Planned Parenthood and What You Need to Know

Planned Parenthood often finds itself at the center of political controversy, but what’s true and what isn’t? One in five women has used services from Planned Parenthood, but what do those services entail? In discussing government funding of Planned Parenthood, it’s important to know more information about its mission, the services it provides, and what you’re supporting as a taxpayer.

Funding Planned Parenthood is a pet project of the Democratic Party, isn’t it?

Actually, it was the Republican Party that pushed funding for Planned Parenthood. In 1970, the GOP was less religiously oriented. Planned Parenthood had existed in some form or other since 1916, but in the ’70s, Republicans in Congress pushed President Richard Nixon to federally fund the organization under Title X of the Public Health Service Act.

Republicans saw family planning services and access to contraception as a way of minimizing the size of families on welfare. Democrats also supported it as a way of giving families more power over the direction of their lives.

In other words, the federal funding of Planned Parenthood was largely a Republican brainchild. It was so popular an effort, the Senate passed its funding unanimously and the House of Representatives passed it by a vote of 298 to 32.

All Planned Parenthood does is abortions, and you’re paying for it, right?

Only 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortion-related. This differs from Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl’s claim in 2011 that abortions are “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” Kyl would later recant on his claim.

Furthermore, no funds Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government can be directed toward abortion-related services. In fact, because of the Hyde Amendment, no federal funding for any organization in the U.S. can be directed toward abortion-related services, with the exception of Medicaid reimbursements for abortion cases involving rape, incest, or endangerment to the life of the mother.

How many people does Planned Parenthood serve, and how?

Planned Parenthood provides 11.4 million services annually. Thirty-five percent of these services cover screening for sexually transmitted diseases. This early screening can help prevent diseases from going unnoticed, preventing the spread of STDs and protecting taxpayers from covering a greater burden of care.

A further 35 percent of Planned Parenthood services are contraception-related, and deal with assisting patients in family planning. Birth control is most often prescribed for preventing pregnancy, but this is not its sole use. Many medicines used for birth control are prescribed for a variety of other applicable medical uses. When Planned Parenthood was first federally funded, contraception was seen as one of the primary methods of reducing the number of abortions in the United States.

Furthermore, $1 in publicly funded family planning expenses saves about $7 in future publicly funded medical costs.

Another 16 percent of services are related to cancer screening and prevention. Early cancer screening is seen as one of the most important avenues of saving taxpayers from providing greater medical expenses down the road.

Another 10 percent goes toward miscellaneous women’s health services. The final 3 percent goes toward abortion-related services, as covered above.

If Planned Parenthood is funded by the government, why do you still have to pay for its services?

Planned Parenthood received $528 million from the federal government in 2013. Divided by more than 11.4 million services provided (this is the number from 2009, and is likely lower than the 2013 number), that means the government funds Planned Parenthood in the range of $47 per visit. That can’t cover most tests and services.

Roughly 80 percent of that funding goes to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. These are reimbursements for services already provided. In effect, these funds are not at Planned Parenthood’s discretion, but are rather managed and decided by how Medicare and Medicaid work. Nearly every hospital, medical center, and clinic in the country receives such reimbursements.

The remaining funding leaves approximately $9 in federal funding per service provided outside of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Federal funding of Planned Parenthood was once seen as something both parties could support: it was viewed as a way of giving families information and power over their own future, as well as a way of diminishing the number of people on welfare. The fight over abortion addresses 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides, services which are not taxpayer funded in any way. The vast majority of federal funding Planned Parenthood receives is in the form of reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid, meaning most federal funding is left to the discretion of these programs, and not Planned Parenthood itself.


Have you used Planned Parenthood in the past? Do you support continuing to provide federal funds for the organization?




Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel is a movie critic who's been a campaign manager in Oregon, an investigative reporter in Texas, and a film producer in Massachusetts. His writing was named best North American criticism of 2014 by the Local Media Association. He's assembled a band of writers who focus on social issues in film. They have a home base.