By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
Education is a lot like gardening. You pull the weeds, till the soil, plant the seeds, and watch for bugs. And you wait. You don’t get your flowers or vegetables for weeks, or even months. But there is no harvest unless you do that tough work months ahead of time.
Education has to look to the long term. You research topics, you collect data, you publish articles, factsheets, pamphlets, and post them on the Internet. You keep your material updated with the latest new stats. You respond to studies and stories in the news. You keep putting the information out there in as compelling way as possible. You do it day after day, month after month, year after year, hoping to see signs that people are getting the message, that things are changing.
We’ve seen some very, very encouraging signs of that in 2011.
Overall, of course, we’ve seen the drop in abortions and abortion rates in roughly the past twenty or thirty years–from 1.6 million lost lives in 1990 and a rate of close to 30 abortions/1,000 women of reproductive age in 1980 to about 1.2 million abortions today and a rate under 20/1,0000. (This comes from figures produced by the Guttmacher Institute for 2008).
Pregnant women are more likely to choose life for their unborn babies today than at any time since those first years after Roe unleashed the abortion industry.
This means that there are already millions of children alive today than would have been the case if trends had stayed the same.
Polls show public attitudes are more pro-life than they have been for years, and that young people are especially sympathetic to the pro-life view. We may have a ways to go to reach the point where the public is ready to restore full protection to the unborn, but we have clearly made serious progress.
But something has made a difference. Some people like to point to the proliferation of birth control, but that has been pushed for decades. Abstinence campaigns seem to have had some impact. But the change in attitudes toward abortion, and the greater likelihood of a pregnant woman choosing life points to something else. And that would be both a more widespread knowledge of fetal development and a greater understanding of abortion’s risks as well as life-affirming alternatives.
And that is precisely where pro-life educational efforts have been concentrated over the past several years.
In 2011, we have seen what may be the first fruits of another sustained pro-life educational effort.
For years, we have quite accurately told people the Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion performer and promoter, not just some benign provider of “reproductive health care” for poor women. And for years, local, state, and federal government officials kept sending millions Planned Parenthood’s way.
In the past few years, we have stepped up our efforts, not only telling people of Planned Parenthood’s abortion connections, but detailing how the group has increased and expanded its abortion business. The chain is now responsible for more than a quarter of ALL the abortions performed every year in the U.S.
We have, in factsheets and articles, showed how the 332,278 abortions performed in Planned Parenthood clinics in 2009 translated, at current rates, to at least $149.9 million in revenues, which would represent more than a third of PPFA’s clinic revenues. The real number is likely to be considerably more, as Planned Parenthood clinics advertise and perform more expensive chemical and later surgical abortions.
We have shown how the organization that likes to associate itself with “choice” actually offers few real practical choices to pregnant women. For example, PPFA delivers prenatal care services to fewer than 4% of those patients and abortions outnumber adoptions at Planned Parenthood by a margin of 340 to 1.
For the longest time, Planned Parenthood spokespersons simply passed this off with a rhetorical wave of the hand, saying that abortion accounted for only 3% of its total services. National Right to Life’s Educational Trust Fund challenged that claim with the information above. Our research, using Planned Parenthood’s own figures, revealed how essential abortion was to Planned Parenthood’s financial bottom line. Abortion not only accounts directly for a third or more of PPFA’s total clinic revenues, but it is connected also to many ancillary services sold to pregnant women with the abortion or to women coming to the clinic for abortion that receive other services after they find out they are not pregnant.
For several years, the Trust Fund has highlighted just how much the $1 billion a year corporation receives in revenues from “Government Grants & Contracts”: $363.2 million in fiscal year ending June 30, 2009 — a third of PPFA’s revenues coming out of the pockets of American taxpayers. And while Planned Parenthood tried to argue that none of the (federal) money went towards abortions, National Right to Life pointed out how those funds helped to keep those facilities open and those clinicians employed, freeing up other funds for the promotion and performance of abortion.
The Trust Fund also noted how abortions increased at Planned Parenthood at a rate that very neatly paralleled the rate of increase in government funding.
We researched and laid out how local communities and states, some financing abortion directly, and the federal government, particularly through its Medicaid and Title X family planning programs, poured millions of tax dollars every year into Planned Parenthood’s coffers.
And we exposed how Planned Parenthood has been taking its money and using it to build giant new mega-clinics across the country where it can do high volumes of abortion, manage web-cam abortion systems at smaller satellite clinics, and coordinate lobbying and campaign activities.
Engaged pro-lifers have known these things for some time. But this year, the message has begun to sink in among the general public.
In April of 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 241 to 185 to defund the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its 102 affiliates. However, the bill was rejected by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
That was not the end of the matter, however. In May of 2011, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law cutting $1.4 million in Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed similar legislation in his state later that month shifting Title X money to full service health clinics rather than Planned Parenthood.
Both Wisconsin and North Carolina passed bills in June stripping Planned Parenthood of tax funding. Texas cut more than $61 million in family planning funds and Tennessee’s governor directed the state health commissioner to direct family planning funds to county health departments.
Now, of course, a full federal ban will have to wait for a new president and a new congress, and Planned Parenthood and its allies in the media and in the Obama administration have all come out in full force against these defunding efforts, tying up many of them in the courts. But the real story on Planned Parenthood is out and the old P.R. campaign isn’t working as well as it used to.
Whether abortion is 3% or 33% or an even higher percentage of Planned Parenthood’s business, people are finally beginning to ask why, especially in a time of budget austerity, any taxpayer dollars should be funding an organization for whom systematically killing innocent human beings is a part of their basic business model.
Planned Parenthood is big and rich and politically connected, but we may have finally begun to reach a tipping point. PPFA will continue to try and build and expand, but they may find it harder to get their hands on the public funds they need to continue growing their abortion empire.
I’d like to think that years of years of careful pro-life research and education had something to do with that.
The flowers aren’t blossoming just yet, but I think I see a few healthy green shoots popping up.
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