Ministry of Love

April 6, 2011

George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 imagines a totalitarian state that even rewrites the language to perfect its black-is-white pro-government propaganda.  Among other things, the department of prisons and torture is called the “Ministry of Love”.  (The department of propaganda itself is called the “Ministry of Truth”.)

In the real world in 2011, there’s a network of “clinics” whose primary business is terminating pregnancies; it’s called, ironically, Planned Parenthood.  Apparently, taxpayers provide a third of the funding for Planned Parenthood.  (Did you know you supported abortion?)  So my excellent former congressman Mike Pence has sponsored legislation (the “Pence Amendment”) that would cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.  He’s been pushing for this at least since the summer of 2009, but now it may actually happen; there’s a debt crisis on, and the Tea Party has changed the debate.

So you may have heard, in recent weeks or months, talk of de-funding Planned Parenthood.  You may have heard its defenders argue that Planned Parenthood is so much more than abortions—mammograms, for example!  Someone made that argument to me just last week.  Even the president of Planned Parenthood has argued on national television that if the federal funding is cut, “millions of women in this country are going to lose their health-care access—not to abortion services, to basic family planning—you know, mammograms . . . .”

Amazingly, it appears that Planned Parenthood clinics don’t even do mammogramsLive Action—who earlier this year also exposed Planned Parenthood clinics’ willingness to abet child prostitution and sex slavery—called thirty different Planned Parenthood clinics, asking to schedule a mammogram.  Every single one said, We don’t offer mammograms.  Some of them made it clear that no Planned Parenthood clinic does.

It appears that Planned Parenthood clinics do refer patients to unaffiliated places that do offer mammograms—but anyone can do that.  If Planned Parenthood loses the third of its funding that taxpayers are forced to provide, will millions of women thereby be deprived of the care that Planned Parenthood doesn’t provide?

You may also have seen a neatly colored pie chart (page 3) arguing that abortions account for only 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides.  Who produced this graphic?  Why, Planned Parenthood, of course!  It counts the number of people “served” or instances of “service” in a year (total: 10,943,609) and divides by it the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood that year (324,008).  According to this way of counting, giving one woman one pregnancy test, for example, counts as much as one abortion.  No mention is made of how much money Planned Parenthood makes off of the different services offered.  (Under the circumstances, I don’t even know whether to believe that Planned Parenthood provided all the services they’re counting; are they including referrals?)

Here’s another way to count Planned Parenthood’s services:  When a pregnant woman comes in the door, distressed and not sure what to do, what does Planned Parenthood do?  Again, by Planned Parenthood’s own numbers, it did 324,008 abortions that year, provided prenatal care for 9,433, and gave only 2,405 adoption referrals—in other words, of the unborn children that go in that door, only about 3% of them come out alive.  That can be made into a pie chart, too.

Here’s another way:  More than one fifth of pregnancies in the United States are aborted; apparently about a quarter of those abortions are now performed by Planned Parenthood (chart, scroll down).

Planned Parenthood is a business built on murder and lies (and we haven’t even gotten into its roots in racism).  The least we can do is stop forcing the American people to pay for it.

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10 Responses to “Ministry of Love”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Even though I agree with you that abortion is repulsive, your claim that Planned Parenthood’s
    “primary business is terminating pregancies” is false. Abortion-related services count for only 33% of Planned Parenthood’s income. (in fiscal year 2007).

    Even using income as the metric, Planned Parenthood’s “primary business” is not abortion.

    http://www.lifenews.com/2009/11/30/nat-5714/


  2. Seriously, thank you very much! I was looking for a source like this (saying how much income Planned Parenthood got from different services); because I never found one, I agree with you that that clause (“whose primary business is terminating pregnancies”) was the weakest part of my argument.

    But wasn’t I right, even about that? I don’t see a comprehensive breakdown, even in that source, of the amount of income Planned Parenthood receives from each service, but it certainly looks to me as if abortion accounted for a plurality, perhaps by a large margin. If Planned Parenthood gets more of its income from abortions than from any other service, doesn’t that make abortion its primary business?

    • Snoodickle Says:

      If “plurality” equals “primary,” it is possible that abortion brings in more money than anything else. Overall, though, 67% of Planned Parenthood’s income is from non-abortion related services.

  3. jon from sandiego Says:

    I agree. Lets get rid of abortion and social services! We can have little kids running around, with no support from the government or their parents!

    Look, it is not the kid’s fault that his or her parents are bums. In my opinion we are better off letting the parent make a mature decision and decide not to have a child then to force the mother to either have the child and not be able to take care of it or seeks some back alley abortion clinic that is not federally regulated. Abortion is somewhat barbaric, but its good for society. Obviously it can be argued that the availability of abortion leads to more premarital sex but I don’t like this argument. No rational individual would honestly consider abortion a viable birth control method and we all know abstinence without educating safe sex is not effective.

    Just my two cents.

    – Jon

  4. jon from sandiego Says:

    Just to clarify my point and bring it back to your original post, if planned parenthood loses funding, more individuals will have children resulting in more government funding for these children.

    I understand that you take issue with abortion itself, but de-funding planned parenthood is not the solution. Many individuals who turn to planned parenthood have nowhere else to go. Obviously it makes more sense for the government to spend money on abortions as opposed to supporting a child to the age of 18. While I recognize that it’s a parents job to raise a child, this often doesn’t happen. It’s very unfortunate that we have individuals in the US who get pregnant and can’t support their children but outside of abortion and social services, what option do we have? Once again, it’s not the kids fault. These kids did not ask to be born and it’s unfortunate that most are not given the same opportunities that you and I have had.

    As you noted more than 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion. I actually thought it was 1 in 4 but we will go with your number. In 2009 there were over 4.1 million births (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/births.htm). So without abortions we would have an additional one million children in the US. We can assume that a good percentage of these children would be properly cared for by their parents without government support. I would say the percentage is near 50%, but I will use 80% for my argument. This means we have over 200k babies that will either need to be adopted, and/or will need government assistance. These 200k births could be taken care of at a cost of $400 each (I know it sound barbaric but I am only talking previability abortion). As you noted federal funding is 1/3 so each abortion costs the US $133 (abortions prior to the second trimester actually cost closer to $250 but the price goes up as the pregnancy goes along). So for a US cost of $26.6 million we can abort these 200k children. This is cheap when you consider the amount it would cost the government to provide support for these children.

    The kids I mentored through the years all received some sort of learning/physical disability pay from the government along with food stamps and health insurance. The checks they received varied from $300-800 a month plus $100 a month in food stamps and the cost of insurance. I will use the number $500 here even though its likely over $1000. So assuming these 200k kids are similarly situated and will require government assistance to the age of 18, it will cost the government $108,000 per kid for a total of 21.6 billion dollars. In other words, without abortion, it will cost the US (based on my rough numbers) 800x more money to support children that could have been aborted.

    So you will respond by saying adoption is the answer. I would tell you adoption is NOT the answer. Now regarding adoption, there is a myth that many US couples are on waiting lists at adoption agencies. In reality, each year over 250,000 kids enter the adoption system and while many of these kids are placed, there are still many who are not. In 2009 115k children were not adopted and are still waiting for adoption (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/trends.htm). If the number of children put up for adoption were increased, the number of children waiting to be adopted would likely increase by the same amount. Thus if we have 200k more children up for adoption we would simply have 315k children waiting for adoption. Further, these children would begin to accumulate and before we know it we could have millions of kids waiting for adoption. Unfortunately there are many children in the US who are bounced from foster care facility to foster care facility with no parents or positive influences. If we were to increase the number of children who needed to be adopted by 200k we would further deplete adoption resources. Further, when these children become adults, many of them will not live successful lives and may end up in prison or back on government programs.

    The answer to all of this is abortion. If the child isn’t viable, then it is not murder (obviously this is my opinion).
    Just to make one other point clear, I understand this is an economic analysis (and a rough one based on many assumptions) which deals with human life. Before you or Snoodickle respond by saying why don’t we kill the homeless or the elderly, I am talking about children. Children are innocent. As I stated above, none of this is their fault; they didn’t choose to be born into impoverished and unprivileged conditions. They were brought into this world in the same way you and I were. While you may contend that this exactly your point (and this is something we will never agree on), to abort a child before he is born, while gruesome, is economically sound and is not hurting the child because the child is unaware of what is going on and could not survive outside of the womb.

    – Jon

    P.S. I wanted to ask you a question: I have a friend who is carrying a child. She has been told that the baby cannot (100%) survive outside of the womb. She has decided to keep the baby and is awaiting birth. She has already planned the baby’s funeral. Wouldn’t you agree (assuming the baby cannot survive outside of the womb and is not a miracle baby) that the humane thing to do would be to abort the child before it further develops?


  5. Jon, you’ve clearly given this a lot of thought, and I appreciate your thoughtful arguments. I guess my responses fall into three categories.

    1 — As you say, there are moral questions at issue, and we don’t agree on them. If I think abortion is murder, then no amount of economics and math and utilitarianism will outweigh that, any more than arguments that the South’s economy “needed” slavery outweighed the moral imperative of freeing the slaves. In fact, many others and I would say that abortion is a defining moral challenge of our time, in some ways much like slavery for nineteenth-century America.

    Given that it’s basically murder, no, of course I don’t think your friend should kill her child before its time.

    2 — That said, let’s discuss your economic case. On your theory (and, again, leaving aside the moral problems), abortion sounds like a great investment for the federal government—instead of spending a huge amount of money supporting a person over his lifetime, the government can terminate him for a few hundred dollars and nip that problem in the bud.

    Let’s leave aside the question of whether the government should be involved in that kind of support over the course of anyone’s life (no), and even the question of whether such “support” does more good than harm (I doubt it). As you observe, whether the government should be so involved or not, it in fact is. That’s enough for our purposes.

    You say early on, “Obviously it can be argued that the availability of abortion leads to more premarital sex but I don’t like this argument.” Like it or not, John Lott explains that the empirical evidence indicates that it does exactly that:

    Remember the fundamental principle of economics: if something becomes more costly, people do less of it. If abortion is illegal, the “cost” of sex is relatively high due to the possibility of pregnancy. No method of birth control is 100 percent effective, and without the option to have an abortion as a last-ditch safeguard, having sex carries a risk.
    . . .
    Indeed, multiple studies have shown that legalized abortion, by raising the rate of unprotected premarital sex, increases the number of unplanned births, even outweighing the reduction in unplanned births due to abortion.

    As Lott himself also observes, “The relationship between abortion and crime is complex,” and I recommend that you read his whole (very interesting) discussion of abortion in Freedomnomics, pages 117-127. (Like any good academic, he cites his sources; his discussion includes plenty of endnotes.) In short, however, he looks at the studies that have been done and concludes that abortion, by increasing unplanned births, increases crime, including murder. Presumably it also increases, by the same token, the dependency on the government to which you were referring. In other words, where we had hoped that we could kill some people to make others better off, we have instead made them worse off, and caused more killing to boot.

    You may reply that any attempt to measure this sort of thing empirically necessarily builds inferences on inferences so many times, and has to control for so many confounding variables, as to be worthless—in other words, you may say that Lott’s conclusions are essentially unknowable. You may be right. But the same criticism would apply with at least as much force to your argument—however carefully you think through those numbers, you can’t match the complexity (and so, ultimately, the unpredictability) of the real world. In that case, we would be left without any utilitarian argument for (or against) abortion at all; we would be left only with the moral reasons.

    3 — In any case, I think our disagreement on these questions is all the more reason that I shouldn’t be compelled to subsidize the thing. If abortion is to be legal at all, at least let it be paid for by private donors, by those who believe that it does more good than harm.

  6. Snoodickle Says:

    Chillingworth, I completely agree that taxpayers should not be compelled to subsidize abortion. I’m curious, though, do taxpayers actually subsidize abortion? At least with respect to Planned Parenthood, it claims that none of the government funding it receives goes toward abortion. Taking this claim at face value, I would be as skeptical as you about its veracity. However, as we uncovered, Planned Parenthood receives a whopping 33% of its income from abortions, which means that abortion almost certainly funds itself. Are our tax dollars actually funding abortion? If they are, I am equally as apalled as you as I am vehemently against taxpayer subsidization of abortion.


  7. Right, the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding from paying for abortions (under some circumstances, with exceptions), but money is “fungible”, as they say: Any money that Planned Parenthood gets from the government is money it doesn’t have to get from elsewhere. As I recall (somewhere in the numbers and pie charts linked above), about a third of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from private donors; if the federal government weren’t contributing the money it currently does, more of those private donations would presumably have to be put toward other expenses, leaving less for abortion (or else vice versa).

    If that’s incorrect, it should be easy enough for Planned Parenthood to stop providing abortions and let other (non-federally-funded) organizations pick up the slack, or else for the government to fund non-abortion services at other clinics instead of at Planned Parenthood.


  8. […] I’ve suggested before, people disagree about the morality of abortion, but we should at least all be able to agree that […]


  9. […] Wintery Knight discusses, and as I discussed a year and a half ago, Planned Parenthood clinics do not do […]


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