Planned Parenthood is worried

A man takes part in a vigil at a Planned Parenthood centre in Smithtown, NY (CNS)

Planned Parenthood released its annual report last week. The company performed 345,672 abortion procedures in the 2018-2019 fiscal year – early half of all abortions in the United States. It’s not sorry, but the annual report reveals an organisation that’s scrambling to defend abortion.

Even as Planned Parenthood’s heart-stopping work continues in clinics across the country, the annual report is filled with considerable trepidation over legal challenges to its business model. “We stand at an inflection point for reproductive health and rights,” the report begins. “Our opponents moved to dismantle our nation’s program for affordable birth control this year, forcing providers like Planned Parenthood out of the program with an unethical gag rule” (referring to its decision to withdraw from Title X funding due to the reintroduction of the ban on offering abortion services to Title X clients).

Yet despite opting out of $60 million in federal funding last summer, the organisation somehow increased revenues from the federal government, while private donations decreased. For this reason, the report sounds like a fundraising campaign, using fear of “extreme bans” in states to pull at the purse strings of those who want to win “control over their bodies”. The report says that “legislatures in 12 states passed 25 abortion bans in 2019 alone. And as the Supreme Court prepares to revisit abortion rights this term with a case from Louisiana, 25 million women stand to lose access if Roe is overturned or further eroded.”

Planned Parenthood provided about five million tests for sexual disease, 2.5 million in birth control services, a million pregnancy tests, and a half million breast exams and pap tests last year. It claims that abortion represents only four per cent of its work as “reproductive and sexual health care experts”. When you add up the millions of tests and consultations, and count abortion the same as a pregnancy test, or handing out a leaflet, perhaps you can believe them squinting. But if that was substantially true, then abortion would only figure in about four per cent of its budget, or for that matter, four per cent of its whole annual report. But it doesn’t. Not even close.

Abortion dominates Planned Parenthood’s annual report because it is principally an expert in taking life, not restoring health. It dominates the annual report not only because that’s its principal expertise, but because abortion is being threatened at both the state and federal level. It’s being threatened by ever more youthful, and ever larger, Marches for Life. It is even being threatened by successful pro-life Democrats in the House, such as Rep Dan Lipinski and John Bel Edwards, the Governor of Louisiana. And they are worried.

Planned Parenthood is developing contingency plans for states that are restricting access to abortion, such as Texas and Louisiana. “As access to abortion shrinks in states across the country, telemedicine is becoming increasingly important for ensuring access where providers are scarce.”

In the midst of dozens of pages about legal threats to abortion at home, Planned Parenthood seems to have a long-term business strategy: multiply its abattoirs abroad. The annual report highlights its ambitious global initiative to provide abortions across Africa and Latin America.

It doesn’t occur to it that the eugenic roots of its philosophy are most evident precisely where its hopes to expand its “services”. One would expect at least some self-awareness about how this looks, but the report is most positively optimistic about the prospect of going to the poorest countries where people’s skin colour tends to be darker.

The report admits that “Planned Parenthood is preparing for a future where abortion is no longer a guaranteed right.” It reassures supporters that “we’re working every day to ensure these laws don’t go into effect.” It highlights the importance of thousands of volunteers, including a thousand who showed up for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, and 60 “storytellers” who provide interviews to the press.

Yet there can be no doubt that Planned Parenthood, despite its hopes for “growth markets” in the southern hemisphere, is on the defensive. Gone are the long lists of named donors in the annual report. Gone is the political confidence that it will always have easy access to power. Gone is the legal confidence that Roe is as inviolable as the First Amendment.

Finally, gone is Planned Parenthood’s confidence that it represents women as such. The annual report is awash in gender-fluid boilerplate about “sexual health care,” highlighting the increasing importance of “transgender” services for Planned Parenthood. After JK Rowling’s recent push for a feminism that doesn’t tolerate the fictions of gender gnosticism, this does not bode well for the abortion provider either.

By contrast, March for Life exudes confidence in women – real women. The theme for the 2020 March for Life is “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman”. In a bold, confident video announcing the theme, an articulate young woman recalls that the founding heroines of this country, women like Alice Paul, called abortion “the ultimate exploitation of women”. That sends a much clearer and more confident message about women and life than Planned Parenthood’s annual report, which seems ambiguous and uncertain about a woman’s sex, but painfully clear about her life.

CC Pecknold is associate professor of theology and a fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Read his columns at and follow him on Twitter: @ccpecknold