Summary: Whatever your view of abortion, it’s hard not to be appalled by the recent undercover videos of Planned Parenthood personnel casually discussing how they can profit from the body parts it “harvests.” The powerful, politically connected nonprofit enjoys massive government subsidies, as well as invaluable aid from the mainstream media who help it pretend to be what it is not: a broad-spectrum provider of healthcare. Now it faces efforts to end taxpayer subsidies for its lucrative business.
On July 14, 2015, a small nonprofit organization, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), released a video that marked the beginning of a tidal wave of public opposition to the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The video was part of a much bigger, broader three-year undercover “sting” project detailing a horrific reality: Planned Parenthood harvests and sells baby hearts, lungs, livers, and brains. At press time, 10 such videos had been released by CMP with more expected in the weeks ahead.
The footage raises a number of critical legal questions. Is Planned Parenthood involved in the unlawful activity of harvesting and selling baby parts? Is Planned Parenthood obtaining informed consent agreements from the mothers whose babies’ hearts, lungs, livers, and brains are being obtained? Is Planned Parenthood unlawfully altering abortion procedures to obtain intact baby parts or whole babies? Is Planned Parenthood performing illegal partial-birth abortions to facilitate obtaining those organs?
The CMP videos also focus public attention on Planned Parenthood as a government-subsidized agency and provide an insightful snapshot of problems in the abortion industry. The videos follow previous undercover “sting” projects conducted by the new media group Live Action, founded by Lila Rose, as well as the startling revelations about Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, now in prison for life, who was convicted of multiple infanticides and accused of gruesome mistreatment of mothers who came to him, including at least one maternal death.
The videos are raising awareness among the public of the truth about Planned Parenthood, yet they are only a small part of the story. For years, a wealth of data and information has shown that Planned Parenthood isn’t a benevolent healthcare provider; see, for example, the April 2012 Organization Trends. I published a background document on Planned Parenthood in 2010 and updated it in 2012 (http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF12J05.pdf). This essay further updates that information and provides new data, particularly on Planned Parenthood’s management and finances. Most of the material is taken from the group’s publicly available tax forms and annual reports.
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), the founder of Planned Parenthood, was born and raised in New York and was one of eleven children. In 1921 Sanger founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL), which ultimately became Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942. One of her primary goals was to do away with what she and Planned Parenthood described as “unfit” and “eugenically unsound” populations—certain immigrants, African-Americans, disabled people, orphans, people with hereditary disease, those with lower intelligence, etc. She also wanted to convince Americans that women needed greater control over childbearing (e.g., the number/timing of children) in order to be considered “equal” to men.
Sanger subscribed to a body of thought, eugenics, an offshoot of Charles Darwin’s theories about natural selection, which held that entire populations did not have dignity, were “lesser” people, and therefore should be eliminated. These eugenic concepts provided a prime philosophic basis for the foundation of the ABCL.
A number of other founding directors for the American Birth Control League were likewise advocates of eugenics, including Lothrop Stoddard, Dr. S. Adolphus Knopf, and Dr. Harry Laughlin. Years later Dr. Alan Guttmacher, who succeeded Margaret Sanger as president of Planned Parenthood from 1962-1974, also acted as vice president of the American Eugenics Society.
In describing her work and goals, Margaret Sanger once said, “Before eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for Birth Control. Like the advocates of Birth Control, the eugenists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit. Both are seeking a single end but they lay emphasis upon different methods” (Birth Control Review, “Birth Control and Racial Betterment,” February 1919, vol. 3, no. 2).
Similarly, expressing her visceral opposition to charity generally, Sanger once said, “Our world is overcrowded with masses who are merely the breeding ground of admitted misery and wretchedness. They do nothing to carry life forward. They are just the vain, defective, imperfect repetition of all that has gone before. Our charity to them is in reality a crime against future generations, against the finest blossoming of the human spirit” (Birth Control Review, “World Aspects of Birth Control, Margaret Sanger’s Speech at the Meeting of October 30,” December 1922, vol. 6, no. 12).
Believing that black Americans were a disproportionately unfit group, the American Birth Control League, under Sanger’s direction, instituted the “Negro Project” to decrease the black population by strategically promoting birth control and sterilization. This involved manipulating black leaders to teach communities that aggressive birth control and sterilization were in their best interest and served the common good. In advocating this position she spoke at a Ku Klux Klan meeting in Silver Lake, New Jersey, in May 1926 (The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger, W.W. Norton, 1938, pp. 366-7). She and the Klan saw eye to eye, for she reports, “I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.”
So one can understand why in August 2015, a group of black pastors requested that a bust of Margaret Sanger be removed from a temporary Smithsonian exhibit in Washington, D.C., named “Struggle for Justice” which featured other persons like Martin Luther King, Jr. The pastors argued that Sanger’s eugenics focus and the Negro Project in particular were racist and that she should not be upheld as a heroine for justice in the United States.
Today African-Americans are the ethnic group most disproportionately targeted for abortion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that black Americans make up 36 percent of all U.S. abortions while constituting a mere 13 percent of the population (CDC Abortion Surveillance-2011, November 2014). Another way to see this disproportion: each year, the number of abortions among black Americans is larger than the number of deaths from all causes suffered by black Americans who have been born (Guttmacher Institute; National Center for Health Statistics).
To understand Planned Parenthood’s modern mission, consider an anecdote that highlights the organization’s priorities. In 2011, a former Planned Parenthood employee told a conference about her experience working with a small Planned Parenthood clinic in Iowa. She explained that her first workday involved the difficult task of watching hours of abortion procedures. This requirement was necessary because her supervisor wanted assurance that new directors could handle the reality of appalling abortion procedures. Prior to the first abortion, she was advised to steady herself against the wall to have support should she faint. She admitted that her first day was her most unforgettable one on the job, and ultimately led to her leaving Planned Parenthood. She is currently a whistleblower in a sealed lawsuit related to Planned Parenthood’s potential fraud.
What, then, is Planned Parenthood and what functions does it perform? Its website states, “We are a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world.” But does this statement fairly capture the crux of its work? Surprisingly, 55 percent of Americans are not aware that Planned Parenthood performs abortions (http://www.lifenews.com/2013/04/29/poll-55-of-americans-dont-know-planned-parenthood-does-abortions/).
PPFA itself often avoids using the word abortion in any media or marketing campaign, acknowledging the negative thoughts, beliefs, and emotions associated with the word. Yet an analysis of Planned Parenthood’s data tells another story.
In its last annual report Planned Parenthood reported performing 327,653 abortions, approximately one third of all abortions in the United States in 2013. Over the course of the past three years, Planned Parenthood provided close to one million abortions, equivalent to the entire population of Austin, Texas. Why? Because abortion is good business, and business is booming.
Former clinic workers describe a quota system for abortions because they are so lucrative for the organization. Planned Parenthood frequently advertises that “abortion is only 3% of the services provided,” but the Washington Post called its bluff on this statistic, giving it “Three Pinocchios” (out of four possible) to measure the truth factor (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/08/12/for-planned-parenthood-abortion-stats-3-percent-and-94-percent-are-both-misleading/).
The article’s author, Michelle He Yee Lee, said Planned Parenthood’s statistic is misleading when “comparing abortion services to every other service that it provides. The organization treats each service—pregnancy test, STD test, abortion, birth control—equally. Yet there are obvious differences between a surgical (or even medical) abortion, and offering a urine (or even blood) pregnancy test. These services are not all comparable in how much they cost or how extensive the service or procedure is.” In reality, it is estimated that Planned Parenthood makes over $150 million a year performing abortions, which is hardly a negligible part of its budget or mission.
Ironically, despite the “parenthood” in its name, parenting has little to do with what the group does when a pregnant woman comes to a clinic. In reviewing services available for expectant mothers to resolve their pregnancy (procuring an abortion, putting the child up for adoption, or keeping the baby), abortions make up fully 94percent of the services provided to pregnant women. Prenatal care and adoption referrals account for the remaining 5-6 percent. Put differently, Planned Parenthood performed 174 abortions for every 1 adoption referral in 2013.
While Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion chain, it is not the nation’s largest provider of women’s health care. This fact was revealed during the recent U.S. Senate debate and vote to defund Planned Parenthood. A nonprofit group, Democrats for Life, provided data showing that Community Health Centers (CHCs) are more accessible and provide more services for health needs: “Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of health care services to women only if you define health care services as abortion”.
Statistics reaffirm that CHCs provide more services than Planned Parenthood. The latter has fewer than 700 facilities nationwide, compared to more than 9,000 local CHCs. Whereas Planned Parenthood claims to serve 2.7 million patients annually, CHCs serve 21 million patients. Planned Parenthood provided 378,692 pap tests, compared to 1,787,256 pap tests at CHCs. Planned Parenthood offers no mammograms at any clinics; CHCs performed 424,376. Planned Parenthood performs several hundred thousand abortions annually, whereas CHCs provide none. In short, CHCs are well prepared to receive clients should the nation’s largest abortion provider have its government funding transferred to abortion-free facilities.
Planned Parenthood has a robust budget, in recent years totaling well over $1 billion annually. In fiscal year 2013 alone, its budget was $1,176,300,000 for the national office and affiliates (http://plannedparenthood.org/about-us/annual-report).
So how does Planned Parenthood receive its funding and where does it go?
Planned Parenthood receives a significant portion of its budget from federal, state, and local grants, contracts, and reimbursements. Not surprisingly, its government funding has increased under the Obama administration. In 2008 the organization received $363,200,000 (about a third of its revenue) from federal, state, and local government funds; in contrast, its latest annual report shows that Planned Parenthood received $528,400,000, or 41 percent, of its total revenue from U.S., state, and local governments. That’s $1.4 million of taxpayer funding a day. Other Planned Parenthood revenue includes $391,800,000 (30 percent) in private contributions and bequests and $305,300,000 (23 percent) from non-governmental health services. “Other operating revenue” is listed at $77,900,000 (6 percent).
Abortion revenue is not clearly detailed in Planned Parenthood’s annual report or tax documentation. Recently, the previously quoted Washington Post columnist described the organization as lacking in “transparency.” Conservative estimates place this amount at approximately $164 million, a figured arrived at by multiplying the number of abortions (327,653) by the average cost for an abortion ($500).
Top private contributors to PPFA are the Susan Buffett Foundation (named for the first wife of Warren Buffett; $330 million since 2002); William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (established by William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard; $65.95 million since 2000); Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($60.2 million since 2000); David and Lucile Packard Foundation (established by David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard ($56 million since 2000); Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program ($27.9 million since 2004); Ford Foundation (originally but no longer connected to Ford Motor Company; $21.9 million since 1999); Open Society Institute (organization funded by George Soros; $19.8 million since 1999); various United Way groups ($12.6 million since 2003); Kresge Foundation ($10.2 million since 1999); Tides Foundation ($8.9 million since 1999); Turner Foundation (established by Ted Turner; $7.5 million since 2000); California Endowment ($5.8 million since 1999); Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund ($2.7 million since 2003); and the Pew Charitable Trusts ($2.7 million since 2005).
Planned Parenthood has a full and highly paid staff. In its latest publicly available tax return, the national office in New York City reported a total of 649 employees, not including employees working for other clinics around the country. The group’s top administrative and programming managers are well compensated. In the 2013 fiscal year (which ended June 30, 2014), salaries constituted a little over $50 million of the annual budget for Planned Parenthood’s national headquarters, with approximately $4.2 million allocated for the salaries of 12 highly compensated executive-level staff. Doing the math, the average employee receives about $70,000 annually, and the top 12 enjoy an average of $350,000.
In that same year Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, was compensated $590,928 for a self-reported 33 hours of work per week. Richards, the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D), is a former labor organizer whose husband is an official with the Service Employees International Union; they live in New York City. Richards previously served as deputy chief of staff to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and founded America Votes, a left-wing pressure group that registers voters and gets them to the polls. She currently serves on the board of the Ford Foundation.
Other highly compensated individuals included chief operating officer Lisa David, whose combined compensation package totaled $419,028. Dawn Laguens, “chief experience officer,” was compensated $481,126. Other highly compensated positions, receiving over $240,000, included chief financial officer, chief development officer, chief information officer, senior vice president and general counsel, managing director of development, vice president of planned parenthood experience, national director of principal and major gifts, senior principal gifts officer, and vice president of “HIT and business initiatives.”
Planned Parenthood gives generously to the Democratic Party. Richards took a leave of absence as president of the group during 2012 to work full time for the presidential election and was a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. Heading into last year’s midterm election, Politico reported (Feb. 26, 2014) that Planned Parenthood planned to invest $18 million to win, although after that election the website “Open Secrets” claimed the group spent only about $6 million.
Planned Parenthood uses its various boards to ingratiate itself with different targeted allies, including philanthropists, industry, cultural groups, religious groups, and minorities. Strategic placement of board members is also done by many of the local affiliates. For example, after the videos from the Center for Medical Progress exposed some of the activities of Planned Parenthood affiliates, the Harris County District Attorney’s office in Texas decided to investigate. It was later discovered that one of the attorneys in that office sat on the board of the local Planned Parenthood that was being investigated.
To find out more about local Planned Parenthood affiliates’ leadership and finances, go to Guidestar.org and search for “Planned Parenthood.” That will bring up 339 groups, and the search can be narrowed to a specific state. Both “Planned Parenthood” affiliates, which are generally 501(c)(3) “charity” groups, and “Planned Parenthood Action Fund” groups, which are their 501(c)(4) political advocacy arms, are included. Click on the latest “Form 990” to see the organization’s income, expenses, salaries, board members, and more.
National Planned Parenthood board members in 2014-2015 include the former president of the nation’s largest gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese (who also worked for the 2012 Obama campaign and EMILY’s List); New York Times and Newsweek contributor Anna Quindlen; new media experts Kate Jhaveri, senior director of consumer marketing for Twitter, and David Karp, who developed the short-form blogging platform ‘Tumblr’ (estimated net worth $200 million); many large donors to the Democratic Party (for example, Maryana Iskander; Jill Lafer; Cecilia Boone); the co-chair of Wendy Davis’s 2014 campaign for governor in Texas (Naomi Aberly); a board member of People for the American Way, the Rev. Timothy McDonald, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta; an executive at Kaiser Permanente, Veronica Dela Rosa; and many former local, state, or national Planned Parenthood directors (Ken Lambrecht; Dayle Steinberg; Judy Tabar; Lou Zellner). The board chair, Alexis McGill Johnson, is executive director of the Perception Institute, a George Soros-backed organization formerly known as the American Values Institute that is “a consortium of mind science researchers, educators, and social justice advocates” who “develop strategies to reduce racial bias and anxiety and influence the public narrative through cultural conversations.”
In addition to its national board of directors, Planned Parenthood also has a board for its political action committee, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as well as a board of advocates and a clergy advocacy board. The fund’s board members include a Democratic political consultant, Laura Tucker (board chair); Maria Teresa Kumar, founding president and CEO of Voto Latino; Democratic Party fundraiser Julianna Smoot (who previously worked in the Obama White House); Democratic National Committee leader Sunita Leeds; Naomi Aberly (mentioned above; worked for Wendy Davis’s campaign); Jim Doyle, former governor of Wisconsin. It also includes Kiki McLean, a former communications director and national spokesperson for Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s vice presidential campaign during the 2000 cycle and former press secretary to Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign; Minyon Moore, previous CEO of the Democratic National Committee; Michael Vachon, advisor to George Soros; and Urvashi Vaid, founder of LPAC, the first lesbian super PAC, launched in July 2012.
Board of Advocates
The board of advocates is described as “a diverse group of more than 400 leaders in the arts and entertainment community united by their personal integrity and commitment to the Planned Parenthood mission. Members promote awareness of reproductive health and rights issues and help Planned Parenthood increase support for our programs and policies.” The board of advocates includes famous actors such as Kate Walsh and Blythe Danner, who use their celebrity status to support Planned Parenthood in lobbying, recording public service announcements, lending their names and images to help raise money, and participating in national events.
Clergy Advocacy Board
“This network of clergy members from a variety of denominations throughout the religious community supports Planned Parenthood and those we serve. … Members speak out in support of Planned Parenthood in communities and government chambers throughout the U.S.”
The clergy advocacy board caused some controversy when responding to the series of exposé videos that were released beginning in the summer of 2015. In its statement the board said that Planned Parenthood, by doing abortions and supplying unborn baby parts to researchers, is “doing God’s work” (http://plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/planned-parenthood-clergy-advocacy-board-releases-response-to-smear-campaign).
Since late 2011, the pro-life legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has regularly published research findings on waste, abuse, and potential fraud committed by Planned Parenthood affiliates and headquarters. The research is based primarily on state and federal audits, most of which cited examples of overbilling the federal and state governments. ADF concluded that “Planned Parenthood and its affiliates are engaged in a pattern of practices designed to maximize their bottom-line revenues through billings to complex, well-funded federal and state programs that … rely on the integrity of the provider for program compliance” (https://adflegal.blob.core.windows.net/web-content-dev/documents/life—planned-parenthood-overview—adf-report-to-congress-on-planned-parenthood-fraud.pdf?sfvrsn=18).
The report further asserts that improper practices by Planned Parenthood have resulted in a documented (conservative) loss of 115 million taxpayer dollars, but because the audited amounts only include a small portion of billing questions, the real loss in tax dollars is likely many times the $115 million figure.
According to ADF, illegal/unlawful billings included reimbursements by Title XIX agencies (for example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Social Security Administration) for medications provided in connection with an abortion—something for which the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding. Billings were also included for dispensing prescriptions without an authorizing order by a physician; dispensing prescriptions to clients who have moved or who have not been seen by the clinic for over a year; billing in excess of acquisition costs; billing for services not medically necessary; billing for services not actually rendered; duplicate billing for exams, products, services, and inadequate record keeping, including not being able to support services billed; and failing to pay bills for which affiliates had already been reimbursed. Much more information is provided in the report, with supporting details from each state as well as a summary of activities.
Still more whistleblower lawsuits brought by former Planned Parenthood employees allege waste, abuse, and potential fraud. These suits are currently under seal and will not be made public while litigation proceeds. As of July 2014, six such lawsuits were public. In one whistleblower lawsuit, Reynolds v. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, a settlement was negotiated in which Planned Parenthood paid $4.3 million to the state of Texas for “Medicaid fraud” claims.
In another case, Fairbanks v. Planned Parenthood, a 16-year-old girl told Planned Parenthood clinic workers that her father was sexually abusing her and had impregnated her. Planned Parenthood staff did not report these crimes to the appropriate authorities. Only a year later, when the girl’s basketball coach contacted authorities, was the father convicted and incarcerated (http://www.lldf.org/main/ohio-case-roe-v-planned-parenthood-is-resolved-%E2%80%94-what-is-there-to-hide/).
Additional undercover sting operations at different Planned Parenthood clinics have uncovered consistent non-reporting of sexual abuse, including illegal involvement/non-reporting of statutory rape, as well as aiding and abetting in the trafficking of victims who are minors.
Efforts to Defund
On August 3, 2015, less than three weeks after the first undercover video was released by the Center for Medical Progress, the U.S. Senate voted on a bill introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa): S. 1881, “A Bill to Prohibit Federal Funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.” While winning a majority of votes (53-46), the bill did not receive the necessary 60 votes to end Senate debate.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, a number of committees took action upon the release of the videos. Within a day of the first video’s release, the Energy and Commerce Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee announced investigations into Planned Parenthood, specifically on the question of whether federal law has been violated and/or sufficiently prohibits such activities. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee quickly followed suit. The committees sought additional information from Planned Parenthood, including requesting briefings. They also requested that the Department of Justice investigate any potential violations of the partial-birth abortion ban. They questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in a committee hearing about the videos; although the videos vividly depicted horrific “health and human services,” Secretary Burwell testified that she hadn’t watched them.
While there is a debate on what and how Planned Parenthood funding should be attached to any end of year spending bill, when this brief went to print in mid-September, the House had voted on two bills that were a direct result of the controversy. The “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” (H.R. 3504) was approved 248-177-1. Five Democrats voted in support (Cartwright-PA, Cuellar-TX, Langevin-RI, Lipinski-IL, Peterson-MN) and one Democrat voted present (Garamendi-CA). No Republicans opposed the bill. The “Defund Planned Parenthood Act” (H.R. 3134) passed by a vote of 241-187-1. Two Democrats supported the bill (Lipinski-IL, and Peterson-MN), three Republicans voted against it (Dold-IL, Dent-PA, Hanna-NY), and one Republican voted present (King-IA). The president threatened to veto both bills.
Some states have also taken actions to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood. Currently, a total of 13 states have announced investigations (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas). Five states (Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, New Hampshire, and Arkansas) have begun defunding the organization. The Obama administration has issued letters to each defunding state that charge the state’s action is illegal. Those issues will ultimately be decided in the courts.
The concept of defunding Planned Parenthood is not new. In February 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood, but the bill failed to pass the Senate on a 44-56 vote. Many states then sought to directly stop funding to the nation’s largest abortion provider by introducing appropriate legislation, re-prioritizing grant money away from Planned Parenthood, and making budget cuts. In response, the Obama administration took action to block or counter these state decisions. When New Hampshire voted to defund the group, the administration awarded Planned Parenthood a direct grant of $1 million. And in late 2011, funding of Planned Parenthood was the single biggest point of contention during the negotiations between Congress and the administration over the federal budget.
This brief provides a quick overview of Planned Parenthood, including its founding, management, finances, legal issues, and perhaps most importantly its product, abortion. The current moment provides a rich opportunity for dialogue on the work of Planned Parenthood, including its procedures, its allies, and its donors. Let us use this unique time to reveal Planned Parenthood for what it is.
Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. Her prior work includes serving in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She has appeared widely in the media, including interviews on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams, CNN’s John King USA, and Fox News Hour with Bret Baier. Her writings have appeared in U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, the Washington Post, and other publications.