By Randall K. O’Bannon, NRLC Director of Education & Research
Editor’s note. On Wednesday, Dr. O’Bannon provided a first look at “The 2016-17 Annual Report of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.” As always, what is omitted is as interested as what is included (and hyped).
Cementing its reputation as the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood performed 321, 384 abortions in 2016, more than a third of all abortions performed in the U.S. , according to its annual report. This “non-profit” raked in nearly $1.5 billion in revenues.
But Planned Parenthood is more than just a “reproductive health care provider.” They are also the nation’s top abortion advocates and increasingly connected to much of the nation’s bourgeoning political activism.
A few more numbers
Looking at the gross revenues alone, it would appear that Planned Parenthood’s business is thriving. But tucked away in that increase of $100 million over the previous fiscal year is the growing impact of increased private contributions. Combine that with the diminishing numbers of clinics and 20% fewer customers, and a quite different picture emerges.
Early in the introduction penned by Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and Board chair Naomi Aberly, PPFA heralds the care provided by their “more than 600 health centers across the country” and the group’s 56 affiliates.
To be sure, PPFA remains a big and powerful organization. However check back a few year and you’ll see that they aren’t what they used to be.
For example, as recently as 2010, there were 872 clinics listed on Planned Parenthood’s website, hailing from about a hundred local affiliates. From 872 to 600–that’s a huge drop off in just 7 years!
And as mentioned yesterday, the three million customers they saw as recently as 2008. Today, that number is 2.4 million—a decline of 20%. No two ways about it, business at Planned Parenthood is off.
However while that is good news, it is not as unambiguously good as we might hope. While many centers have closed, quite often these were non-abortion performing clinics—smaller and unprofitable. Sometimes they were replaced by modern, giant regional abortion featuring mega-clinics.
This largely explains why abortions have held steady at Planned Parenthood, despite the huge drop in the number of operating clinics.
As we have documented in many NRL News Today stories, the decline in the number of affiliates is largely a consequence of larger, richer, more politically powerful affiliates gobbling up smaller, less efficiently run clinics that often did not perform abortions. Unprofitable operations and expensive, inefficient middle management were cut.
Still about abortion
Of course PPFA continues to downplay abortion’s significance to Planned Parenthood. It recycles the much-debunked statistic that abortion constitutes merely 3% of its services. As we have explained, this is a statistic artifice that even its media allies are reluctant to defend. Abortion still plays a huge role in Planned Parenthood’s mission and policies, not to mention its bottom line.
Planned Parenthood now performs more than a third of all abortions in the U.S. and continuing to be its biggest defender in the legislature and the courts. Contrary to the 3% meme, abortion is no mere sideline for the group.
Planned Parenthood notes with pride that 26 of their affiliates have launched online scheduling for abortion appointments. A chat/text program set up by Planned Parenthood allows people to discuss “reproductive health questions” with a trained educator. It garnered as many as 30,000 individual conversations a month. PPFA’s statistics show that one in three chat/text users ended up at a clinic within 10 days of their conversation.
Politics and legislation
With their emphasis on abortion, it is no surprise that many of the legislative and court victories they tout were abortion centered. They celebrated Delaware’s codification of Roe into state law and were happy that Oregon ensured “abortion coverage for all Oregonians, regardless of gender identity, income, or immigration status”—that is, tax-payer funded abortion on demand.
Pro-abortion judges and holdover Democrat governors thwarted abortion limits and clinic regulations in Florida, Mississippi ,and Pennsylvania. Planned Parenthood states, correctly, that “Litigation is a crucial tool for protecting and expanding access to care” and noted that “Planned Parenthood (along with partner organizations, in some cases) filed seven new lawsuits to protect and expand access to safe, legal abortion.”
Planned Parenthood also fights for abortion in other countries. Through Planned Parenthood Global, they launched the Niñas No Madres (Girls Not Mothers) program in Latin America to “educate” the public and lawmakers about “the impact of draconian laws and practices restricting abortion access.”
Pumping up the Resistance
Planned Parenthood has long complained that federal policies and state laws cut them off from taxpayer funds and make it difficult for their clinics to operate. The last paragraph in the “Message from Our Leadership” includes the sentence, “This year has defined the dedication, defiance, and power of the Planned Parenthood family.” The 35-page-long annual report is filled with plenty of talk about their efforts to defend themselves and mobilize opposition.
In the annual report, they refer to the ‘historic threat to our mission” and facing “higher, harder barriers to getting care” and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. They talk about “fending off attacks” and “continuing to mobilize our supporters to fight for the health and rights of the people we serve.”
Many of the pictures featured in the 2016-2017 Annual Report are from the Women’s March held in January of last year to coincide with the Inauguration of pro-life President Trump and the language of “resistance” and “defiance” echoes throughout the report.
In the face of a “hostile administration” that has fought to repeal ObamaCare and has cut off funding to international groups (like Planned Parenthood’s international arm) that perform, refer, or advocate for abortion, Planned Parenthood says they are “Building a Movement & Mobilizing Our Supporters.” They say such “attacks” haven’t tired supporters – “They resist, they persist, and they are fighting to win.”
Planned Parenthood has clearly adjusted their tactics to deal with the political reality that they no longer control the presidency, the federal legislature, or many of the state houses. Under the heading “Fueling the Resistance to Protect Health Care Access” they talk about building allies with leaders in the “racial justice, immigrant rights, and economic justice movement to highlight the intersection between these issues and access to health care.”
They argue that “far too often, systemic barriers, including the harmful legacies of oppression and white supremacy, stand in the way of achieving health equity for all.” (How exactly is the reality that over the years Planned Parenthood has likely aborted millions of black and other minority babies supposed to be addressing this ”oppression”?)
Beyond the “strong partnerships with organizations with other resistance leaders” that Planned Parenthood says followed the Womens’ March, Planned Parenthood celebrates their #IstandWithPP and #Idefy campaigns to help identify and inspire a new generation of activists.
Until their political fortunes improve (hopefully never), the plan in the meantime is to generate, with the media’s help, the appearance of such opposition to pro-life laws, clinic regulations, funding limits, and healthcare repeal that legislators won’t institute such policies or courts won’t let them go forward.
Eyes on the Future
Executives at Planned Parenthood have certainly seen the same figures that we have for the past several years. There is no ignoring the drop in the number of patients, the greatly reduced numbers of cancer screenings, or even fewer number of clients receiving contraceptives —from 3,868,901 in 2009 to 2,701,866 in 2016—a 30% tumble.
They’ve lost access to a lot of state funding and, as noted above , closed significant numbers of clinics and merged many affiliates. But PPFA has been able to increase their revenues and hold the number of abortions performed steady.
Rather than dump their abortion business to concentrate on the other services they say are so critical, they’ve done the exact opposite. PPFA has chosen to double down on abortion, adding abortion services to most of their remaining clinics, requiring that every affiliate have at least one abortion performing center, and refusing to give it up in order to receive state funding.
They’ve built new megaclinics which can handle enormous abortion volume, to put into new web technology to attract and serve new customers, and to stimulate more political activism. They’ve got big private donors and the media defending their every move, which makes their job easier.
All that may sustain a certain level of business for now, but in the end, it will not, cannot succeed. Why? Because there isn’t any future in it.