Planned Parenthood’s “Surplus” Is An Anti-Choice Myth


The process of mainstreaming
insane right wing ideas has been well documented.  Start with
an idea generated by fringe crazies in their fringe crazy spaces. 
It gets picked up by other conservative media sources that become increasingly
more respectable, places that use good grammar and multi-syllabic words
and have editorial staff that get invited to the right cocktail parties.  Soon the bogus idea gets on Fox TV and the Wall Street Journal, and then it’s
picked up on MSNBC and CNN and the New York Times and becomes part of
the mainstream wisdom.  This is how racist code words like "states’
rights" and "law and order" become part of the mainstream dialogue,
and how the myth of the liberal media was invented.  Anti-choice
ideas move into the mainstream like this all the time.  Think about
abstinence-only education.  It’s an idea cooked up by half-witted religious
fanatics who would ultimately like to ban contraception,
but through this process of refining
and mainstreaming the idea, they turned it into a cash cow worth billions.   

One idea generated by the right
wing fringe that hasn’t found traction in the mainstream is the claim that at there’s
such thing as an "abortion industry."  This belief is one of the more laughable fantasies the organized anti-choice movement has — that abortion providers, especially non-profits like Planned
Parenthood, get into the business because it’s
uniquely profitable.  Never mind that abortions are one of the
cheaper outpatient surgeries out there, in no small part because most
doctors who provide them are ideologically committed to women’s rights
and try to keep the prices reasonable. Never mind that most abortion
providers struggle to keep their patients from coming back for another
abortion by providing counseling on contraception. Never mind
that Planned Parenthood does more to reduce the abortion rate by providing
education and contraception than anything anti-choicers do. Never mind that Planned Parenthood
is a non-profit. Never mind that there’s a lot more money
in delivering babies than providing abortions. Never mind that
there are other fields of medicine to go into that not only pay better
but come without the strings attached of stigma and abuse from anti-choice
protesters.   

They believe that abortion providers are captains of a profitable industry because they have
to believe it.  Without that myth, anti-choicers would have to
face up to the fact that they are interfering with the medical care
of ordinary people, torturing medical professionals who dedicate their lives to
helping others, and adding pain and misery to the lives of people
who already have enough of their plates.  In other words, they’d
have to face up to the fact that they’re objectively nasty people. So they make up stories about their victims to justify their behavior.

Still, the fantasy of the "abortion
industry" has long been a quaint rationalization used by only the ugliest misogynists,
and not something to worry about on a policy level.  Until
recently, when the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Planned Parenthood rebranding itself as a provider of services and goods to middle class communities.  To reasonable people, the story
is classic liberal do-gooderism.  According to Medical News Today: 

    Officials from a Massachusetts
    affiliate said they will use profits from an express center in a "trendy
    retail plaza catering to college students" to help to open a similar
    clinic in a low-income, largely Latino community, the Journal reports….. 

    According to the Journal,
    the strategy is increasing revenue for some clinics, which make a profit
    of about $22 on each pack of birth control pills sold to clients who
    can afford to pay the full price. The profit is used to subsidize other
    activities, such as providing health care for low-income people or sex
    education for teenagers, in addition to political activities. 

The strategy is not about making money for its own sake, but about increasing the revenue
pouring into lower income communities.  In addition, women in middle class communities are often unable to pay
full price for their reproductive health care, and could use the structured
pricing offered by Planned Parenthood. Middle class people, especially
women, often go through periods of being broke where a discount on reproductive
health services could make a world of difference for getting them back
on their feet.  Anyone else remember Ramen noodles in your college
years? 

But of course, the agents who
take crazy right wing ideas, put some lipstick on those pigs and present
them to the public saw this as an opportunity to popularize the idea
that Planned Parenthood has too much money. Kathryn Jean Lopez
of the National Review argued that Planned Parenthood has a "surplus"
and should be punished for it by being cut off from federal funds.
  She’s being dishonest, of
course, because that’s mandatory in anti-choice rants, no matter how
grammatically sound and laden with reasonable-sounding vocabulary. 
There’s no such thing as a "surplus" if there’s still people
to educate and low income communities to tend to, which there are. 
In fact, the reason for the rebranding is precisely to guard against
financial losses, to redirect money from middle class communities into
services for the underprivileged.  Moreover, she’s buying into
the larger lie about Planned Parenthood being "pro-abortion," when
they do more than any other organization in the country to prevent abortion,
using methods that are effective. 

But still, it’s frightening. 
This is how crazy right wing ideas get mainstreamed.  Lopez is
taking a self-evidently stupid belief (that Planned Parenthood, a non-profit,
is part of a capitalist cabal to strike it rich with fetal tissue) and
finessed it into what’s still a turd, but a shiny one that could
convince a few people to pass it off as gold.  Claiming that Planned
Parenthood has too much money is a way of claiming that low income women
should be cut off from their reproductive care, but it doesn’t suggest that at first blush.   

We’re already seeing more
conservative states redirecting funds that used to pay for services
to lower income women go to crisis pregnancy centers that specialize
in wasting your time and refusing to give you any real services. 
If this lie got more hearings, it could do real damage. 

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  • invalid-0

    Isn’t the President of Planned Parenthood making a million dollars a year obscene for a non profit though?

  • invalid-0

    You’re sounding desperate, just like Planned Parenthood.

  • invalid-0

    I recently had to inform some nurses at my local hospital that Planned Parenthood does more to curb the abortion rate than any antichoice group. This myth of getting endless amounts of money off abortions is just plain stupid. And don’t get me started on CPCs all they do is peddle lies and judgements. The other day I was getting some blood work done at a local hospital and a young girl came in for a Rhogam shot after an abortion and one of the people whose job it is to give out the shots plus other duties walked out on her and refused to give her the shot. Luckily there was someone else there to give her the shot and what she said really struck something within me the nurse said “I don’t know how you can be a good Christian and call yourself prolife.” As I was getting my blood drawn, the nurse, the young girl and her boyfriend and me started talking and found we had much in common. The nurse who said the thing about being Christian had many interesting points about abortion and was helping me to defend Planned Parenthood to the other less prochoice nurses. The one nurse who was helping me to defend PP was saying she worked as a young nurse during the times when abortion was illegal and seeing the suffering and the pain those women went thru as a result of illegal abortions well that was downright unChristian to put women through that. It also leads me to another article written on Rh recently by a reverend saying that if God can stop a pregnancy thru miscarriage then why aren’t women allowed the same power if God gave us all free will? Needless to say this website thankfully has allowed me the ammo to use against such prolife lies and prolife people. So thank you! Oh and that nurse that walked out from giving the shot to the young girl well both the boyfriend and I hunted down someone to talk to before we left the hospital to complain. Let’s hope it goes somewhere!

  • invalid-0

    Hey Anonymous-

    where are you getting your figures from? Sources please.

  • invalid-0

    …should be so lucky as to be able to seize existance because finally basic reproductive health care is affordable to all women and good, sound sex education has resulted in a generation that makes healthy and informed decisions re: their sexuality.
    What is truly desperate is the rhetoric surrounding the “surplus”. It has been annoying me for some time and I am happy to finally see it addressed.
    PP responds the real needs of real women–it doesn’t create the needs. This constant state of denial surrounding the day-to-day realities of lower and middle class women is medieval.

  • invalid-0

    I worked for a non-profit in the educational field. I would have donors call in to give a donation, but specify that they wanted their donation to go to the programs and not to the staff salaries. They would also say that because we were working for non-profits, we should be getting paid a lot less than the average salary in the corporate world.

    Non profits need to attract competent employees, and they need to pay competitive salaries to do so. The president of PP makes about $150,000 per year, you can verify it on charitynavigator.org Hardly an exessive salary for the president of a large organization.

  • invalid-0

    Look here, you religiously blinded bigot. I am an Autistic CATHOLIC ((I should say Asperger’s Syndrome, but it’s still a form of Autism)), and even I am pro-abortion.
    Because of the fact I am on Social Security and have a condition that can get more severe with each generation, I found it easy to understand WHY abortion clinics are needed.
    Oh, i also take contraception, something you spiritually nutty folks don’t think us women should get either-but I do it to control the severity of my period.
    Unlike SOME commentors on this article, I have the decency to cut through the BS and see the manipulation of minds and wills commonly used by mainstream religion as a whole, ESPECIALLY when it concerns women.
    Bet you didn’t expect such an opinion from someone with a condition that’s supposed to render them retarded, eh?

  • invalid-0

    It should be noted that the same Charity Navigator listing (Fiscal year ending June ’06) notes that Karen Pearl, interim president, received $326,845. Being as the figure was for the year ending June ’06, Cecile Richards was only paid a partial year’s salary – she came on board february 15, 2006, and the $119,613 quoted was for less than four months worth of work.

    On their 2005 tax return, former president Gloria Feldt was noted as having received over $930,000 in compensation.

    I see that as HIGHLY excessive for the president of a non-profit, although its common procedure for “non-profit” organizations to seek large donor bases and high profit margins in an effort to enrich the organization (and its payroll). Many non-profit executive salaries are beyond what common sense would consider fair for a charity position. However, this goes to show that the people taking these positions are allowing money to dictate their employment, rather than a strong desire to do the work. If Richards was compensated only $50,000 per year, would she continue her role, or seek a lucrative position elsewhere?

    By comparison, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president (and founder) Ingrid Newkirk received only $34,000 for the fiscal year ending July ’07.

  • invalid-0

    does so much more than abortion care. For many low-income women, PP is the only place to go for preventive care such as cervical cancer screening, breast exams, and basic health care. (A Planned Parenthood clinic discovered my anemia, years ago, and followed up afterwards to make sure it went away with better diet.)
    Contrast PP with the phony crisis pregnancy centers which offer nothing in the way of preventive, well-woman care. In Texas, these manipulative sources of anti-abortion and anti-contraception propaganda are actually provided with tax money by the religious fanatics of our legislature.

  • invalid-0

    with the excellent pro-women’s health job that PP is doing? This is just another anti-abortion red herring. It may play well in NRLC fund raising letters and on FAUX Opinion Channel, but it’s just a distraction in the real world.

  • invalid-0

    If that was directed at me, I was responding to an errant claim.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Do you have anything to say on the actual issue of whether or not there’s something wrong about making low cost, effective reproductive health care available in middle class communities?  Or are you going to fling mud around and hope that people won’t pay attention to the real issue?  I’m sorry that you’re jealous of people who make a lot of money.  I am, too.  But that doesn’t actually mean that women should lose rights to make up for it in some weird voodoo cosmic karma where one woman makes money, so millions have to lose their rights, lest the testicle of America fall off.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Once again, there’s a tendency amongst religious, anti-choice cranks to just say stuff with no reason and no evidence.  Or in this case, doesn’t even make sense in people-logic. The more random, pointless, distracting comments on a post, the more I tend to think it was effective.  You wouldn’t be trying to distract people if you didn’t fear that I was getting my message across.

  • invalid-0

    Some Planned Parenthood clinics do provide abortions. Some do not. Overall, abortion services take up a mere 3% of what PP does nationally and internationally. the other 97% is prevention; prevention of unintended pregnancies and STIs.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you for a coherent, well-written response to the “surplus” and “rebranding” issues re: Planned Parenthood. I’ll be referencing this article quite a bit.

  • http://azpremierpt.com invalid-0

    Even though I pay income tax, I am not allowed to vote or donate to political campaigns. I am, however, allowed to donate to non-profit organizations in the U.S. so I’m really glad that I can voice my opinion and support women’s rights in this small way.

  • invalid-0

    Wasn’t the abortion invented to get prostitutes back in commission? Ironic, that the abortion was anything but a choice in its origins.

  • invalid-0

    “Wasn’t the abortion invented to get prostitutes back in commission?”

    no

  • invalid-0

    I don’t even have a better word for that. There may have been a time and place where some people worked to make abortions safer and more “efficient” for the purposes of forcing women back into prostitution faster; I am not a scholar of such things. But neither abortion or prostitution were “invented” to take away the will of women, if even they might have been used as such at some point.

    Women have been stopping unwanted pregnancies since humans became aware to some extent of how pregnancy occurred. Herbal preparations and procedures precede historical documentation. Nobody “invented” abortion and passed it around as the new and exciting thing to force upon women. Assuming such just feeds into the idea that women cannot and have not been able to make any decisions for themselves throughout time.

    • invalid-0

      If no one else had brought up abortion in the ancient world, I was going to. Well said!