

| Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Last Wednesday, Planned Parenthood announced Dr. Leana Wen as its new president and successor to Cecile Richards, who had led the organization since 2006. Dr. Wen sports quite the impressive career; she immigrated from China as a child, graduated from college at 18, was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, became an emergency physician and eventually was named Health Commissioner for the city of Baltimore. Doubtless, Dr. Wen has had an outstanding career in her field — the picture of an American success story. But her impressive achievements cannot minimize the fact that she is the new head of America’s largest abortion corporation. Her progressive qualifications cannot conceal the company’s racist and eugenicist origins. And her medical work cannot distract from the fact that her organization continues to push the false narrative that they are mainly a healthcare provider, a narrative Dr. Wen is clearly committed to maintaining.

In the press release video introducing her as the new president, Dr. Wen narrates an Orwellian vision of Planned Parenthood; she claims to fight for the oppressed — but on behalf of an organization that kills hundreds of thousands of voiceless children a year. At one ironic moment, she proudly declares, “I want to fight for our most vulnerable individuals, on a bigger scale!” while the camera cuts to a shot of her holding her baby son. Does she not realize that among the most vulnerable and defenseless of all people are those in life’s earliest stages? Abortion, an inherently destructive act which takes the life of a person, is not life-enhancing healthcare.

Planned Parenthood claims abortion is only 3 percent of what they provide, and that abortion is essential women’s medical treatment. Former president Cecile Richards was fond of making this claim. But as journalists and activists have proved time and time again, this statistic is shamelessly distorted. The liberal magazine Slate called this piece of data “the most meaningless abortion statistic ever.” The Washington Post Fact Checker deemed this number “mostly false” with “significant factual error” based on its Pinocchio Test. In fact, in its annual report (from which we will be citing all Planned Parenthood statistics), Planned Parenthood deceptively unbundles all of its “services,” diluting the total number. A woman walking into a clinic to obtain an abortion may receive a pregnancy test and an STI test before the actual abortion, and afterward a couple contraceptives. Planned Parenthood would count its testing and a pack of pills as multiple “services” and the hundred or thousand-dollar abortion as one “service” — just a quarter of what it provided. In the 2016-17 report, Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 abortions. Dividing that by 2.4 million patients, one finds that instead of one out of 33 women, as the 3 percent stat would imply and as Elizabeth Warren has argued on the Senate floor, in fact, about one out of seven women who go to Planned Parenthood receives an abortion.

Planned Parenthood is an abortion corporation. Their 321,384 abortions account for a third of the 1 million annual U.S. abortions. Countless figures from Hollywood to Washington have emphasized Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services, but the organization’s market shares for those services reveal their real priority. By their own numbers, Planned Parenthood’s abortions are 33 percent of the U.S. market, and approximately 30 percent of its clinical income. In stark contrast, their market share of actual lifesaving services like cancer screenings and breast exams is about 1 percent, while prenatal testing is less than 1 percent. Planned Parenthood only made 3,889 adoption referrals according to the 2016-17 report, or one adoption referral for every 83 abortions. Cecile Richards used to refer to Planned Parenthood’s mammograms as an important facet of their feminine healthcare offerings. When called in to testify before Congress, she admitted there are no mammogram machines in any Planned Parenthood facility, and the organization subsequently removed the word “mammogram” from many of its facilities’ websites.

Under the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976 and re-ratified by each new Congress since, federal law states that no taxpayer money shall be used to pay for abortion, facilitate abortion or fund any health coverage that includes abortion. Yet Planned Parenthood receives $500 million each year from the government, supposedly for their other healthcare services. The organization uses the guise of “healthcare” services to draw attention away from the obvious fact that the money all pays into the same pool. Planned Parenthood allocates the funds at their own discretion. With the $500 million subsidy, Planned Parenthood has more money to spend on abortions that they would otherwise need to use on various “services.” Defunding Planned Parenthood would also be justified for their history of sexual and financial abuses. In recent years, they’ve been investigated for failure to report sexual abuse in 12 cases across multiple states, and charged with fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars, settling one case for $4.3 million.

Critics of Planned Parenthood are often charged with hating women and deconstructing women’s healthcare. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Proposed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood would not simply expunge the half of a billion dollars Planned Parenthood receives. The funding would be allocated to Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), a vast network of federally approved community based and locally run health clinics spread throughout the United States. They receive state funding, accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and focus on migrant, homeless and medically uninsured communities. There are 9,800 FQHCs and 4,100 RHCs in the country — a total of about 14,000 clinics — far outnumbering Planned Parenthood’s 620 nationwide locations, 23 to 1. These clinics offer comprehensive primary and preventative care including immunizations and physical exams, natural family planning services, prenatal care, OB/GYN services (pap smears, STD screenings, UTI tests, etc.), behavioral, vision, dental and pharmaceutical care, diabetes and chronic diseases management, gynecological surgery, pediatrics, geriatric care. FQHCs and RHCs are geared towards students and teens with unexpected pregnancies. They provide actual pregnancy and parenting resources to mothers so they can keep their children. Planned Parenthood’s service pales in comparison. It would be incredibly beneficial to women’s healthcare to defund Planned Parenthood and redirect it to these clinics that offer a far superior range of services. This authentic community support to mothers before, during and after birth would help make abortion an unthinkable option in our country.

Something else Dr. Wen must reckon with as the new president is Planned Parenthood’s founder, the self-avowed racist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger, in whose name the organization hands out an award each year. Sanger founded the organization to bring contraception and abortion into poor black communities to slowly and efficiently eliminate them. “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” she wrote in a letter to a friend. This same woman wrote in her book “Woman and the New Race” that she desired to found the “materials of a new race,” so as “to develop in America a new race with a racial soul.” Other revelatory quotes from Margaret Sanger include excerpts from her essay “A Plan For Peace.” There, she argued that America ought to “keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as the feebleminded, idiots, morons, the insane, syphilitics, epileptics, criminals and others in this class,” and that it would be desirable to enforce “a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” Sanger also wrote that “the most immoral practice of our day is breeding too many children. The most merciful thing the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Planned Parenthood’s antiseptic, eugenicist ideals continue in the 21st century, where over half — just above 55 percent — of African-American children are aborted in New York City, and 70 to 90 percent of children with Down Syndrome are aborted nationwide.

Planned Parenthood’s central service is abortion, and not mainstream healthcare. They take the lives of 330,000 unborn children every year, and rob 330,000 women and men of the gift of motherhood and fatherhood. Dr. Leana Wen seems poised to carry on this legacy.

Jack Ferguson


Maura Bradley


Holly McGrath


John Hale


Sept. 17

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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