AN NRO SYMPOSIUM July 30, 2015 4:00 AM
We asked some distinguished experts what would become of women’s health in a post-Planned Parenthood era.
I became pro-life while working on welfare reform as a college intern at a small think tank during the Clinton years. Like so many of my “socialist feminist” compatriots in the Women’s Studies program at Middlebury College in the ’90s, I had unreflectively assumed abortion to be an essential piece of the puzzle in helping women escape poverty. I did not realize at the time just how elitist and antithetical to women’s well-being this justification for abortion really was. Justice Blackmun expressed the creeping eugenic reasoning best in his 1977 dissent in Beal v. Doe: [The cost of elective abortion] “is far less than the cost of maternity care and delivery, and holds no comparison whatsoever with the welfare costs that will burden the state for the new indigents and their support in the long, long years ahead.” Opposite this prevalent view sat Mary Ann Glendon’s 1991 book Rights Talk. It had been assigned in one of my classes, and it was the first time I’d heard articulated the pro-life alternative. Rather than offer mere legal autonomy to the pregnant woman in crisis — an autonomy that abandons both mother and child – Glendon suggested that, as a community, we might instead seek to meet the needs of mother and child, offering them the support they needed to mutually flourish. This way, I could then see, was far more difficult, more time-intensive and messy, but I also knew, then and there, that it was more authentically human, and thoroughly pro-woman. Obria Medical Clinics and those others working heroically to replace Planned Parenthood, and to provide a safe harbor for mothers and children in need, are not only powerfully transformative in the lives of the vulnerable they serve; in my own personal experience, these clinics and maternity homes have enormous power of persuasion in the abortion debate — simply because they exist.
— Erika Bachiochi, Esq., is the author of “Embodied Equality: Debunking Equal Protection Arguments for Abortion Rights” (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 2011).
FRANCIS J. BECKWITH
Assuming that the absence of Planned Parenthood were precipitated by the growing awareness on the public’s part that it is an organization with goals inimical to our deepest intuitions about human life’s profound sanctity, its departure from the scene would mark a fundamental shift in how society thinks of the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the poor. For any culture that abandons the cold, calculating, and contractual premises of modern eugenics — that we are to measure our happiness by how unencumbered we are from the burden of our natural limitations and the dependence of those for whom we did not explicitly choose to care — means that it is a culture moving in the direction of faith, hope, and charity. So, it would not at all surprise me to see, soon after the disappearance of Planned Parenthood, growing platoons of pro-life citizens building on the work of the many crisis-pregnancy centers throughout America that have labored for decades under the suspicion, harassment, and condescension of the abortion-choice industrial complex. Because that supercilious contempt of bygone days would quickly become unfashionable, the pro-life movement would be unleashed to develop in its fullness what it has in the past 40 years nobly performed in conditions under which other movements would have folded.
— Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and the author of Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (2007) and the forthcoming Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (2015), both from Cambridge University Press.
The first thing to get clear is that Planned Parenthood actually doesn’t provide all that much for poor, vulnerable women — particularly if they don’t live in cities. Indeed, you may remember that, in wake of the Susan J. Komen defunding ridiculousness from a few years ago, lots of charges were thrown around about women losing out on mammograms. But it turns out that Planned Parenthood doesn’t even provide them. As Democrats for Life has pointed out numerous times in recent days, the number of local community health centers outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics ten to one. Rather than the one-size-fits-all franchise approach of Planned Parenthood, these community health centers nicely embody the principle of subsidiarity in responding to the diverse local needs of women — whether in the Bronx, rural Kansas, or southern California. Indeed, these community health centers provide everything Planned Parenthood does, and more, but without doing abortions. Instead of offering a simply negative message of defunding Planned Parenthood, we ought to focus on redirecting the half-billion dollars per year to these nonviolent community health centers. This may be difficult if we are in bed with a Republican party, already somewhat embarrassed by its association with the pro-life movement, which would prefer to keep the government out of this kind of funding. But especially if we care about poor women in cities, where Planned Parenthood primarily serves, we should funnel that money toward community health centers in those areas, and resist the temptation to roll over for small-government conservatives. A consistent concern for the vulnerable — including mothers and their prenatal children — requires nothing less.
— Charles C. Camosy (@nohiddenmagenta) is an associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University and the author of Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation.
We have heard much regarding Planned Parenthood and all the services it provides. Yet the question remains: Exactly what does it do? Remember the much-ballyhooed mammograms? They turned into nothing more than pass-through funding that could be more efficiently directed by a less limited clinic. In Nevada, PP advertises abortion services, birth control, HIV testing, LGBT services, morning-after pills, pregnancy testing and services, STD testing, treatment, and vaccines, women’s health care, and men’s health care. Nevada has three Planned Parenthood Clinics — one in Reno and two in Clark County (Las Vegas). In comparison, there are 52 community health clinics spread throughout the state, and they exist even in some of the smallest rural towns. These health centers provide women’s medical care regardless of age or medical issue, and are not just for “lady parts.” In addition to women’s health, services provided at many of these free community health clinics include dental care, immunizations (from babies to adults), STD testing and treatment, pre- and post-partum pregnancy care, behavioral-health care, pediatric care, and general care — regardless of age or gender. These clinics, often owned by community-based nonprofits, operate through federal and state grants. A note on the men’s health services Planned Parenthood claims to offer: The services provided for males are limited to only those areas that could be covered by a swimsuit, as long as it’s a Speedo. If you have jock itch or premature ejaculation, PP, as noted on its website, might be a good choice. Otherwise, a community health center is the best option, again regardless of age or service needed. For a woman facing any medical problem — whether her own or a loved one’s — health centers that provide a full suite of services are always preferable. The website freeclinics.com provides ample information on free and reduced-rate clinics throughout my state and others. Money that is currently going to Planned Parenthood should support these community-based centers offering health care for all.
— Melissa Clement is the president of Nevada Right to Life.
MAUREEN L. CONDIC
According to a recent study, 89 percent of U.S. counties did not have an abortion provider in 2011 (down approximately 1 percent since 2008). These counties were home to almost 40 percent of American women in their reproductive years (ages 14 to 44). The study concludes that while the abortion rate continues to decline (as it has been doing since the early 1980s), “no evidence was found that the overall drop in abortion incidence was related to the decrease in providers or to restrictions implemented between 2008 and 2011.” Despite hysterical claims that defunding Planned Parenthood will set loose an apocalypse for women who rely on PP for cancer and STD screening, this simply hasn’t happened. There has been a 20 percent decline in the number of PP clinics since 1995, and over this same period, there has also been a steady decline in both STD and cancer incidence for women. No apocalypse here. Even if all PP clinics close, the sky is not going to fall, even when it comes to the availability of abortion. According to the study cited above, the 1,058,490 abortions performed in 2011 were provided by 329 abortion clinics, 510 “other” clinics, 595 hospitals, and 286 physician’s offices. Options are available. What should not be available is public funding for killing what science inarguably shows is not a “potential” human being, but rather a full and complete human being at an early developmental stage. Opinion polls consistently demonstrate that 60 percent to 70 percent of Americans oppose the use of any federal funds to pay for abortion. Yet, according to Planned Parenthood’s 2012-13 financial report, $540.6 million, or approximately 45 percent of its total revenue, came from taxpayer-funded government grants. In the face of declining demand for abortion and increasing opposition to it, it is time to cut the federal-funding umbilical cord and see if PP is viable on its own.
— Maureen L. Condic is an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
In short, women will go to federally qualified health centers, which provide all the services Planned Parenthood does and more, except abortions. FQHCs also treat you regardless of your ability to pay (PP does not provide any services for free). Like many millennials, I have received care at FQHCs, and they are great.
— David Daleiden is project leader at the Center for Medical Progress.
Pregnancy centers and maternity homes are vital resources for women and families facing unplanned pregnancies. The Northwest Center, a pregnancy center and maternity home in Washington, D.C., provides 18-month transitional housing for pregnant women experiencing homelessness. The pregnancy center offers pregnancy testing and options counseling, along with a material-assistance and goals-planning program. With social workers and trained counselors on staff, we are able to address both the emotional and the material needs of pregnant and parenting women, while allocating resources that will enable them to support themselves and their families. Raising a family is expensive, and the Northwest Center’s mission is to provide adequate support so that women and families can raise healthy and happy children. We receive numerous calls each day from families looking for material support and medical assistance. If there is an area we are not able to assist with, we connect the woman to an appropriate organization that can provide adequate prenatal or medical care.
— Susan Gallucci, LICSW, is the executive director of the Northwest Center.
ARINA O. GROSSU
Defunding Planned Parenthood would free up over half a billion dollars a year that could go to a myriad of health-care service providers — community health centers, primary-care physicians, hospitals, and others – that provide a broader range of health services than Planned Parenthood ever has. Poor and vulnerable women will be able to use Medicaid funds for health care at these centers. In addition, more than 2,000 pregnancy care centers nationally (CareNet, Heartbeat, NIFLA) are available to help women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies. Defunding Planned Parenthood would free up over half a billion dollars a year that could go to a myriad of health-care service providers that provide a broader range of health services than Planned Parenthood ever has. Even though Planned Parenthood has a total revenue of $1.3 billion — in 2013-14, PPFA reported an excess of revenue over expenses of $127.1 million, a revenue increase of $40 million from 2012) — it has consistently dropped the very services it likes to tout. The Family Research Council’s PP Fact Sheet, based on Planned Parenthood’s own annual reports, reveals the following: From 2009 to 2013, cancer-screening and -prevention programs dropped by about half. From 2009 to 2013, prenatal services dropped by more than half. From 2009 to 2013, breast exams dropped by 41 percent. (PP does not do mammograms.) In 2013, if a pregnant woman walked into a Planned Parenthood facility, she was 174 times more likely to receive an abortion than an adoption referral. In that year, PPFA performed 327,653 abortions while providing only 1,880 adoption referrals. From 2011 to 2013, adoption referrals have decreased by 18 percent. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 report, out of total services for pregnant women (adoption referrals, prenatal services, abortion), abortion made up over 94 percent. Prenatal care made up only about 5 percent of pregnancy services. Meanwhile, PP’s abortion numbers have consistently increased every year, from 289,000 in 2006 to 327,000 in 2013.
– Arina O. Grossu is the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.
This is a question we must answer, because it acknowledges the reality of many women’s lives — Planned Parenthood’s clients too often are young women from nearby colleges, or low-income women who need a medical facility within walking distance or on a bus line. Women turn to Planned Parenthood for free STD tests and easy contraception, and then come back for abortions. Or it happens in the reverse. If we can envision a world without Planned Parenthood, we need to envision a world in which women’s health needs are met in better ways — ways that really put them on the road to good health, recovered dignity, and better decisions. Fortunately, some visionaries have been working for a while to provide better alternatives. One of the most promising – FEMM Health (Fertility Education & Medical Management) — has opened its first U.S. health clinic in Columbus, Ohio, providing a model for what could be the future of pro-life women’s health care. Like Planned Parenthood, FEMM offers a “place” for women to go for gynecological health care, with easy access and a convenient location. But the similarities stop there. Where Planned Parenthood treats “symptoms” (acne, irregular cycles, heavy periods, or the prospect of pregnancy) with one “solution” — contraception – FEMM is a knowledge-based health program for women. It offers testing, diagnosis, and treatment for women’s health issues — all based on cutting-edge reproductive endocrinology. FEMM Health empowers women, respects life, and leads to better health. (And yes, there’s an app.) Donors? Invest in FEMM – it’s what women need. In fact, they needed it yesterday. NaPro Technology is another great resource for women’s fertility needs — and it too deserves our support. NaPro Fertility Care specialists, working as consultants or in hospital-based practices, help women achieve or postpone pregnancy and identify and solve problems of infertility. As great as these solutions are, they are still too few — and that’s the challenge ahead for the pro-life movement. We need to invest in people, places, and technology that will deliver real solutions to women in need — and we shouldn’t rest until there’s a pro-life women’s health center in every neighborhood.
– Mary Hasson is a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Among the little-known facts that increasingly are becoming known about Planned Parenthood and its role in health-care services for women is that the number of abortion clinics continues to dwindle, as more of them close, but that crisis-pregnancy centers (pregnancy-help centers) are proliferating. One of these resourceful clinics can usually be found in close proximity to an abortion clinic, so a woman can have a real and fully informed choice. Poor, vulnerable women who need true health care can find the best resources and help at places like Aid for Women, Women’s Choice Services, and Waterleaf, among others, in the Chicago area; the John Paul II Life Center, among others, in Austin; Good Counsel Homes, among others, in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area; and the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. (in the heart of the most pro-active state when it comes to securing fully-informed-consent laws to protect women). And so many others. If we are truly concerned about women’s health and freedom of choice, let’s promote both.
– Sheila Liaugminas is the host of A Closer Look on Relevant Radio and the author of Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture.
Many cities, including New York, have a municipal hospital system that serves as a safety net to ensure that women can get medical care regardless of their ability to pay. New York Health and Hospitals Corporation is a great resource. Aside from this, many women’s health-care services are provided by ob/gyns, family-medicine and internal-medicine practitioners, nurse practitioners, and midwives in both urban and rural areas.
– George Mussalli, M.D., a former chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the legendary St. Vincent’s Hospital, now runs Village Obstetrics.
LEONARD J. NELSON
In Birmingham, Ala., there are many resources available to pregnant women in crisis pregnancies. There are such organizations as Her Choice Birmingham Women’s Center and Sav-A-Life Pregnancy Test Center. Both organizations provide pregnancy tests and ultrasounds without charge. They provide support for women who decide not to abort their children, including referrals to a network of pro-life physicians who provide prenatal care without charge to the pregnant women. They provide childbirth classes and assistance in obtaining health insurance. In addition, these organizations have warehouses full of baby supplies that are provided free to women in need. The pro-life movement in Birmingham is multi-cultural: There is a large Latino pro-life support network, which provided support to pregnant women when Planned Parenthood in Birmingham stopped performing abortions for a few months last year. Both Her Choice and Sav-a-Life also provide post-abortion counseling to women who are suffering because of their abortions.
– Leonard J. Nelson III is a professor emeritus at the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and the author of Diagnosis Critical: The Urgent Threats Confronting Catholic Healthcare.
Congress is debating the idea of redirecting the taxpayer money that the scandal-ridden abortion conglomerate Planned Parenthood receives to health-care providers that serve women without tearing apart their babies’ bodies. Abortion-advocacy groups are wrong to claim that this would be an apocalypse for all family-planning and health-care services to low-income women. According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 90 percent of the 8,409 “safety-net health centers” at which taxpayer-funded family-planning services were provided in 2010 were places other than Planned Parenthood. The vast majority of low-income women obtained subsidized family-planning services at: • 3,165 federally qualified health centers • 2,439 health-department clinics • 1,324 other non-Planned Parenthood clinics • 664 hospitals The credibility of the number of “services” Planned Parenthood has billed to government programs is also seriously questioned by whistleblower lawsuits brought by former employees across the nation. For example, a complaint brought by Karen Reynolds, a health-center assistant for nearly ten years at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Lufkin, Texas, alleged that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast employees were trained to — and did — bill the government for medical services never actually provided, as well as for services that were not medically necessary. In August 2013, Planned Parenthood agreed to pay a $4.3 million settlement in the case. In another ongoing lawsuit, Sue Thayer, a former manager for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, alleges that, to enhance revenues, the Planned Parenthood affiliate implemented a “C-Mail” program that effectively mailed thousands of unrequested birth-control pills to women, and then billed the government for these pills. Even taking Planned Parenthood’s reported services figures as truthful, a review of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s annual reports shows that the organization has had a dramatically shrinking influence in nearly every sphere except abortion and STI testing since PPFA president Cecile Richards began her tenure in 2006. The number of Planned Parenthood’s reported overall patients has declined by over 10 percent, from 3.1 million in 2006 to 2.7 million in its latest annual report. As Americans United for Life has documented, non-controversial services at Planned Parenthood, such as cancer screenings and prenatal services, have sharply declined. If Planned Parenthood becomes ineligible for federal-government programs, the women who currently use subsidies at Planned Parenthood will be faced with a choice. These women could still choose to frequent the abortion provider — just without using taxpayer dollars. If they choose to continue having these services subsidized, other options exist.
– Anna Paprocki is staff counsel at Americans United for Life.
C. C. PECKNOLD
In the wake of Obamacare and its forced contraceptive regime, Planned Parenthood already faces a certain redundancy when it comes to birth control. Cancer screenings are down by 50 percent. But abortions are up, and PP wants to expand the number of its clinics in certain “markets” (including a new mega abortion center in one of the poorest – and predominantly black — neighborhoods in the nation’s capital). If Planned Parenthood lost your tax dollars, the agency would still give out contraceptives, perform pap smears, and check for HIV. These things are relatively cheap. What defunding Planned Parenthood would really mean is a reduction in the costliest side of the house — the abortion side. Consider a young woman, let’s call her Maria, and let’s say she’s black since most “clinics” are intentionally placed in minority neighborhoods, which is why half of all babies killed in Planned Parenthood centers are actually black babies. The young woman arrives scared and uncertain about what to do. The forms are filled out and she is given several options, including adoption referral. Last year, 327,000 babies were killed in Planned Parenthood clinics, while only 1,800 women took up the agency’s offer of adoption referral. What does that mean? It most likely means that Maria, and women like her, experience a certain “nudge” in a Planned Parenthood clinic. No one ever tells Maria to get an abortion. But there is a “choice architecture” in the Planned Parenthood culture that consistently inclines women to seek only one gruesome solution — a solution at which the agency truly excels. Defunding Planned Parenthood will not mean that women will no longer be able to get access to reproductive health care. What it will mean is that the “choice architecture” will change. Planned Parenthood’s federally funded monopoly on “reproductive health” will shift to the thousands of crisis-pregnancy clinics (CPCs) whose “choice architectures” are not so ruthlessly inclined to death. CPCs have one thing in common that Planned Parenthood lacks: a choice architecture that really gives women options, good choices, and doesn’t use our tax dollars to ensure that 94 percent of pregnancy-related contact results in an abortion, as it currently does under the direction of Cecile Richards.
– C. C. Pecknold is an associate professor of theology at the Catholic University of America.
Women do not need Planned Parenthood. But where would women go instead? Community health centers and free, and charity clinics are an important part of the health-care safety net, offering alternatives in which the focus is on delivering health care, not the destruction of life. President George W. Bush doubled funding for community health centers during his eight years in office, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics, primarily located in medically underserved areas, such as poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas. The Affordable Care Act added $11 billion in funding for the centers. This year, a total of 9,200 clinics are projected to serve 28 million patients. Community health centers care for patients regardless of their ability to pay. “They’re an integral part of a health-care system because they provide care for the low-income, for the newly arrived, and they take the pressure off of our hospital emergency rooms,” Bush said while touring a clinic in Omaha, Neb., during his last year in office. The clinics provide basic services such as prenatal care, childhood immunizations, asthma treatments, and cancer screenings. Many have expanded to providing dental and mental-health services and on-site pharmacies, and have extended their hours to nights and weekends. They provide an alternative to hospital emergency rooms, often serving as a “medical home” for patients — tracking their health care with medical records and providing continuity of care. The philanthropic community provides another option. In virtually every city in the country, physicians and other medical professionals volunteer their time to provide free or very low-cost health care to patients through charity clinics. There are more than a thousand of these charity clinics in operation, silently providing care to the neediest patients, everything from primary care to access to specialists who donate their time to care for vulnerable patients. They also are an important part of the safety net. Charity clinics generally operate on a shoestring and take no federal funding. Many states are looking at ways to assist the clinics by relaxing regulatory and licensing barriers and providing boosts of local funds to help them keep their doors open. The charity clinics are a vital element of the fabric of a civil society — but are being crowded out by massive government spending and government-funded organizations like Planned Parenthood. This is an opportunity to rebalance our priorities.
– Grace-Marie Turner is the president of the Galen Institute.
MICHAEL J. NEW
If Planned Parenthood disappeared, low-income women would still be eligible to receive health care from one of hundreds of federally funded community health centers. Pregnancy help centers would also pick up some of the slack. There are over 2,000 centers across the country that assist more than 2.3 million women annually. These pregnancy help centers often provide women assistance with shelter, nutrition, and employment. Those centers with a religious orientation can minister to their spiritual needs. Many also educate women about the health risks involved with a promiscuous lifestyle. In the past 40 years, pregnancy help centers have succeeded where the abortion industry has failed. They offer real alternatives to literally millions of women facing crisis pregnancies. Countless women regret their abortions. But the surveys and testimonials in separate reports issued by the Family Research Council and the Charlotte Lozier Institute are evidence of the positive impact of the life-affirming options offered by many pregnancy help centers. In fact, Lozier’s recent report shows that similar percentages of pro-life and pro-choice women reported a positive experience with a pregnancy help center. Sadly, many of Planned Parenthood’s programs offer at best a quick fix for women in need. But they come with negative long-term consequences. The organization’s sex-education curricula, contraceptive programs, and abortion services have only exacerbated a promiscuous sexual culture. This culture has resulted in broken families, abortions, and high rates of unintended pregnancies. Were Planned Parenthood to disappear, the result would likely be more women seeking health care and pregnancy support from places that actually offer life-affirming alternatives.
— Michael J. New is a visiting professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been updated since its initial posting.
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