I have never been in a position where I needed one, and am coming at it from a point of privilege, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like it. I would really prefer to see abortion rates drop significantly.
Which is why this week’s takedown has me up in arms. It is from the ridiculously named lifenews.com’s post that has been making the rounds: “The numbers Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Want You To Know.” Combine this with Mitt Romney’s asshattery wherein he planned to get rid of Planned Parenthood and then realized that you can’t just remove a private organization and so backpedaled, and you have the makings of a beautiful crapdate.
I need to say it again: I don’t like abortion. I want to see abortion rates fall. And it is because of this that my anger gets white-hot when I see shit like this. The “pro-life” advocates use sleight-of-hand and fuzzy math in order to make people believe that their agenda, if implemented, would support life. The fact that optical illusions are necessary to convince people says, in and of itself, that something is terribly wrong. Strip away those illusions, and you see that what masquerades as pro-life is nothing more than anti-woman.
I challenge anybody who considers themselves to be pro-life to read this, and defend the current “pro-life” agenda. Do it. I dare you.
So. As far as I can tell, there are four major tenets in the “pro-life” movement: 1) Abortion sucks; 2) Planned Parenthood is the biggest provider of abortions; 3) Planned Parenthood accepts federal funds and provides abortion; therefore my tax dollars are providing abortions; and 4) Planned Parenthood loooooves abortions. Thus, if you get rid of Planned Parenthood, abortions will drop significantly.
The problem, though, is that their premises don’t hold water, and do not result in the conclusion.
Here we go. For research, I used the National Right to Life Committee’s factsheets, since it is the oldest and largest “pro-life” organization in America.
Tenet 1: Abortion sucks. I don’t disagree with this. I don’t like it. I do have to say, though, that the fact that even this tenet, which I would guess that a lot of people agree with, is manipulated and propagandized. Like when the New Hampshire senate mandates that doctors tell women that abortions cause breast cancer, even though the WHO and the American Cancer Society say that there is no link. When a state senate requires doctors to tell what the WHO says is a lie to patients, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t manipulation. Which immediately shoots up a red flag. Why can’t we trust people with the actual information? If abortion sucks (and I am of the opinion that it does), there is no need to trick people into deciding against it.
Tenet 2: Planned Parenthood is the biggest provider of abortions; defund it, and abortion will disappear.
“The latest figures make Planned Parenthood responsible for more than a quarter of U.S. abortions, or more than one out of every four.”
What nobody is saying about these numbers is that three out of every four abortions are done elsewhere. There is this image in the public’s mind that all abortions are done at Planned Parenthood. The Onion played on this misconception with an article about abortionplexes opening up (which, by the way, some people took at face value). But the truth is, three out of four are done in hospitals, private doctors’ offices, and clinics other than Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood carries the brunt of the “pro-life” anger. But it doesn’t provide a majority of the abortions that are done in America, not by a long shot.
The thing is, I don’t hear about hospitals being shut down. I do hear about tactics to try to pressure hospitals stop providing abortions by removing federal funding. But that’s the thing, right? Hospitals aren’t trotted out as these awful institutions of devilry, even when they perform abortions. Instead, they are good solid organizations, doing good solid things, with one aspect that “pro-life” politicians don’t like. When we are talking about hospitals, the idea is to change their policies. Not so with Planned Parenthood.
So why the vitriol towards Planned Parenthood? Here is why: hospitals and private doctors’ offices provide services to men and women relatively equally. Planned Parenthood provides services to far more women than men. This isn’t about abortion at all. This is about getting rid of an organization that, while providing abortions, also does very little for the people who are discussing it: men. Of course it makes sense to disregard the 97% of their services that are not abortions. Those services go to women, so they aren’t important.
If they were, we would hear about the dismantling of all federal hospitals that provide abortions, as well. Or, Planned Parenthood would be pressured to stop providing abortions, but nobody would be talking about dissolving it.
Tenet 3: Planned Parenthood accepts federal funds and provides abortion; therefore, my tax dollars are providing abortions.
The first argument that is brought up by the pro-choice side is that federal funds cannot go toward abortion. They cannot. The Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from going to abortions except in limited cases such as incest or rape. But!
“Even when it is specified that funds are not to be used for abortion, that money frees up other funds for abortion performance and advocacy.”
This argument fails for two reasons, but I’ll only present the first one in this section, and you can find out more below (ooh, cliffhanger). Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization which offers affordable medical care. What donations do, then, is make care more affordable. If you give a hundred dollars to Planned Parenthood and specify that you want to use it for STI screening, that makes STI screening a smidge less expensive for those that need it. But it doesn’t affect the abortions. If you give money for abortions, it’s not going to affect the STI screenings. It isn’t a difficult concept.
So when that argument fails, the “pro-life” retort is:
“State funding was responsible for 177,404 U.S. abortions as recently as 2006. Many of these were certainly done at PPFA clinics.”
Can everybody please take a look at this “fact”? It starts with a fact, and then moves into vague conjecture. If you have to use conjecture to prove your point, your argument fails. The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that the NRLC does not have actual numbers, so they are shooting foggy words at their members and hoping that nobody notices the breakdown.
Tenet 3 fails. Supporting Planned Parenthood with federal funds in no way supports abortions. State money may, but the jury is still out on that.
Tenet 4: Planned Parenthood is an abortion-hungry organization that has one thing on its mind: abortion. It makes all of its money from abortions, it markets abortions to teenagers, it loooooves abortions. It wants to trick people into getting abortions!
There are few things that make me grit my teeth as much as the terminology that is used about abortion. Pro-life means “in favor of life” — and (more on this below) that means that abortion must be legal, and sexual education must be comprehensive. But those that oppose legal abortion have called themselves pro-life because it just sounds so nice. On the other side of things, those in favor of legalizing abortion have been called “pro-abortion.” I think abortion should be legal. Because I am pro-life (see below). But I am in no way pro-abortion, and I think most people on the pro-choice side of things would like to see abortion diminished. Even if you have zero moral qualms with abortion, it’s still an invasive procedure. It would still be better to not have to get it at all. To call somebody who believes in legalizing abortion “pro-abortion” is offensive.
But to prove that those who believe in legal, safe abortion love it, the NRLC has some interesting quotes.
“PPFA and its affiliates have consistently opposed:
* Right to Know laws ensuring women know about abortion’s physical/psychological risks, fetal development, and alternatives to abortion.
* Waiting Periods that give women opportunity to reflect on their abortion decisions.”
Doesn’t this all sound awful? Why doesn’t Planned Parenthood want women to know things! Or to have time to think about things?
These “Right to Know” laws are not about a person’s right to have knowledge. Instead, they are emotional manipulation. Force a woman to get an ultrasound that is not necessary and is quite invasive. Sure, she doesn’t have to look at it, she can just turn away! As a wand is shoved into her vagina! No big deal! Women have a right to know!
Women have the right to know about their bodies already. Women can request ultrasounds if they want them. Women can ask about adoption and therapy options if they want them. What these “Right to Know” laws are saying is, “We know that you are stupid and uninformed, and you can’t be counted on to find things out for yourself, so we are going to repeatedly force you to defend your choice.” Right to Know? No. Right to be Abused by Your Doctor, Who Has Already Sworn to Act in Your Best Interest but is Performing Unnecessary Procedures Upon You so as to Add to Psychological Damage? That sounds more like it.
And the waiting periods? If women want an opportunity to reflect on their abortion decisions, they can say, “You know what? I’ll come back tomorrow.” These “opportunities” are mandates — they force a waiting period on all women, even those who do not want one. Those who do can choose to wait. The opportunity exists without the mandate. Again, being pushed down on women from above, because at the end of the day, women cannot be trusted to make decisions unless somebody is leading them.
And what effect do these “demand-side” restrictions have on the number of abortions? None. They are not being suggested in order to reduce abortions. They are being suggested in order to make the women who are getting abortions have to jump through as many hoops as possible, to feel terrible about their decisions; they are a punishment, plain and simple.
And that is fine — if that is what people want to be implementing, if they think it is important to punish people who are getting abortions, that is their prerogative. But stop couching it in the pro-life rhetoric. It has nothing to do with reducing abortions. It has nothing to do with increasing life. It is all about control and punishment. If you have to use manipulative and unclear language in order to prove your point, your point fails.
But, says the NRLC, Planned Parenthood makes so much money off of abortions that they just keep on pushing abortions. Abortions for everybody!
“Though officially designated as a non-profit, Planned Parenthood has found the abortion business very profitable.”
This claim pops up all over the place. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit, but they are making a profit, so they are liaaaaars! But the facts don’t add up. Planned Parenthood has had excess revenue. But since it is a non-profit, that money is reinvested into the organization. Planned Parenthood is doing a good job. But this is never explained. Instead, the use of the word profit is thrown around to try to make it seem like it is all underground and conspiratorial. Again: if you have to manipulate your wording in order to prove your point, your point is not proven.
There are insinuations that the CEO makes too much money. From “Lifenews”: “A watchdog group that monitors the Planned Parenthood abortion business has released a new report showing the CEOs of the affiliates earn an average salary of $158,797 per year — making working in the abortion industry a lucrative job.” To the average person, it sounds like a lot, which is why they leave out any context. However, CEOs of charitable organizations with more than $100 million in funding took in an average compensation of $462,000 in 2009, according to a report by Charity Navigator. In comparison, the highest-paid executive at Planned Parenthood, president Cecille Richards, took in $353,819 in 2010.
Do you see? The language? “Working in the abortion industry” — it is wordplay that is meant to evoke emotion. And the lack of context adds to this emotion. If what you are saying is true, if you are relying on facts, you do not need to play games.
And where does all of this “profit” come from? ABORTIONS! Planned Parenthood says that only 3% of its services are abortions. This is the point of the recent “life”news article — that Planned Parenthood is hiding things, lying to make you think that they are actually doing good things 97% of the time.
“As mentioned earlier, PPFA constantly tries to underplay its commitment to abortion. The latest factsheet says again that abortion represents 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides. But this ignores just how many of PPFA’s other services are sold with every abortion and vastly understates the value of abortion to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line. Elsewhere, in a separate factsheet released about the same time, the organization admits that 12%, not 3%, of its health care clients receive abortions. (PPFA factsheet, “Planned Parenthood by the Numbers,” 1/11).”
First — do you see where they got their numbers? From a Planned Parenthood factsheet. If Planned Parenthood is trying to hide all of this information, don’t you think they would be… hiding it?
But beyond that. The NLRC must think that its readers are complete idiots. Those are two separate numbers because they reflect two separate things. Three percent of overall services were abortions. 97% of their services were not. Twelve percent of their clients received abortions, meaning those same clients returned to Planned Parenthood for a myriad of other services. It is a good thing that their clients are receiving other services from Planned Parenthood – preventing future pregnancies and future abortions, for example. But the NLRC is hoping that people won’t look beyond the number 3 and the number 12, won’t actually read what they are writing, and say “Planned Parenthood is made up of abortion-hungry liars! Liars!”
And “Abortion is Planned Parenthood’s Cash Cow!” “Those abortion services garner Planned Parenthood millions upon of millions of dollars every single year. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the average cost of a surgical abortion is $451.” Meaning abortion makes up about 13.7% of Planned Parenthood’s income.
Planned Parenthood is a non-profit. Working in the health industry. Abortions are going to be more expensive than, say, condoms. It would be disgusting for somebody to look at a hospital’s balance sheet and say “Heart transplants are their cash cow!” as though the hospital is running around forcing heart transplants on people. Abortions are invasive and expensive. That absolutely does not mean that Planned Parenthood loooooves them.
And even if it did, they are still only 14% of the revenue. Even if everything holds true, Planned Parenthood is still doing an overwhelming majority of non-abortion services.
Which reminds me — I mentioned above that the “my tax dollars pay for abortions” argument was going to be hit upon again. If Tenet 4 (abortions are incredibly profitable and thus advocated by Planned Parenthood) is correct, Tenet 3 fails. Planned Parenthood would be making so much money off of abortions that they would not need to “free up” money from other procedures. All of their profits come from abortions! If there is no deficit there, there is no way for money to be shuffled in that direction.
The two arguments cannot both be true.
Again, NRLC must think its members are just idiots. Because of the publicity that they drum up, people know that you can go to Planned Parenthood for an abortion. Somebody who is pregnant and wants to keep their child is not going to seek out Planned Parenthood, because it has been painted as this abortion megaplex institute. Planned Parenthood cannot force somebody who wants to have an abortion to adopt out.
Conclusion: Destroy Planned Parenthood, and you will destroy abortion.
Each premise fails, and so the conclusion fails based on logic alone. But I have another, different conclusion, which is what I think is really important: destroying Planned Parenthood would increase abortions.
33.5% of what Planned Parenthood does is prevent unwanted pregnancies. If you prevent unwanted pregnancies through the use of contraception and education, you prevent abortions.
Abortion rates are higher in countries where abortions are illegal. But you know what else they are? More dangerous. So not only is there a stop to the fetus’ life, there is a higher chance of maternal death.
If you make abortion illegal, you increase abortion. And you increase death.
Do not begin to tell me that anti-abortion is the same as pro-life. Do not. Because it is a lie. If you are pro-life, and you have also found yourself to be advocating for making abortion illegal, you have to choose: are you doing it because you love life? If so, knock it off. Or because you think people should be punished for having unprotected sex? If so, stop calling yourself pro-life, because it isn’t true.
Further, Planned Parenthood devotes ten times the percentage of abortions to services to preventing abortion. Getting rid of Planned Parenthood would get rid of access to contraception. Now — the data regarding contraception and abortion is somewhat cloudy in and of itself; some studies show a connection, some do not. Again, this has to be looked at in context. From Marston, Cicely and Cleland, John, “Relationships between Contraception and Abortion: A review of the evidence,” International Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 2003), pp. 6-13: “Rising contraception use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly.”
In other words, in those situations where it looks like abortion rates rise as contraception rises, that is because the increase in contraception is not comprehensive enough, and does not get to all of the people that do not want to become pregnant. When fertility stabilizes, increased contraception once again reduces abortion. What the data tells us (and not fuzzy, manipulated data, but actual studies) is that more people need access to contraceptives. And in those situations where it looks like there is an increase in abortion as contraceptive use increases, it just means that the contraceptive increase wasn’t comprehensive enough.
What have we learned? First, that the arguments that the “pro-life” side makes are not actual arguments, but are manipulations of data and language in order to trick people into believing that by following the “pro-life” agenda, they are in favor of life. Second, that even if all of the arguments held true, Planned Parenthood’s services in preventing abortions far outweigh the actual abortions they provide. Third, that making abortion illegal increases death.
If you consider yourself to be pro-life, think long and hard about what it means. Because if you are advocating an end to Planned Parenthood, you have no choice but to admit that you are pro-death.