The long-running calls for the federal government to cease all funding directed toward Planned Parenthood have once again come to the fore. This time, a congressional vote and debate took shape after an anti-abortion group secretly recorded a series of videos with the organization's medical officers and staff speaking dispassionately — some would say dismissively — about the work of extracting fetal tissue from aborted fetuses and and transferring it to research facilities.
And even though the defund Planned Parenthood fight on the Senate floor didn't move the needle — in terms of actual impacts on funding — it did bring to the fore some important facts about how much federal money goes to the group, and what it's used for.
So, here's what we know.
During the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014, the most recent for which data is available, Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country received $528.4 million in government funds (a combination of state, federal and sometimes local government dollars), according to the organization's own annual report and information it's required to share with the IRS.
Those federal dollars were the single largest source of money coming into the organization and its local affiliates, by far. Another $305.3 million came from nongovernment sources, about $257.4 million reached the organization after private donors and foundations made contributions and bequests. The organization also raised another $54.7 million in fees charged for its services. So, government funding — with federal dollars comprising the biggest portion of this part of the organization's budget — are absolutely critical to Planned Parenthood's total operation.
But, it's important to note that federal dollars are not used to provide the service at the center of the political debate around Planned Parenthood: abortions. That's been banned by law in almost all cases since 1976. (The details of the ban have shifted over time.) Instead, the organization uses money from other sources — private donors and foundations as well as fees — to fund its abortion services.
All told, abortions comprise about 3 percent of all the services Planned Parenthood provides, according to the organization's own data. (In 2011, FactCheck.org also examined this question and found the organization's reports to be accurate) The rest of the organization's revenue, including government dollars, are used to fund services in a way that breaks down like this:
So, while it's true that the Planned Parenthood's political opponents would quite likely strike a major blow to the organization if it was stripped of all federal dollars, it's far less likely that such a change would significantly reduce the number of abortions the agency's doctors perform each year or how those procedures contribute to the total number of pregnancies terminated in the United States.
Those who pushed for the vote Monday night have also, no doubt, heard Planned Parenthood supporters offer some version of this argument for years. Planned Parenthood provides critical and preventative health care to a lot of low and moderate income women, that argument goes. Among those services supported with federal dollars are STD screenings and contraception. Most public health experts agree that this combination does help to preserve women's overall health and fertility while also limiting unwanted pregnancies. (Not all experts feel that way, however.)
Perhaps that's why even Planned Parenthood's biggest critics saw to it that the organization's federal funding — if it was zeroed out — would be directed toward other health care organizations. The bill that stalled last night, specifically called for that. The reasons to include that provision may be practical, political or some combination thereof.
This year, when unwanted pregnancy and abortion rates fell, those opposed to abortion and in favor of a range of policies that have made abortions more difficult to obtain sought to take credit.
But the most apolitical public health experts agree that critical combination — access to care and contraception — should take most of the credit.